Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte came face-to-face for the first time since announcing their heavyweight rematch.
The pair have fought once in the amateurs, a Whyte decision victory, and once in the pro ranks, a conclusive ‘AJ’ knockout.
Since that British title bout, Joshua has unified three of the four heavyweight belts before coming up against a too-good Oleksandr Usyk. Whyte has notched up some impressive wins, but his world title bid was halted by Tyson Fury last year.
They find themselves in the perfect place for a rematch, and, following some tense negotiations, it’s on.
At the kick-off presser in London, the rivals presented steely figures. Joshua – who ordered his team to remove a rematch clause for the fight to happen – hinted that the fight would be a similar to their previous bout in that it would be unpredictable from the first bell.
“I don’t really look at Dillian as a rival – just another body really … Everything I say today is irrelevant. From the experience I’ve had seven years ago I know when that bell goes it don’t matter what I’ve said, what I’ve eaten, what I’ve been through in my life – it’s just about getting down and fighting to win, one way or another.”
I got a brilliant trainer. I got a serious trainer. We’re gonna see where development takes us … I’ve been meditating on my peformance rather than how I end the fight. I haven’t got that far yet.”
Whyte said the plan was to avenge this loss and then do the same against Fury. He dismisses any talk that Joshua isn’t the fighter he once was.
“We’ve both been through a lot, both developed a lot, but we’re still chasing improvement. I think it’s gonna be an even better fight than it was the first time.”
“I don’t know and I don’t care [where he’s at] I just prepare for the best version of him … I’m coming to fight and I ain’t got nothing to lose, so I’m all good … I’m calm but like I always say, f**k around and you’ll find out.”
Whyte stuck it on Hearn for visiting Joshua’s training camp in Dallas and not his in Florida, before asking the promoter what ‘AJ’s ‘balls taste like.’ Hearn said he might find out on August 12.
It’s a real fork in the road fight for both men. A win for Joshua sees him tumble towards a bout with the hardest-hitting heavyweight on the scene in Deontay Wilder. Defeat almost isn’t an option given his goal is to be at the top of the sport once more and there’s now no rematch clause to act as a safety net.
For Whyte, a win rejuvenates a career that took a near-fatal blow against Fury last year. If he can best the two-time champion, he’s likely to get another crack at a world championship before all’s said and done. A loss puts him well out of that picture, most likely for good.
For fans, it’s a chance to see development under two new trainers – Derrick James for Joshua and Buddy McGirt for Whyte – after one inaugural showing each against Jermaine Franklin.
The action goes down at a sold-out O2 Arena in London on August 12. Fans watching from home can tune in via DAZN PPV.