Can We Really Blame Dillian Whyte?

After what must feel like an eternity, Heavyweight contender Dillian Whyte could be on the verge of his first world championship shot.

Frankly, with so many versions of the title in each division, statements such as the one above can often be viewed as inconsequential. However, they certainly matter to the fighters and promoters involved -- and especially in the case of Whyte.

In November of 2017, Whyte officially became recognized as the highest-rated challenger to the WBC crown, possessed at the time by Deontay Wilder. This effectively occurred with a decision win over Robert Helenius in October of the same year, where Whyte picked up the oh-so-prestigious WBC silver Heavyweight title.

Whyte, one must presume, understood that boxing is never so cut and dry that a champion will automatically face their perceived mandatory. However, the Englishman must have assumed his chance at world honors wouldn't be too far off.

He would have assumed wrong.

Instead, since his placement at the top of the contender's list for the green and gold, a total of seven bouts with the WBC Heavyweight crown on the line have taken place. None of those fights have included Dillian Whyte.

Now, in case you're unfamiliar with how often a champion for the WBC is to face a mandatory, here is the official rule from the sanctioning body itself:

"All WBC champions shall make at least one (1) mandatory defense per year, unless an exception is granted by the WBC in its sole discretion. A champion may be required to make more than one mandatory defense per year, if the WBC has designated more than one mandatory challenger for any reason."

In regards to the regulation, one point sticks out most. Namely that the WBC effectively can avoid handing out mandatory obligations for its champions if it so feels inclined. Equally, it can hand out multiple per year. That, in theory, means Whyte shouldn't have been too surprised to wait for his shot in his first year as the number one contender....but he has to think it's not too far off.

However, he has thus far waited in excess of three total years, all while being rated the number one contender -- barring a brief hiccup when he was stopped by Alexander Povetkin in August of last year before returning the favor in March.

During this wait, Whyte had been given little to no reason from the WBC as to why they felt he wasn't deserving of his seemingly earned title opportunity. He has gone through being wrongfully accused of doping and then having his failed doping test overturned and litigations with the WBC in relation to his overdue title shot.

What's more, while some fans cried foul in respect to Whyte's treatment, many were willing to overlook the unfair treatment based on what they were given in return.

In other words: many fans were fine with Dillian being put on the back burner when they were getting the more tantalizing fight series between the aforementioned Wilder and Tyson Fury, the man now in possession of the WBC strap in question.

It's not always nice to admit, but fans, much like humans in any walk of life, are selfish creatures. If you're promising them more meaningful fights, they'll ignore the fact that someone is being aggressively mistreated. Still, even with that in mind, it's hard to fathom how anyone felt it justifiable that Whyte had to wait out an entire trilogy, litigation and everything else in between. It's a peg that's rather hard to square.

Still, Whyte made the best of the situation in the last few years. Since Helenius, Whyte has gone 6-1 (losing only the previously-mentioned initial Povetkin bout), beating two former titlists including Joseph Parker and winning a couple of wars against rival Dereck Chisora.

Then, in his second bout of 2021, he was scheduled to face the talented Otto Wallin in what would have been a very compelling bout. Wallin, once-beaten as a professional, was certainly no slouch. In fact, his only loss came at the hands of the world champion Fury, losing what some considered an awfully close decision back in September of 2019.

The fight was considered something of a risk for the favored Whyte. While Wallin isn't a massive puncher, he's a faced-handed, crafty big man that could have made things messy for the Londoner. In truth, some questioned whether or not Whyte should take the fight at all -- especially when news broke that the WBC had finally ordered the winner of the third and final Fury-Wilder encounter to defend the crown against Dillian.

And wouldn't you know it? Whyte eventually pulled out of the Wallin fight with an injured shoulder, claiming it was an issue that arose during training.

Now, I'm not in his training camp, so I can't say anything for sure. Therefore, I hesitate to claim that he or his team devised a plan to fake an injury, and, thus, avoid possibly losing his shot at Fury. Though, one can certainly understand where such a conspiracy theory would emerge. All I will say is that his misfortune does seem to have worked out in his favor.

Regardless, with the injury announcement came judgement far and wide. Some questioned the legitimacy of the injury while others outright cried foul and claimed Whyte had effectively ducked Wallin. Perhaps there is an understandable cloud of doubt that hovers over the presumed diagnosis.

However you slice it, one of two things happened here. Either he really was injured and would rather recover and go directly towards his shot at the gold, or he wasn't about to risk his long-awaited shot and faked the injury to get out of a difficult bout.

In either event, I can't sit here with a straight face and say I blame Whyte either way. It's time he takes his shot.

Is it the most honorable thing to do? Possibly not. However, boxing doesn't hand out championships to the most honorable fighters. It's especially hard to be angered by Whyte when, if given the chance, I am nearly positive Wallin would ditch the Dillian encounter if granted a return bout with old foe Fury.

And who could blame him?

We as fans like to pretend the sports world is this mythical land where superheroes reside and make all the right choices all the time. The fact of the matter is that athletes are humans that, regardless of how you want to frame it, play a sport for an occupation. It's a job.

While we all would like to say we would do the honorable thing here, it's hard to imagine many of us turning down a million dollar pay increase for our work because "it was the right thing to do".

What's more, it's not hard to imagine those same fans ready to publicly shame Whyte would publicly ridicule him if he went ahead with the Wallin encounter and proceeded to lose the fight and his long-awaited title shot in the process.

Honor isn't implicitly about keeping your word, it's about adherence to what is right and what is true. What is true is that I couldn't expect anyone to do something I, myself, can't imagine I would do. In this case, I can't imagine I would wait a second longer for a shot I deserved years ago. Furthermore, I expect most people would find themselves doing the same thing -- and, as mentioned, that includes Wallin.

So, who is being dishonorable here?

Why should Whyte grant Wallin a decency he likely wouldn't be given if the shoe were on the other foot?

Boxing is a sport of opportunities, and the career of a fighter is brief. A single bad night can abbreviate the career further. At some point, you have to make decisions that benefit your career the same way anyone would, whether working at Burger King or in some law firm in a major city.

This is prizefighting, and you don't get paid for being viewed as a nice guy that sticks to his word. You get paid for fighting. The bigger the fight, the bigger the prize. You don't earn a single dollar more because everyone feels you were a decent fellow on your rise to the top.

These might not be the prettiest thoughts, but they are honest. Again, we as fans were nearly universally willing to dismiss Whyte when we had a richer prize on the horizon in the form of a bigger fight. It would be hypocritical for us to judge him harshly for doing the same.

Hope you enjoyed reading, It's something I genuinely do appreciate. Also, if you're at all interested, you can check out my predictions for this week's fights. You can check out the Jose Zepeda vs. Josue Vargas pick here and the Jamal James vs. Radzhab Batuev pick here.

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