DILLIAN WHYTE has never been known to ask questions throughout his professional career, now in its second decade.
But the 35-year-old remained guarded when asked where he was putting the final touches to his preparations for Saturday’s comeback fight against Jermaine Franklin in London.
“The gym is called Sister Ovyer,” she said with a perfectly straight face. “Nun’s Ovyer Business.”
However, Whyte is not purposefully obtuse, and in fact has every reason to keep his actions a secret since returning from a training camp in Los Angeles a fortnight ago.
While he was away, his close friend Dean Whyte’s son, often referred to as his ‘brother’, was shot dead in what was said to be the result of a ‘gangland brawl’ in Brixton.
“I’m not going to reveal where I practice,” White said. “I don’t want people to come to my training place. It’s serious business.
“I’m in Luton. It takes me out of London and obviously there’s a few things going on in London with my family, so I wanted to get out of London to focus and not get caught up in all that. Sad times go on, so I just have to focus on my work, and it’s very important work.”
Here it is. This weekend, Whyte returns to the ring for the first time since being knocked out by Tyson Fury under the stars at Wembley Stadium in April. In a strange twist of fate, his first step towards redemption comes just a few hundred yards away at Wembley Arena.
Given the family’s background of heartbreak, Whyte said such an important fight against an undefeated and ambitious heavyweight in Franklin could come at a bad time.
“Come on,” Wyatt says, still no sign of a smile. “This is my job and I have a job to do. This is probably a good time because now I want to do more damage. I want to channel it. I smile a lot, laugh a lot, and get into a lot, but when the switch goes off, boom, I literally go from Mr. Smiley guy to a howling psychopath.
“Listen mate, you and I could have a cup of tea and laugh, but if I have to hurt you, I’ll hurt you.”
Since that night at Wembley Stadium when he was sent off in the sixth round with the second year remaining, Whyte has made huge changes behind the scenes as he bids to climb the heavyweight ranks. The biggest of these was parting ways with former coach Xavier Miller and linking up with Buddy McGirt instead.
That meant setting up shop in Los Angeles for training camp, where he worked alongside basketball and NFL players and lived out of a suitcase.
“I just stayed in a hotel the whole time,” he said. “I’m not a big shot, I can stay in a tent or caravan, I’ve done it before and it’s not a problem for me. I will give my all in this game. I’ve slept under a tree all my life, I’ve slept on a bench – a hotel is no problem. I’m not in Hollywood, I’m in Woodland Hills.
“There is nothing difficult about it. I’m very adaptable and that’s why I’ve been able to survive and get where I need to be in life. You can put me in the desert, in Finland, anywhere. I have survived since I was a child, I know how to do it: survive and fight. Sad as it may seem, those are the two things I know how to do best.”
White has been working with Miller since their first clash with Alexander Povetkin in August 2020, when he was knocked out by the Russian in the fifth round in Brentwood, Essex. The two stayed together for a successful rematch against Povetkin seven months later and continued their alliance for the Fury fight.
“There’s a time and a place for everything,” Whyte explains. “Xav is a good coach, but he didn’t have that experience. Buddy has been there: Brewster vs. Klitschko, Tarver vs. Roy Jones. He’s had guys in big fights and if you look at them, you can see the information he gives and also the way he delivers it, the top level experience is the only thing that can give you that.
“My team said, ‘Listen, the last couple of fights we’ve had this and that, we need something different.’ I am a loyal person and sometimes loyalty can make me dizzy. These guys said we need to make a change and I trust them. We sat down as a team, looked at it and made our decision.”
Whyte calls Portugal home these days – and he and Miller have spent most of their training at the base there – but things have changed for his camp.
“I wake up at 7 a.m., eat some breakfast, chill, play X-Box and chill out,” Whyte says of LA. “Then the first thing I’m going to do is go to the gym for my strength and conditioning, maybe I’ll do some therapy or some extra mobility or cardio. I go and eat, then rest before going to Kaminski’s Boxing Gym at 7:00 p.m.
“I’m learning a lot. He is a very technical person. He is a good guy, very humble considering his achievements. I think he produced nine world champions. It’s a good change for me.
“I’ve had good coaches, but he’s more of a teacher. Being on the bag or pads with him can be annoying because he’s always stopping you saying ‘no, no, we’re going to do it this way’. A lot of fighters don’t change at this point in their career because the idea is that you’re doing what you’re doing now: you’re a puncher or a brawler or whatever. But for me, at this stage of my career, it’s good to find someone that I feel like I’ve improved.”
Overall, during his time in LA, he added, “Overall, it worked. I would love to go back, but we might have to split it up because it doesn’t always work with travel and different time zones and everything. This is not ideal. You lose a week in each direction when traveling. This can be difficult. Flights are long, man.
“Some people might feel isolated there, but I don’t care. I’ve been in real isolation before, so it’s like everything to me. Some people are small minded, they don’t want to travel or see anything. I like to travel and experience different things, understand different cultures, ways of thinking and religions. There’s a bigger life outside of boxing, so understanding the world and the people is a big part of that.”
But for now, White, 35, insists he’s only focused on boxing. He is a heavy favorite to beat Franklin, 21-0 (14), and if all goes to plan, hopes to box three times in 2023 after managing just two fights in the past 27 months.
After Frank Warren won the purse bid, his fight with Fury was a pay-per-view on BT, but the bout returned to the Eddie Hearn-promoted DAZN show. It marks a clear path to a rematch with Anthony Joshua, who is recovering from back-to-back defeats to Oleksandr Usyk.
A rematch between the two Londoners, who clashed for the British and Commonwealth titles in 2015, seems like a natural fight at this stage, especially if Fury and Usyk can arrange a clash of their own next year.
“I would love to fight Joshua two or three more times,” Wyatt says. “I want to be in the best fights, tough fights and fights that give you that extra buzz. It would be nice to be involved in the trilogy as well, I want it with Joshua.
“I’m still a free agent and it’s a one-fight deal, but it’s heavyweight boxing, don’t schedule another fight while you’re already in one. Of course I’d love to fight Joshua – he’s one of the three people I’ve lost to. I have already avenged one [against Povetkin] and I definitely want revenge on the other two.
“Avenging that is better for me than winning the world title, avenging my two losses. I have a lot of life left in this game. There are a few things to think about, but I’m trying to keep it simple.
“I don’t want to think about retirement, I’m not close to it. The goal has always been the world championship and I am focused on that. I don’t want to think about anything else – I focus on that task, which is to remove the punishment.
“As a team, we have always said that we will know when the time comes. But I’m still healthy and haven’t clocked much mileage. I am still happy and enjoy going to the gym every day. I still get the thrill of sparring every day. Let’s see what will happen.”
The reality is that it would be very difficult to bounce back from a shock loss against Franklin. Now it’s anyone’s business to see his rise in the heavyweight division.