In the O2 main event, Dillian Whyte took the unbeaten record of Oscar Rivas, while securing the long-coveted mandatory position with the WBC
After 600 days of being the WBC No. 1 heavyweight and assembling one of the better winning runs in the sport, it all came down to this. Dillian Whyte just had to get past Colombian dangerman Oscar Rivas in the headline fight at the O2 and he would not only become WBC Interim champion but finally be awarded the long-desired mandatory position with that governing body.
Within his previous six bouts, the Brixton “Body Snatcher” had defeated Dereck Chisora – a stoppage victor on the undercard – twice, as well as ex-WBO ruler Joseph Parker. Muscular Rivas though came from his Canadian base with an impressive amateur pedigree and a 26-0 (18) record in the paid code, the best win on which was a final-round stoppage of fringe contender Bryant Jennings in January. Before that explosive finish, Rivas had appeared ponderous and one-paced, but Jennings is a tricky customer. It was Oscar’s aggression and speed against Whyte’s workrate, clubbing power and an underrated intelligence which was reflected in his suffering just one pro defeat, to Anthony Joshua who he beat as an amateur.
Rivas began positively, thrusting out a forceful jab and looking for the right hand. Whyte was content to take a look from the back foot. The fight exploded into life in round two as Whyte hurt Rivas with a straight right but may have overestimated how shaken his opponent was. It was not long before Rivas began firing back in a very exciting session. Rivas ducked and rolled well, but Whyte still found a home for his own jab, which he began to double up to good effect from the third. Rivas’ feet were too static at times, as Whyte dipped and moved laterally.
Whyte was guilt of missing wildly at times but stayed busy, whereas Rivas, a thinking fighter, threw less and was only periodically more efficient. As against Jennings, Rivas showed his quality in spurts, but lacked consistency. I only gave Rivas a round from the first six and his left eye was swollen by halfway, but Whyte nonetheless had to remain alert at all times given the latent power of the man in front of him.
Rivas showed more urgency from the seventh, crowding Whyte to the ropes and unloading to the body, but the Londoner appeared unruffled. Some of Whyte’s own work downstairs, as befits his moniker, was positively demonic and his display overall was that of a seasoned veteran. He controlled the tempo and distance for the most part and varied his work sensibly throughout. Whyte, so raw when he lost to Joshua in 2015, now appears a rounded operator in his prime.
As the showdown entered its final third, Rivas threatened to turn things on their head. Totally against the run of play, the Colombian dropped Whyte with a right uppercut early in round nine and had him in trouble. Whyte moved, held and fired back when he could, trying to get his legs back. He showed trademark resolve to see out the session. Whyte launched some bombs of his own in the 10th as a chess match had rapidly morphed into a war.
Whyte pressed his renewed advantage in the following round as Rivas’ big moment proved more blip than changing of the tide. Even after Rivas, now also cut on the right eye, finished strongly in the 12th, it looked as if Whyte had dropped a maximum of four stanzas overall, including the one in which he was decked. So it proved as he got home by scores of 115-112 (twice) and 116-111.
To the future, we expect a slightly easier task for Whyte in November or December before a likely WBC title shot in spring or summer 2020. No one can say he hasn’t earned it now.