Dillian Whyte is no stranger to knockdowns.
“Coming back from defeat or bad situations, or ups and downs, is one of the things I know how to do best. Which is very sad, but that’s me,” says Whyte.
The 34-year-old heavyweight has suffered heartbreak time and time again, both in and out of the ring.
He was shot twice and stabbed three times but, with the help of his mother, he dragged himself out of this life and into the boxing ring.
“It all starts with my mother and it all ends up coming back to my mother,” he adds.
Antoine Joshua put it down in 2015 in his first professional loss, but he got back up.
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With his fists, he carved out a life that even his devoted mother could have struggled to imagine. There was no plan, no flashy promoter to back him up, it was just his strong will to make something of himself.
“I had no plan,” he admits. “But I don’t mind taking risks.
“I’m a bit wild and crazy like that. I’ve always been a risk taker. Taking risks for me is nothing.”
Today, Whyte is one of the most recognizable faces in British boxing, selling arenas, most recently at Wembley Stadium in April alongside Tyson Fury. He is paid handsomely to do so.
In April a WBC Fury champion’s uppercut brought a painful end to a seven-year battle for a world title.
But he is not discouraged and plans to return.
Now he’s on the cusp of another comeback, one he’s savoring. On Saturday night, he faces an undefeated American contender Jermaine Franklin.
“I’ve been in the lion’s den all my career,” he says.
“I’ve suffered defeats before. My story is that I’m not afraid to come straight back into big fights.”
“We never get over it”
Once again, however, tragedy struck Whyte. The son of one of his closest friends, Dean, was killed in a shootout in Brixton earlier this month. Lamar Scott was 27 years old.
“You never get over it,” admits Whyte. “You just have to try to live with the memories.
“I grew up losing people, suffering and struggling. Growing up with people dying around me is not something I’m proud of or something positive.
“But it’s something I got used to.”
Whyte says he wants to continue to be a role model for young people in his community. He once walked in their shoes and credits boxing, and his mother, with saving his life.
“Something that was a curse and a problem for me was obviously the fight,” he says.
“When I realized I could turn this into something that pays for me and my family, and gives me real respect, I was hooked.”
Joshua “finally comes out of his shell”
If Whyte defeats Franklin, he will put himself in first place to fight his bitter rival Joshua, in a long-awaited rematch.
Joshua himself is about to embark on his own redemption tour. His second loss to Oleksandr Usyk in August left him at a crossroads.
His explosion in the ring shocked onlookers and his tearful post-fight comments provided a rare glimpse into the man behind the carefully managed image.
Whyte says Joshua was never the cool boxing poster he was portrayed as.
The ‘Bodysnatcher’ has never been a man to choose his words carefully, he likes flashes of anger inside and outside the ring, but he feels he has never tried to hide his true personality.
“He (Joshua) is being praised for coming out of his shell,” Whyte said.
“It’s funny how the world works. I would never want to be forced into a position where I can’t be myself.”
“What’s cool is beating the odds”
Whyte has no plans to step away from boxing. He wants to keep fighting the biggest names.
He would like to fight Joshua three times if he can. He’s also keen to take on American duo Deontay Wilder and Andy Ruiz Jr, and unified champion Usyk is also on his radar.
He could retire after that, having fought every heavyweight of his generation.
But first, he must find his way back to victory against Franklin. Another reconstruction awaits.
With everything he’s been through, Whyte believes his greatest strength is his ability to keep picking himself up.
“I have to keep going, fight and show (kids like me) that even in difficult and devastating times, you can still be positive,” he says.
“What’s cool is defying the odds, getting out of the ground and becoming someone.
“I’m looking to knock him out. I don’t care about throwing punches. I’m not afraid to miss a few punches to land a few.”