Anthony Joshua against Dillian Whyte is a fight with tremendous risk, great rewards and the type of rivalry that creates history.
In 2009, above a pub, Whyte beat Joshua when the pair were raw amateurs. In 2015, Joshua got revenge with a brutal stoppage in Round 7. It was a great event, a genuine and rare fight to determine who moved on and moved on fast. They were both unbeaten and it was a big risk for both.
After the fight, Whyte was angry and Joshua won the heavyweight world title in his next fight. It is a harsh and unforgiving world at the top of the heavyweights; Whyte had to wait seven years for his chance at the gold, ultimately losing to Tyson Fury. In that time, Joshua has had 12 heavyweight title fights.
In many ways, this third fight between the Britons has been inevitable since the finish that night at the O2. Joshua has dominated British boxing since then, Whyte has been in his great rival’s shadow. It’s harsh, but true.
“I still have never had the respect I deserve,” said Whyte on Monday, at the press conference to officially announce the fight. It will be on 12 August, back at the O2 and – like the first fight – it has sold out.
“We could have gone outside, no problem,” confirmed Eddie Hearn, the promoter both then and now, referencing the potential to stage the bout in a stadium. “This is the decider. It has everything, and all talk of world title fights and massive fights for big money mean nothing. They both have to win.”
Joshua does have a big fight scheduled for December in Saudi Arabia against former champion Deontay Wilder. It is meant to be worth close to $100million, and it would be in jeopardy if he lost.
“I’m not thinking about anything other than Dillian,” said Joshua, who flew to London for less than 28 hours from his training base in Dallas. “I just have to do what I do. It’s just another fight. Dillian is a real fighter, he took the fight; others have just been talking.”
Whyte also flew in from America for just a day and is going straight back to Florida.
The pair refused to be baited at the oddly good-natured press conference, but that calm is deceptive. “This is a must-win fight for both,” Hearn stressed.
The heavyweight division with its factions, its millions and its endless riddles is seldom easy to solve. However, every now and again a fight with spite, meaning and relevance is made. Whyte’s chance at redemption against Joshua is one of those fun fights: Joshua’s chance at losing so much is also a very real possibility. It makes for a very good fight.