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Monday, 21 January, 2019

Heavyweight fight could be all Whyte on the night

Joseph Parker may be in trouble if he goes to war

Dillian Whyte and Joseph Parker pose for photographs
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World Boxing Council Silver heavyweight title
World Boxing Organisation International heavyweight title
Sky Box Office, 10pm approx Saturday

Bookmakers, pundits and fans seem split down the middle when it comes to picking a winner from Dillian Whyte's heavyweight showdown with Joseph Parker, but the Body Snatcher from South London looks the value bet to have his hand raised in his O2 Arena backyard.

Both men would be undefeated were it not for their one common opponent Anthony Joshua, who beat Whyte in seven rounds in 2015 and saw off Parker on points in March. 

On paper there isn't much to separate them.

Despite losing his world title to Joshua, Parker achieved what no man had done before and took him the distance. However, he never looked like winning and failed to land a telling punch. 

That gun-shy performance in the biggest fight of his life may be excused by the fact he was up against the unified heavyweight champion, but it followed on from a majority-decision points win over Hughie Fury which could easily have gone the other way. 

In fact Parker's last four contest have gone the distance, including the fight where he picked up the belt which led him to Joshua - he won the vacant belt in his native New Zealand by edging another majority decision over Andy Ruiz when he again failed to impress for large spells.

The pressure is on Parker to let his hands go, and his loquacious promoter David Higgins reckons he will do just that, saying Parker will "throw the kitchen sink" at Whyte and win by knockout in the middle rounds. 

Parker has also been bullish, saying he will fight with less movement and throw more punches, but these bold statements of intent could be nothing more than a smokescreen.

These is little evidence to suggest Parker would come out on top of a slugging match with Whyte and he would be ill advised to try it. 

Whyte's defeat to Joshua in December 2015 is his only loss as a professional, but it also marked the start of a bright new future. 

Joshua won via a spectacular KO, but not before massive underdog Whyte almost tore up the script by rocking him in the second round and for a few minutes it looked as if he could cause a massive shock. 

Ultimately Whyte didn't have the conditioning to keep pace with the Olympic gold medallist, but he proved to himself that with the right dedication and team around him he could be a serious contender. 

He called trainer Mark Tibbs, son of the legendary Jimmy Tibbs, and set about making the transition from journeyman to box-office attraction.

Undercard preview

Seven fights and seven wins later, the transformation has been impressive. Not only has Whyte improved as a fighter he has matured as a person too, and the fans love it.

Jeered and booed in the past, Whyte is now seen as a people's champion who overcame adversity and gang violence on the streets of Brixton.

Trash talk and disrespect have been replaced with calm confidence. Between the ropes he has been getting better and better and his fitness has been transformed. "He listens. He puts in the work and the miles like no other fighter I know", says Tibbs, which is an extraordinary statement given his family history.

Whyte carries raw power in both hands, and he brings to the table something Parker's other opponents have been lacking - intensity. 

Joshua controlled the ring against Parker, while Fury fought off the back foot, but Whyte will surely go out to make a statement.

He knows his best chance is to close the distance on the Kiwi and test his chin, and he will also want to go one better than AJ and stop Parker inside the distance, which could happen if Parker decides to fight fire with fire. 

Parker's most likely tactic is to use his speed and movement to outbox Whyte, but to get the win he will have to get his opponent's respect early on, rock Whyte and silence the crowd - and there just isn't any evidence he can do that. 

Whyte has been in the trenches on plenty of occasions - his 12-rounder with Dereck Chisora was an absolute classic that proved he has got a granite chin. 

But Whyte's greatest asset may be his hunger. He desperately wants a heavyweight title shot, and if he can knock out Parker he should get one. 

Joshua, incidentally, isn't sitting on the fence - he's backing Whyte to win by knockout, saying Whyte has more power and nothing to lose. 

The odds suggest it's a 50-50 fight which could go either way, but home advantage, power, desire and Whyte's hot form suggest it could go the way of the Londoner. 

D Whyte
3pts 6-5 Betfair
D White by KO
1pt 15-4 bet365

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Jeered and booed in the past, Whyte is now seen as a people's champion
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