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“Dillian Whyte’s a born fighter” recalls former manager, sparring pros as a 15 year old

“I first met Dillian Whyte when he was 15 in Red Dragons Club. He turned up to a training session, had no gloves and we’d just got a sponsorship deal with Adidas for Pain and Glory. I was going to Red Dragons to see Leon Walters and literally give him a load of Adidas stuff cause he was fighting at Pain and Glory; and then in walks Dillian Whyte at about 15 years old, skinny. He was skinny. He’s a big lad but he was a skinny big lad if you know what I mean.”

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Dillian Whyte with England international cricketer, Monty Panesar | Photo courtesy of Fighters Inc

Over the past 21 years, Joe Long has met countless personalities and world class athletes through his sports management agency, Fighters Inc. The former English Karate champion use to manage Dillian Whyte – the kickboxer – long before “The Villain” would transition his fighting career into professional boxing. Dillian would win two British kickboxing championships and hasn’t been forgotten by UK Kickboxing for his bloody toughness.

However, world kickboxing had limited opportunities in the late ‘noughties’ when Dillian was emerging as a serious fighting talent (even flirting with MMA), compared to kickboxing’s current resurgence pioneered by GLORY Kickboxing; but even now the best kickboxers still struggle to make a living solely from fighting, in stark contrast to the majority of elite pro boxers.

In his first amateur boxing bout, Dillian defeated current WBA (Super), IBF and IBO heavyweight world champion, Anthony Joshua in 2009 and an intense rivalry would develop in those six years between the two British heavyweights. An exhilarating rematch as pros in December 2015 would see Joshua KO Whyte in the seventh round, after being badly troubled by Dillian in the earlier rounds at The O2 Arena. 

Since then Dillian has won the British heavyweight title and WBC International and Silver championships; defeated Dereck Chisora by split decision in a 12 round war; and fights former WBA (Regular) world champion, Lucas Browne on March 24 at The O2, London.

However, his early pro boxing career was marred in controversy and hardship when he was banned for two years by UK Anti-Doping (UKAD), for a failed drugs test prior-to fighting for an English championship, having consumed a pre-workout drink made from a banned substance, methylhexaneamine (DMAA).

Those events would have crushed most people’s dreams and aspirations of becoming a genuine world contender but the Jamaican born warrior forged his own Rocky Balboa story – the prelude to which – Joe Long recounts: witnessing a 15 year old Dillian Whyte battling multiple world Karate champion, Leon Walters in an intense sparring session up-to, the most darkest moments of his professional boxing career.

The Dillian Whyte Story

“He walked in and didn’t have no gloves and Leon looked at me and I ended up giving him a pair of these gloves; and that was the first time I met Dillian Whyte and he was at 15, one of the sparring partners for Leon Walters. That guy is an absolute beast but he didn’t like the pressure of fighting in-front of an audience.”

“That was the first time I met Dillian and he sparred with Leon that night and gave him a run for his money. Raw as anything. If Leon Walters had of carried on in K-1, he would have become the main guy for GLORY, he would have been the main guy for GLORY now as far as I’m concerned. Leon Walters is a beast.”

“Dillian Whyte’s a born fighter. I could see that on him when he was 15 years old. I believe he can be world champion, 100%. I believe he could be world champion when he started boxing on amateur shows and we helped then crossover into boxing.”

“I think he fought on two maybe three Pain and Glory’s and the one [kickboxing] fight that everyone talks about is the fight with him and Adam Hart where they both fell out of the ring at Excel. I think that was 2008. In fact Dillian fought here boxing [The Troxy], in one of his early fights about his sixth fight.”

“Everyone talks about the Adam Hart fight, he had two fights with Adam. One was on a Dan Green show. Then the rematch was at Pain and Glory, SENI – might have been 2008. Yeah, 2008, 2010 even but they both came out of the ring. Adam Hart got concussed and then couldn’t continue the fight but it was a war.”

“When Dillian Whyte crossed over into boxing he was supposed to fight, he had a knee surgery. He had to take a year out and just get through that injury and then launch his boxing career; and we’d done promotional deal with Frank Maloney.”

“So he had a promotional deal with Frank Maloney and the long-term goal was to do Fighters Inc and Dillian Whyte promotions. We worked with Dillian up-to 10 and O. Up-to his English title that what we got Dillian to.”

“On the way to the press conference was when he got the call; he was fighting Josh McDurmot. On the way to the press conference when we got the call and he got his ban. That was most probably one of he toughest days that I’ve seen an athlete go through.”

“Unfortunately, Dillian and us parted ways which, was a real downtime for me to be honest. Because I thought we’d get through it and we’d continue. He couldn’t earn at all, you know, he was desperate. We tried to help him and offer him the best that we could but I think there was other people; Dillian was talking to a lot of people about a lot of different things and about how he felt so and so forth.”

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Dillian Whyte | Photo courtesy of Fighters Inc

“We ended-up parting ways which was unfortunate but that time was a real dark time for him. It was a dark time for us, you know, cause we’d invested the last three years to get him to an English title and then on the way to the English title, we get a phone call that he’s got a two year ban. For a substance which was in a pre-workout drink which he took. Considering he had a nutrionist and a nutritional sponsorship deal it was a tough one.”

At the time of the UKAD ban, Whyte expressed how distraught he was in a BBC Sport interview with Matt Slater and that he felt unfairly punished compared to other athletes who, had been banned for less than his two year suspension, for using steroids.

“If I were taking steroids and I lied to them I would probably have been better off because there seems to be people in boxing taking steroids, lying about it and getting less than me. I don’t know why they would make an example of me.”

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Dillian Whyte focused in training | Photo courtesy of Fighters Inc

“I’ve got three kids and boxing is my only way of providing a living for them. I didn’t do too well at school, to be honest, but boxing saved me and changed my life. And it was going well, because I knew it was my best chance in life.”

Whyte would return from his two year UKAD suspension in October 2014, with an emphatic second round TKO stoppage of, Ante Veronica at the Camden Centre, London. From that point on, it’s history in the making for Dillian Whyte’s boxing career, going from strength-to-strength and on March 24, Dillian Whyte vs. Lucas Browne will allow for both heavyweight rivals to settle their grudge match that’s been brewing for numerous months.

Lucas Browne was the first Australian to become a world heavyweight boxing champion after defeating Ruslan Chagaev for the WBA (Regular) title via tenth round TKO in Chechnya, March 2016. However, Browne would end-up being stripped of his title due to failing a controversial drugs test when traces of clenbuterol were found in his urine samples after the fight.

Bizarrely, Browne would again fail another drugs test (after serving his six month ban) in the buildup to fighting, Shannon Briggs for the WBA (Regular) title; and since then has had a bitter war of words via social media (and interviews) with Dillian Whyte.

Speaking to Sky Sports in January, Dillian made his feeling very clear about the Australian boxer, stating:

“I can’t wait, I hate Lucas Browne and I want to hurt him. He’s said some nasty things and he’s going to have to pay for them. If I don’t knock him out, I will not be happy. The plan is to beat Browne and move closer to a world title shot.”

“Beating him should make me a mandatory challenger for a world title. I’m highly ranked across the board. I’ll be a more than credible world title challenger. I’ve been building my way up, so we’re set for a big year.”

The most renown kickboxer to become one of the most dominant world champions in heavyweight boxing was Viatali Klitschko who, was awarded ‘The Eternal World Heavyweight Champion’ in 2016 by, the WBC for his illustrious career; and twice winning the WBC world heavyweight title along with, the WBO and The Ring heavyweight titles.

Should Dillian Whyte defeat Lucas Browne and defend his WBC Silver championship on, March 24 at The O2 Arena in London, he could be next in line to challenge the current WBC world heavyweight champion, Deontay Wilder, for the most prestigious green belt in boxing.

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