Words by Charles Odugbesan
14HQ were at the O2 Arena last night to see the hometown hero Dillian Whyte take on his Columbian counterpart Oscar Rivas, a highly ranked fighter, unbeaten in 26 professional bouts. Stakes were high for this fight, with the winner earning a mandatory shot at Deontay Wilder’s WBC World Heavyweight Title at some point in 2020. For one of the fighters, victory was their opportunity to propel themselves into the upper echelon of the sport and force both fans and experts alike to include them in the conversation with the likes of Wilder, Fury, Joshua and now Ruiz. But which one would it be?
At best, the undercard was underwhelming. There was a notable highlight in the Dereck Chisora vs Artur Szpilka fight, with the former delivering a devastating second round knock out before calling out Joseph Parker. Otherwise the crowd needed to be energised and engaged in an exciting scrap. And we were not disappointed…
Excitement grew in the arena as the main event drew nearer and predictably spectators were unanimously pro Dillian Whyte. It seemed as though Rivas only had he and his corner for support. But the partisan crowd and the more than capable opponent stood across from him did not phase him. In the opening round, he looked right at home! He commanded the centre of the ring and was aggressive and forthcoming in his approach, perhaps surprising Whyte some what. Throughout, Rivas was strong, resilient and found flurries of success with an effective inside game. After a tense first round Whyte established some combination punches, good body shots and settled back into the fight without dominating it entirely. This was a 12 rounded war of attrition that could’ve gone either way.
The pendulum swung back and forth throughout this fight and climaxed with Rivas knocking down Whyte in the 9th round with a bruising right uppercut. One moment there was a stunned silence throughout the crowd as Whyte pulled himself off the canvas looking annoyed with himself. The next, galvanising, defiant roars of encouragement for Whyte to survive and reassert himself in the contest. Still a close fight to call at this point in time, you could really sense the fatigue both fighters were struggling with in the final 3 rounds, both desperate to finish strong and impress the judges. The manner wasn’t entirely favourable, but Dillian Whyte prevailed after 12 tough rounds, winning in a unanimous decision.
Since losing to Anthony Joshua in 2015, Dillian Whyte has put on an impressive 10 match win streak, claiming some big scalps in the process and it has now paid dividends for him. He has secured that mandatory slot and is ever closer to that World Title fight he so desires. Credit to “The Body Snatcher” on a gutsy performance!!