Big Naseem Hamed fan and Olympic Silver Medalist Ben Whittaker has divided opinion amongst boxing fans for his tendency to show off and mock opponents inside the ropes.
The showboating 26-year-old has come in for some criticism for dancing rings round opponents who are quite clearly levels below him.
This was the case once more during his sixth fight this past weekend in London, where he beat 10-13-5 fighter Khalid Graidia. The referee warned the Brit twice on the way to fifth round stoppage, once for a tap on the back of the head and the second time for turning his back during a spin move.
Post-fight, one clip of light-heavyweight Whittaker dancing and hitting his opponent was widely shared and many fans expressed a distaste for it, although others including most pundits and fighters backed Whittaker by pointing out getting people talking this early in his career was commendable.
Ben Whittaker with another win with even more showboating
— 🌴ᴛʜᴇᴀʀᴛᴏꜰᴡᴀʀ🌴 (@TheArtOfWar6) February 3, 2024
The general criticism for Whittaker is that he won’t continue to showboat when his competition is stepped up – something he’s keen to happen this year – but he remains adamant he will, and past sparring footage suggests he’s right.
One man who has shown love is three-weight world champion Shakur Stevenson. He took to social media to praise ‘The Surgeon’ and his style.
“I’m a fan champ I love how much fun you having while doing yo craft.. Tell them if they don’t like it step up the competition so you could do that to them too.”
Whittaker responded with his thanks.
“Appreciate it champ! Facts no matter what you do in life they gone talk [s**t], when I step it up they gonna still find something else stupid to say, just look how they treat you.”
Appreciate it champ! Facts no matter what you do in life they gone talk 💩, when I step it up they gonna still find something else stupid to say, just look how they treat you 🤧
— Ben Whittaker (@BenGWhittaker) February 6, 2024
Stevenson has recently announced his retirement from the sport at the age of 26 after frustrations with the business side of things. He is yet to vacate his WBC Lightweight World title, and fans largely expect him to fight on.