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Dillian Whyte says Francis Ngannou would never try to stand and fight him

Dillian Whyte talks potential MMA crossover, Alexander Povetkin, and more.

Heavyweight contender Dillian Whyte expects to have a date confirmed for his twice-delayed bout with Alexander Povetkin sometime this week, and he joined Eddie Hearn and Tony Bellew on their video podcast to talk about that fight and much more, including the potential of a crossover bout with UFC star Francis Ngannou.

Whyte (27-1, 18 KO) took some ribbing from Hearn specifically about Bellew thinking he would be an easy fight, and while he did take it as the joke it is, he spun that into his belief that opponents often don’t think he’s as good as he is.

“Everyone underestimates me, then they get in there and realize, you know what, there’s more to him than they might think,” Whyte said. “I jab better than they think, I have more fight in me than they think, I’m faster than they think, and they realize, oh shit, he’s better than what we thought.”

Whyte, 32, also admitted that his last outing — a Dec. 7 win over Mariusz Wach on the Ruiz-Joshua 2 undercard — wasn’t his best performance. He won clearly over 10 rounds, but he was visibly out of shape, weighing in at a career-high 271 pounds, which might have made more waves if Ruiz hadn’t stolen the show for being out of shape on that card.

“I came into the fight in Saudi out of shape, my mind was all over the place. I was just in a bad place,” he said, adding that he believes opponents — including Povetkin — may take too much from that night.

“These guys look at me one fight, they don’t know what’s going on in my career or my life, and the next fight I come in completely different. My style changes every fight and every camp. If you watch my last three fights, they’ve all been different styles. I just let them say what they want, whoever wants it can get it, simple as that.”

The talk turned to UFC 249, which took place this past Saturday. Heavyweight Francis Ngannou knocked out Jairzinho Rozenstruik in 20 seconds. Whyte does have some desire to fight a crossover bout, even if it means going into a cage instead of the boxing ring.

“I’ve had MMA fights. There’s one on the internet, my debut, lasted only 20 seconds or whatever. Their game plan would be to kick the legs and take me down,” he said of Ngannou, whose punching power is highly respected. “He would never try and stand up with me, he’s not stupid. He would never try and do that. The thing is, I come from a martial arts background. I can wrestle and I can do Thai boxing. It’s a fight, I don’t care. I will have it.”

Bellew suggested that while Ngannou does have power, his technique is severely lacking, and not just because he’s an MMA fighter, as he gave credit to the boxing technique of Justin Gaethje, who won the UFC 249 main event. Whyte suspects Ngannou wouldn’t come out throwing the wild haymakers in a matchup against him.

“If he fought someone like me, he’s going to be a lot more cautious and a lot more careful,” Whyte predicted.

Whyte has also recently had a lot of words for former titleholder Andy Ruiz Jr on social media lately, and some have come back his way. Hearn offered that he really likes the fight, but Whyte pretty much shrugged it off, saying dismissively, “Andy Ruiz has got a big fight with diabetes at the minute.”

And of course, there’s the fight Whyte knows he can’t overlook with Povetkin (35-2-1, 24 KO), the 40-year-old Russian who remains a real contender in the heavyweight division after having been a pro for 15 years now.

Whyte said he respects Povetkin’s approach and his skills, and had nothing bad to say about his opponent.

“He’s not going to come to mess about. Povetkin’s gonna come to fight,” Whyte said. “There’s something about Povetkin that’s very similar to me. The mind set, you know? He just smiles and says, ‘OK, I come fight.’”

He does, however, think that for all of Povetkin’s skills, the Russian may put too much stock into Whyte’s December fight, which Povetkin saw up close. Povetkin also fought on that card, going to a draw with Michael Hunter.

“Povetkin is technically good, that’s one thing I give him, he’s technically sound. And he’s out-fought tough guys because he keeps coming forward. But when I hit him, and I will hit him, I’m going to try to hit him as hard as I can, as soon as I can. They saw me in Saudi and they’re thinking he’s a bit slow. They’ll see a completely different Dillian Whyte. I’m already in good shape now and I’m only going to get better.”

Whyte-Povetkin will be taking place behind closed doors this summer. The two were originally going to meet on May 2, which was pushed to July 4 and is now tentative once more, but the fight is being put together as we speak, and is one to look forward to at the moment.