Dillian Whyte COLUMN: Why Anthony Joshua loss was the best thing that happened to me
Boxing is a bit of a happy accident for me. In 2008, I got to the stage in my kickboxing career where I had to learn to use my hands a little bit better. So I sought out a boxing coach and he brought me to the gym once a week just to learn just how to use my hands – mainly to stop dropping them because I was relying on my feet too much. Then, one thing led to another and I was suddenly sparring at the gym. Before long the coach was saying ‘you’ve got a lot of attributes, with your strength and power you should take this seriously and you could do something’.
I wasn’t really serious about boxing but I started doing it more and more and I thought ‘cool, I’m actually alright at this’. Then I started sparring the likes of David Haye, Tyson Fury, David Price and I wasn’t getting knocked out. That sparked something in me.
It took a while to adapt from wanting to kick people to boxing, and I’m still adapting even now. It’s given me a different advantage in boxing to nearly every other fighter. It’s given me a slightly awkward style that works in my favour sometimes. I have an awkwardness that works in my strength and helps deliver my power punches from angles I shouldn’t really be able to. It’s not a traditional approach to boxing. It’s not like ‘I’m going to do this and I’m going to do that’ – I’ve got a whole completely different mindset to other boxers.
I had been training for about two or three months when my amateur coaches told me to ‘get ready for a fight’. It was for an end of year show which they often do to help provide funds for the boxing clubs to buy bikes, gloves and all that stuff. They couldn’t really find anyone to fight me but then they said there’s a guy from Finchley – I think he was 4-0 or 5-0 or something – who wanted to fight. The guys wouldn’t stop raving on about him and said ‘we’re not sure if you’re ready for that’.
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I was like ‘you don’t believe in me?’ That’s just how I was, a bit of a hot head. They said ‘we understand if you want to say no’ but the more I thought about it, I was like ‘I really want to fight that guy. Let me prove myself to you’. When you’re young, you want to prove yourself to everyone, so we ended up taking the fight.
The opponent turned out to be Anthony Joshua. I didn’t really know anything about him at the time aside from hearing he was being groomed for the GB squad for the 2012 London Olympics. As you can see from the fight – you can watch it on YouTube below – he turned up with the full amateur outfit on, had the proper shorts, his fists were taped together and all of that. I just turned up in some black trousers with a white vest on. They gave some boxing gear to me and we had it out.
People knew about him in the amateur game but I didn’t know much because I didn’t follow that, it was all new to me. I just fought him like a normal guy. I went in there, did my thing, took the fight to him and kept pushing him and pushing him and that won me the fight.
In the amateurs, I was the danger man to Joshua that could have upset his plan. He was at a powerful club, I was sort of getting by. One day, someone literally said ‘listen, you’ve got two choices: listen and learn or we’re just going to keep holding you back in the amateurs.’
I wanted to make it to the professional ranks to prove a point. I never had the best advice or backing, I was just a kid who loved to fight and back then, whatever I got told I was just like ‘cool’. Now, when I think about it, I wish I pushed hard for the Olympics and, if not Great Britain, represented Jamaica because I have dual-nationality. But you live and you learn.
While I was still an amateur, there was a lot of frustration. AJ and I were meant to fight a lot as amateurs and every time it would come round to fighting him there was always something going on, they were always finding issues.
By the time we fought in the pros in 2015, I wasn’t in the best space in my life. He was in a much better place than me. He was training properly, he had a lot of time and money invested in him and it showed in the fight. He kept coming in three or four seconds before me, he was sharper and I had just come off a long two-year layoff. It was perfect matchmaking by them at the time, really. I did catch him and I did have the chance to knock him out, but I came up short on the day. That was the day that really ignited me to make the changes that I had to make to become a proper professional fighter.
I had a very, very bad shoulder injury that could have possibly ended my career – I knew that two days before the fight and going into the fight I already had the surgery booked for after. And I knew, if I had clocked him properly on his chin, he would have got knocked out – and I wasn’t too far off from hitting him in exactly the right place. But my shoulder held me back. Me being me, I carried on and pushed my shoulder to its limits.
That fight was a wake-up call for me. I realised: I’m a big puncher, I’m strong, I’m tough, I have boxing skills and boxing ability, but I need to take it more seriously. My team and I talked it through and we decided this is it, we have to do it properly. I haven’t looked back since, pushing myself to the limit and winning all my subsequent fights against good fighters.
And I’m confident it will be a different outcome when Joshua and I meet for a second time in the pro ranks.
Source: SportsLatest TS