DILLIAN WHYTE has never been known to duck a question about the course of a professional career which is now into its second decade.
But the 35-year-old remained guarded when he was asked where in London he has been putting the finishing touches to his preparation for Saturday’s comeback fight against Jermaine Franklin.
“The gym is called Nun Ovyer,” he said with a perfectly straight face. “Nun Ovyer Business.”
Whyte, however, is not being purposefully obtuse and in fact has every reason to keep his movements a secret since he returned from his training camp in Los Angeles a fortnight ago.
While he was away, the son of his close associate, Dean Whyte, who is often referred to as his ‘brother’, was shot dead in Brixton in an incident which is reportedly the result of a ‘gangland feud’.
“I’m not going to disclose where I’m training,” Whyte said. “I don’t want people to turn up where I’m training. It’s a serious job.
“I’m in Luton. It gets me out of London and obviously there are a few things going on in London at the minute which involve my family so I wanted to get out of London to focus and not get caught up in all of that. It’s sad times going on so I just need to focus on my job and it’s a very important job.”
That it is. This weekend Whyte returns to the ring for the first time since he was knocked out by Tyson Fury in April, under the stars at Wembley Stadium. In a strange twist of fate, his first step towards redemption comes a few hundred yards away at the Wembley Arena.
Given the backdrop of family heartbreak, it was put to Whyte that such an important fight, against an unbeaten and ambitious heavyweight in Franklin, might have come at a bad time.
“Come on man,” Whyte says, still no sign of a smile. “This is my work and I have a job to do. This is probably a good time because now I just want to inflict even more damage. I want to channel it. I smile a lot, laugh a lot and mess about a lot but when the switch goes, boom, it’s literally from Mr. Smiley guy to a howling psychopath.
“Listen, mate, me and you could have a cup of tea and a laugh but if I need to bash you up, I’ll bash you up.”
Since that night at Wembley Stadium, when he was dispatched with a second remaining in the sixth round, Whyte has made big changes behind the scenes as he bids to climb the heavyweight ladder. The biggest of those was splitting with former trainer Xavier Miller and linking up with Buddy McGirt instead,
That has meant setting up shop in Los Angeles for his training camp where he has been working alongside basketball and NFL players and living out of a suitcase.
“I just stayed in a hotel the whole time,” he adds. “I’m not a big shot, I can stay in a tent or a caravan, I’ve done it before and it’s no problem for me. I’ll do whatever it takes to give my all in this game. I’ve slept under a tree in my life, I’ve slept on a bench – a hotel is not a problem. I’m not in Hollywood, I’m in fucking Woodland Hills.
“Nothing is hard about it. I’m very adaptable and that’s why I’ve been able to survive and get to where I’ve got to in life. You can put me in the desert, in Finland, wherever. I’ve been surviving since I was a child, that’s what I know how to do: survive and fight. As sad as it sounds, they are the two things I know how to do best.”
Whyte had been working with Miller since the first clash with Alexander Povetkin in August 2020, when he was poleaxed by the Russian in the fifth round in Brentwood, Essex. The two stuck together for the successful rematch against Povetkin seven months later and continued their alliance for the Fury fight.
“There is a time and a place for everything,” Whyte explains. “Xav is a good trainer, but that experience was missing. Buddy has been there: Brewster against Klitschko, Tarver against Roy Jones. He’s had guys in big fights and if you watch them back you can see the information he gave and also the way he delivered it, top-level experience is the only thing that can give you that.
“My team said: ‘listen, in the last few fights, this and that has happened, we need something different’. I’m a loyal person and sometimes I can get clouded by loyalty. These guys said we needed to make a change and I trust them. We sat down as a team and looked at it and made our decision.”
Whyte calls Portugal home these days – and he and Miller had done the majority of their training in a base there – but it was all change for his camp.
“I wake up at 7am, have a bit of breakfast, chill, play some X-Box and take it easy,” Whyte says of LA. “Then the first thing I’ll do is head to the gym for my strength and conditioning work, maybe I’ll get some treatment or some extra mobility or cardio. I go and eat, then rest before I head over to Kaminsky’s Boxing Gym at about 7pm to spar, pads or bag work with Buddy.
“I’m learning a lot. He’s a very technical guy. He’s a good guy, very humble man considering his achievements. I think he’s trained nine world champions. It’s a good change for me.
“I’ve had good trainers, but he is more of a teacher. Being on bags or pads with him can be annoying because he stops you all the time saying ‘no no no, we are going to do that like this’. A lot of fighters don’t change at this stage of their career because the idea is by now you do what you do: you’re a puncher or a brawler or whatever. But for me it’s good to find someone where I feel like I’m improving at this stage of my career.”
On his LA sojourn as a whole he added: “Overall it did work. I’d love to go back but we might have to split it up because it didn’t always work with traveling and different time zones and everything else. It’s not ideal. When you’re traveling you lose a week each way. It can be challenging. The flights are long, man.
“Some people might feel isolated out there, but I don’t really care. I’ve been in real isolation before so for me it’s like whatever. Some people are small minded, don’t want to travel or see things. I like traveling and experiencing different things, understanding different cultures, mindsets and religions. There’s a bigger life outside boxing so understanding the earth and people is a massive part of that.”
But for now, 35-year-old Whyte insists he is focused only on boxing. He is a huge favorite to beat 21-0 (14) Franklin and if all goes to plan, he is hoping to box three times in 2023 after managing only two fights in the past 27 months.
His fight with Fury was on BT pay-per-view after Frank Warren won the purse bid but this showdown is back on a DAZN show promoted by Eddie Hearn. That would suggest there is a clear path towards a rematch with Anthony Joshua, who himself is rebuilding after back-to-back defeats to Oleksandr Usyk.
A rematch between the two Londoners, who clashed for the British and Commonwealth titles back in 2015, looks like a natural fight at this stage, especially if Fury and Usyk can arrange a clash of their own next year.
“I’d love to fight Joshua another two or three times,” Whyte says. “I want to be involved in the best fights, challenging fights and fights that give you an extra buzz. It would be good to be involved in a trilogy as well, I want that with Joshua.
“I’m still a free agent and this is a one-fight deal but this is heavyweight boxing, never plan another fight while you’re in one already. Of course I’d like that fight with Joshua – he’s one of the three people I’ve lost to. I’ve avenged one already [against Povetkin] and I definitely want to avenge the other two.
“To avenge that is even better for me than winning a world title, avenging my two defeats. I’ve got a lot of life left in me in this game. There’s a few things to think about but I try to keep it simple.
“I don’t want to be thinking about retirement, I’m nowhere near that. The goal has always been world champion and that’s what I’m fully focused on. I don’t want to be thinking about anything else – I’m focused on that job, which is to dish out punishment.
“As a team we’ve always said, when it’s time we will know. But I’m still healthy and I haven’t got a lot of mileage on the clock. I’m still happy and enjoy going to the gym every day. I still get excited sparring every day. Let’s see what happens.”
The reality is, a shock defeat against Franklin would be very hard to come back from at all. Now it’s his job to make his ascent back up the heavyweight rankings everybody’s business.