Dillian Whyte, Anthony Joshua And Why Rematch Clauses Are Harming Boxing

Rematch clauses have kiboshed a number of big fights recently
10:00, 27 Jun 2023

Dillian Whyte has revealed the reasons behind a series of delays in his on-again-off-again bout with Anthony Joshua. The proposed fight is a rematch of their 2015 battle, which ‘AJ’ won via seventh-round TKO. Ironically, the concept of rematches is what is holding the bout up according to ‘The Body Snatcher’. Specifically, the insistence from Joshua’s promoters, Matchroom Boxing, on there being a rematch clause in the contract.

Whyte’s reasons are understandable. Speaking to Talksport, the former world title challenger spoke of his desire to take Joshua’s place in a proposed December bout with Deontay Wilder, should he win their domestic grudge match. Instead, he lamented a scenario in which he would be tied to a mandated rematch with Joshua. The implication being that he would essentially have to beat ‘AJ’ twice to see any discernible career benefit.


The rematch clause is nothing new. Boxers have been climbing back into the ring due to legal binding rather than competitive necessity for a while now. But it definitely feels like the phenomenon is reaching saturation point.

Devin Haney unified the undisputed lightweight championship against George Kambosos Jr in Australia in June 2022. Despite dethroning ‘Ferocious’ with relative ease, by two scores of 116-112 and a more accurate 118-110, the contracts necessitated a rematch. That October, Haney beat Kambosos by decision again. The scores of 119-109 and two sets of 118-110 served to underline the futile nature of the fight. 

History’s great rematches have all arrived after noteworthy, controversial or exciting first fights. Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier battled thrice because the quality of their outings made it necessary, not because a slip of paper told them to. Mike Tyson climbed back in for his ill-fated, ear-biting rematch with Evander Holyfield because the first bout was as shocking as it was exciting. Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera gave us three belters across three weights because their fights were the most absorbing of the decade, not to avoid a trip to court.


Not only is the era of the rematch clause “gifting” us tame bouts like Haney-Kambosos II, but it is also denying us fights. Joshua-Whyte II is already on the brink, but bigger bouts are being risked too. Right at the top of the tree, a potential undisputed heavyweight championship fight between Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk has been kiboshed partly due to such a clause.

Reportedly the fight fell apart because the fighters couldn’t agree on a purse split for a proposed rematch. While terms had agreed at 70-30 in Fury’s favour for the first fight, the two parties couldn’t come to terms on a second. But why even get bogged down in what may or may not happen at this stage? When the biggest money fight in boxing today is at stake, why risk it all over a hypothetical rematch? If the first bout delivers, then do it again. If it doesn’t, move on.

Rematch clauses are also slowly stamping out the idea of the career-changing upset. Whyte’s example demonstrates why. If he were to defeat ‘AJ’, rather than move forward towards heavyweight riches and prizes, he’d be obligated to give Joshua another crack, no matter how the result was wrought. Whyte does have experience on the other side of this equation. When Alexander Povetkin stunned the world and knocked him out in 2020, the Russian was shepherded straight back into another bout with Whyte. Could he have landed a bigger fight, maybe even a title shot, after beating ‘The Body Snatcher’? Almost certainly. But instead he was forced into the rematch and knocked out. Everyone involved ended up back where they started.

Rematch clauses aren’t going anywhere. Not while boxing promoters have assets to protect and big money fights to seek. Their negative effect on the sport isn’t going anywhere either. Not while these clauses prevent big bouts like Fury-Usyk and Joshua-Whyte from taking place, or hand us unnecessary ones like Haney-Kambosos II. Rematches have provided some of the greatest fights in history, but they have done so after first bouts that warranted them. Let’s leave fighters to earn a rematch in the ring, not at a negotiating table.

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