Ten months after taking the WBC interim heavyweight title with a win over Oscar Rivas, Dillian Whyte is putting his belt and the mandatory position to fight Tyson Fury that comes with it up for grabs, with a blockbuster bout with former WBA World Champion Alexander Povetkin this May.
It is 31-year-old Whyte’s first professional fight since beating Poland’s Mariusz Wach by unanimous points decision - his 27th career win - in Saudi Arabia in December 2019 on the Anthony Joshua v Andy Ruiz Jr undercard.
The Jamaica-born Brit ‘Body Snatcher’ is keeping the bout on home soil, but whereas his victory over Rivas took place at the capital’s O2 Arena, Whyte versus Povetkin will be held at the Manchester Arena, on May 2. The date of the fight also happens to be when sports-streaming service DAZN launches in the UK, with Whyte v Povetkin’s promoter Matchroom Boxing locking into a stunning $1billion deal with the broadcast service.
Whyte currently holds a 21-1-0 professional boxing record, his only loss coming to Anthony Joshua in December 2015. 40-year-old Povetkin’s record stands up at 35-2-1, with 24 career KOs, and last fought against Michael Hunter on that very same undercard in Diriyah as Whyte at the tail-end of last year, resulting in the first draw of his career.
“This is a great fight, Povetkin is an Olympic gold medallist, has loads of experience, he’s a former World Champion and he’s only lost to Joshua and Klitschko,” said Whyte, in a Matchroom Boxing press release. “He is still very dangerous, he gave AJ a lot of problems and then beat Hughie Fury. I am not overlooking him at all, he will come in shape, he’s tough and very well-schooled.
"You only have to look at his resume to see that he's always been considered as one of the most fearsome punchers in the Heavyweight division. He showed in Saudi Arabia that he still has a lot left in the tank and he is still very dangerous. I’ve got respect for him but I’m on to maximum violence, straight animal instinct.
“I want to be Heavyweight Champion of the World so anywhere in the world is my lion’s den. If you aspire to be World Champion, you should be able to fight anywhere. Manchester is a great city with great fight fans and I’m looking forward to going back there.”
"I am pleased to fight Whyte, it has long been discussed but didn't happen for whatever reason,” said Povetkin. “Dillian is a good strong boxer and it will make for an interesting fight. I am not about big announcements, I am about winning in the ring, and on May 2nd people will see a spectacular fight.
"This is a Heavyweight thriller and so important to the landscape of the division," said the fight’s promoter Eddie Hearn. "Dillian Whyte sits as Mandatory Challenger to Tyson Fury and while the wait is frustrating, Dillian continues to take high-risk fights and that’s why he is such a fans' favourite.”
The last time Whyte fought at the Manchester Arena, he was declared victorious over rival Derek Chisora on a split decision in December 2016, the pre-fight build-up involving Chisora throwing a table at his opponent.
"I think all boxing fans can agree that we are up for a great fight,” said Andrey Ryabinskiy, Head of World of Boxing Promotions which has Povetkin in its roster. "Both stylistically and in terms of what's at stake in this fight makes it a spectacular and anticipated event.
“Of course, we believe in Alexander but have to understand that Dillian Whyte is a tough opponent who's strong and ambitious, besides he has come a long way to be in a championship fight. Many would wait out for an easier opportunity, but he decided that he needs this fight and it commands respect."
“Dillian Whyte guarantees Heavyweight drama and we’re expecting another explosive encounter against Alexander Povetkin,” said Adam Smith, Head of Sky Sports Boxing Development.
“Whyte is within touching distance of a World Title, but still keeps taking risks against dangerous rivals, and we’ve already seen the threat of Povetkin, who overpowered David Price and posed early problems to Anthony Joshua.
“Dillian can prove himself again as one of the world’s best and there could be a very special announcement in the coming days. May 2nd in Manchester should be a magnificent night of boxing.”