British boxer Dillian Whyte is on a mission to become the world’s new undisputed heavyweight boxing champion. In the prime of his career and just a day before Portugal declared State of Emergency, he moved from the UK to the Algarve to make the region his new home while he prepares for the tough fights ahead of him in the near future.
Moving to southern Portugal had been a long-time dream for Dillian Whyte, who had grown tired of the media attention he received in the UK and the “constant distractions” which took his mind off his goal.
The Algarve’s luxurious and private Golden Triangle area, where he has settled, provides the kind of peace of mind the 32-year-old boxer was seeking. With him came his very own entourage, which includes physiotherapists, a head coach, nutritionist and photographers.
His next fight will see him face Russia’s Alexander Povektin in Brentford, UK, on August 22.
Whyte, standing at 1.93m and weighing 119 kilos, is the number one challenger for the title of undisputed heavyweight champion. He has held the WBC interim heavyweight title since July 2019 and is hoping to win all four titles from the major sanctioning organisations – WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO.
Nicknamed ‘The Bodysnatcher’, Whyte is known for his impressive 72% knockout percentage. His aggressiveness stems at least partly from his background. Whyte was born in Saint Thomas, Jamaica, but moved with his mother at the age of 12 to Brixton, London, in search of a better life. But the transition wasn’t easy.
“I have a very complicated past. I fought a lot on the street. I was part of gangs, I was a true gangster, and I spent my days getting into trouble. I was even stabbed and shot several times,” he said.
However, his life started to change when some of his friends encouraged him to start kickboxing.
“From that point on, I never left the gym. I discovered that I could fight without it being on the streets. I put all my energy into training, which left me too tired to get into trouble the rest of the day. At the same time, I had finally found something I was truly good at,” he said.
He started as an amateur kickboxer in 2009 but all it took was six fights to become a pro two years later. At the age of 16, he became the UK’s youngest heavyweight champion ever. Three years later, he turned to boxing.
“My trainer told me immediately that I had what it took to become a big star in the boxing world, but I didn’t take him very seriously,” Whyte said.
“The first person to see my talent was Charles when I was 14,” said Whyte, pointing to his friend who sat nearby during our interview.
“We have remained friends since then and he follows me everywhere I go. He is my right-hand man and the person who takes care of me.”
Whyte has made a habit out of taking on “tough challenges”, some of which he admits he may not have been ready for in the past.
“But the truth is I have never been afraid to fight. I’ve always wanted more and more. I’ve always wanted to take on the best,” he said.
“Back then I was very tough, and I didn’t know as much about the technical side (of fighting). Although I won my first 15 fights, I feel like I didn’t fight with knowledge because I didn’t train the right way. My strength came from being very aggressive.”
That all changed after his first (and only) loss against Anthony Joshua in 2015 at the O2 Arena in London.
“Apart from not practising like I should have, and not having technique, I also had a lot of injuries which is why I didn’t practise correctly which led to my defeat,” Whyte said. “I needed to lose to realise that I needed to change the way I prepared and practised. I realised that I didn’t have to rely on brute-force and I started investing in technique.”
Dillian Whyte trains six hours every day – three in the morning and three in the afternoon – alternating between working on his physical condition and practising boxing.
“If we want to be among the elite, we have to work hard and concentrate,” he said.
Algarve to welcome boxing training centre?
The British boxer is looking into plans to open a “training centre for combat sports” in the Algarve.
“It would be great to find a local developer to create a project of this kind together,” he said, although he admits it is something he only expects to put time into in the future.
For the time being, all of his energy is going into accomplishing his goals in this “decisive stage” of his career.
Nonetheless, he would like to help boxing grow as a sport in the region.
“The warmer climate and the calmer and more relaxed lifestyle help athletes prepare better for this demanding sport,” he said.
By SARA ALVES