Joe Joyce has thrown his hat into the ring for a possible world heavyweight title clash with Tyson Fury. Ranked as number two contender for Fury’s WBC belt, the unbeaten ‘Juggernaut’ has every right to petition for a shot at the title. But one man will be determined to kick Joyce’s headgear clean out of said ring, and that is WBC number one Dillian Whyte.
Further muddying the waters, Whyte is the WBC interim champion, while Joyce holds something called the WBC silver championship. These various baubles are nothing more than a pointless hoop-jumping exercise. They are supposed to position you to get a title shot, sort of like a mandatory but with an added free gift you can put on your mantle. Whyte has also held the WBC international belt while having his own turn with the WBC silver title. His first fight with Alexander Povetkin was also for the WBC diamond heavyweight title. A belt that was not defended by Povetkin in their rematch, had never been seen before and has not been seen since. As always, boxing is churning out more belts than an Italian fashion house.
This strewn pile of leather and gold should not detract from the fact that Whyte is long overdue his shot at the championship. His run of eleven wins between his 2015 loss to Anthony Joshua and his 2020 reverse to Povetkin took in a murderer’s row of top heavyweights. Derek Chisora, Joseph Parker, Lucas Browne, Robert Helenius, Oscar Rivas and Mariusz Wach were all defeated as Whyte rose to the top of the WBC rankings. The amount of time he spent there, as much as 1000 days by some accounts, is egregious. ‘The Body Snatcher’ found himself constantly passed over, whether by Tyson Fury’s re-emergence from retirement for a trilogy with champion Deontay Wilder, a failed drug test that was later found to be incorrect, or a spurious mandatory position given to Dominic Breazeale.
While his loss to Povetkin stalled his hopes, it was a temporary setback. Whyte rebounded to stop the Russian in a rematch and reclaim his WBC interim strap. By virtue, Joyce’s claim is weaker. ‘Juggernaut’ had yet to even win his Olympic silver medal when Whyte embarked on the winning streak that solidified his case for a title chance. Since turning pro he has gone 13-0, and of late has continued winning against impressive opposition. Former WBC champion Bermane Stiverne was stopped in his eighth pro outing, and ex-title challengers Alexander Ustinov, Bryant Jennings and Caros Takam have also been beaten. A battle of Britain triumph over Daniel Dubois put the affable Putney puncher into the limelight as a potential title challenger.
There is a temptation in boxing to settle these matters the old-fashioned way. An all-British heavyweight throwdown between the pair would sell both tickets and pay-per-views, while promising fireworks in the ring. But Whyte feels like he should not have to fight for the right to be promised a title shot, knowing it will inevitably fall through. During the summer he made this point in a legal case levelled against the WBC. If this courtroom drama made any impact on the sanctioning body, they remain poker-faced about it. At the WBC Convention that was held last week, the group did not order a mandatory defence by Fury against any challenger. Whyte had once again been left out in the cold.
The WBC do not seem overly eager to press Fury into a defence against anyone. The most high-profile fighter on the planet holding their title is a tremendous PR and commercial boon for the WBC, and they will do all they can not to risk him vacating the famous green belt. Joyce and Whyte are certainly in the frame for the next outing of ‘The Gypsy King’. The man himself says he is targeting a February date, which certainly eliminates a unification fight with the winner of Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua’s rematch. Eddie Hearn has said that bout is likely to arrive in March or April, meaning if Fury stays on schedule he will have made another title defence by then.
With legal wranglings and competing claims at play, it is anyone’s guess who will stand across the ring from Fury for that February date. If it is between the two Brits at the heart of this piece, then we can take solace that no matter which is chosen, the fight will be worthwhile. Whyte offers a relentless pressure style, where he will look to push the bigger man back and create openings up top by landing thudding body shots. Joyce’s approach is more cerebral, and would present the first time Fury had been made to fight someone whose style is as awkward and unpredictable as his own.
Of course this is the WBC, and anything could happen. Who’s the current holder of the WBC papier mache championship?