Dillian Whyte defeated Jermaine Franklin on Saturday night to set up a potentially successful rematch with Anthony Joshua.
Joshua got here 20 minutes before Whyte’s walk to the ring, but it was a late, late show from the Brixton fighter who worked late into the contest, nearly stopping his foe in the closing seconds of the round 12. That vigor might have been shown earlier by Whyte as the contest was scored 115-115 and 116-112 on two of the cards in favor of the home fighter.
Asked by Sports Telegraph if he then fought Whyte, Joshua would have replied: “Why not? Let’s fight.”
There wasn’t much that would have worried former world champion Joshua, Whyte who won a fight at a rate where he fought a determined and undefeated American fighter who took his moment against a top 10 heavyweight in the box office. Franklin displayed a great chin, heart and resilience. Whyte was Whyte, but without the explosive moments we’ve witnessed from the power heavyweights.
In a close and cautious first round as they touched each other, Franklin showed off his hand speed and balance as Whyte looked for openings. There were few, but in the second and Whyte worked his shot to his enemy’s head and body, and opened up on the American’s body.
Whyte attacked in the third with an uppercut and several hooks to the body, though Franklin held his own and counterattacked.
In the fourth, Franklin looked composed on his back foot, throwing combinations as Whyte tried to advance but his rival held on.
They stood on tiptoe for most of the fifth, exchanging body shots, with little separating them. A right hook appeared to hurt Whyte with a minute left in the sixth, though Whyte, under fire from a series of punches, grinned at his opponent as the bell rang to mark the point midway through the contest.
Whyte organized his assault early in the seventh, and landed punishing jabs in the final minute even as Franklin countered with his arsenal of punches. There was little to separate them. Indeed, whatever Whyte did Franklin equaled, and so they progressed to the eighth round, the Briton needing to show more urgency and vigor. It got worse for Whyte as the ninth ended.
He had been pressing his opponent for most of the round, but was under pressure in his own corner after landing a big left hook. Whyte came through the tenth and finished the round with a right hook that wowed the crowd, and came into the championship rounds strong to win a close fight.
Earlier, rising talent Fabio Wardley defeated Nathan Gorman to reclaim Lonsdale’s belt for the British heavyweight title in his 15th bout. The 27-year-old fighter from Ipswich, a protégé of Whyte, indulged in a three-round war with Gorman, running out of time in the opening round but dazzling with speed and power in the second, dropping the more experienced fighter twice. That said, the victor’s nose was cut and bloodied in the second as the two fighters traded heavily toe-to-toe. By the third round, Wardley was on the hunt for power shots, his right hand once again pounding his foe to the floor. He is one to watch.
But if British fight fans are looking forward to the major heavyweight fights in 2023, which will hopefully include Tyson Fury vs. Oleksandr Usyk for the undisputed heavyweight title if Fury defeats Derek Chisora for the third time at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium next Saturday night, which the Gypsy King is expected to do – Whyte’s sequel with Joshua is one to savour. It will not be about a title but one of rivalry and revenge, with Whyte telling Telegraph Sport that “avenging defeat is bigger than winning a world title”.