Tony Bellew: Dillian Whyte froze against Tyson Fury, but can save world title dream with a win

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Dillian Whyte Mikey Williams / Top Rank

So, Dillian Whyte’s return to the ring is confirmed and he’ll look to get back to winning ways against a hungry, unbeaten opponent in Jermaine Franklin on November 26th.

There’s going to be plenty of eyes on Dillian in his first fight back since losing by knockout to Tyson Fury earlier this year. That was a fight he had wanted for a very long time, and it couldn’t have gone any worse for him. 

Dillian might not agree with me on this one, but I think he froze against Fury.

Go back to the weeks leading into the fight and you won’t find a bigger backer of Dillian than me. What he showed that night was nothing like I expected, and I think the whole occasion, the entire build-up, and years of waiting for his shot just became too much for him. 

I’ve been there myself. In 2013, I was desperate to prove myself as a world level fighter and I had to wait patiently for a shot at the WBC light-heavyweight champion, Adonis Stevenson. I’d had a couple of tough fights against Isaac Chilemba beforehand, but I don’t feel like I performed like anything I was capable of that night. It happens to fighters sometimes. Believe me. 

You look at your typical Dillian fight and you see a fighter who is pushing from the word go. It’s fair to say he went up against a great fighter in Fury, but it just looked like Dillian was off the pace for some reason and I think he must remind people just how good he can be. That starts with Jermaine Franklin, and it’s a fight that can tell us a lot. 

If Dillian struggles here or doesn’t look good winning, then it’s going to be a long road back to the top of the division and that will be a massive shame. Has waiting years for his big moment put too many miles on the clock? That’s a possibility, but if the Dillian that I know turns up on next month then. I think he put himself back in the mix again. 

The top end of the heavyweight division is still a little unclear at the moment as we wait for a potential fight between Fury and my old mate, Oleksandr Usyk. Anthony Joshua will be dying to prove a point, Deontay Wilder returned in style recently, and Joe Joyce wants to get his title shot. These heavyweights are all ready to take a big fight again, and Dillian has to prove that he’s ready to do the same. 

There’s absolutely no shame in losing to a fighter like Fury, but it’ll be the manner of the loss that’ll hurt Whyte. He’d promised so much for so long and to go out the way he did will have hurt his pride. He’s a proper fighter. He’s endured setbacks before and came back in impressive fashion, and that’s the resilience he’s going to have to show once more. 

Lose against Franklin, or win by the skin of his teeth, Whyte may have to say goodbye of his dream of being world champion. The American is a solid operator, but I just think Whyte at his absolute best is far too good for him. If he shows that then he can prove himself at the top level again in 2023. If not, then it’s hard to say where he goes next. I’m expecting to see a vintage Dillian and that he becomes a major problem at heavyweight again. 

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