|Venue of events: Wembley Stadium, London Date: Saturday, April 23|
|Coverage: Follow BBC Sport live text, website and app from 21:00 BST|
Being eliminated by your most hated rival has to hurt, even for a man as unbreakable as heavyweight contender Dillian Whyte.
When Anthony Joshua knocked out Whyte in the seventh round of their bitterly contested bout in 2015, it might have sent the then-prospect down a different path, certainly not toward being the headlining act alongside Tyson Fury at a sold-out Wembley Stadium on Saturday night. the night.
“You think about the AJ fight, he was knocked out in that fight, hanging off the bottom rope – you would never think that man would come back to do what he did,” Dave Coldwell tells BBC Sport.
Coldwell, best known for training Tony Bellew to world title glory, has cornered Whyte in the past.
Whyte is now a regular on pay-per-view, a heavyweight attraction in a UK scene where genuine big draw stars are a rarity. He has bounced back from two major losses in his career, to Joshua and then to Russia’s Alexander Povetkin, and has steadily improved with each appearance in the ring.
He challenges for his first world title against Fury.
“Dillian is a hindsight fighter,” says Coldwell. “He sees losing as part of a process. As long as you stay ambitious, keep working hard, the results will come. That’s how Dillian got better and became a better fighter.”
“A lot of modern fighters lose a fight and they lose confidence in themselves. They lower their eyes, they change their goals, because they don’t believe they will be the fighter they once thought they would be.”
‘He never slipped’ – How has Whyte improved?
Whyte was 27 and 0-16 at the time of Joshua’s loss. His bitter rival continued his remarkable rise to two-time world champion, while Whyte was tasked with making a fresh start.
And he started again, mainly with trainer Mark Tibbs. Tibbs guided Whyte to 11 straight wins after his loss to Joshua before Bodysnatcher joined trainers Xavier Miller and Harold Knight.
“Dillian cleaned up after AJ’s loss, kept working and looking for ways to improve,” says Coldwell.
“He never slipped. He chased that WBC mandatory position and even though he’s been mandatory for years, he’s taken some great fights that have added to his experience, boxing knowledge and ring generalization. He understands the game more.”
Those fights included victories over Derek Chisora, former world champion Joseph Parker and seasoned contender Povetkin. Whyte himself believes that his greatest strength is his bravery.
“I’ve come to lay everything on the line. I’m used to taking chances and taking chances is nothing to me,” says Whyte. “I’ve had a lot of different fights in different places and fights where I’ve been the underdog. I’ve been through the mill before.”
Others have taken note, with Fury’s trainer SugarHill Steward admitting that Whyte has steadily become a major threat in the division.
“I think Dillian has grown a lot,” he says. “I see that Dillian Whyte’s jab has improved a lot. I’m aware of that and I’m working with Tyson on that.”
“He’s not a particularly talented fighter, but he’s consistent under pressure and he comes with a lot of power. You always have to be careful with Dillian. He can surprise people.”
What is Fury’s team prepared for?
Although Whyte could be a formidable opponent, the general consensus seems to be that Fury has the ability to instruct his domestic rival.
The odds may be in Fury’s favor, but Steward says they’ve prepared for an opponent eager to assert himself.
“I think it’s Dillian’s strength and build that makes him dangerous,” says Steward.
“He’s a strong man. He can get close to anyone. You have to try to keep your distance, but he gets close to everyone. It’s not that he can’t do it, he can do it.”
“He’s got a good jab to get close to anyone. He’s also strong on the inside. When he’s close, he’s strong and that’s how he catches everybody, on the inside with a big punch.”
“We’ve worked hard to be in full control. That’s the game plan, to be in full control, period,” he adds.
“We get to show more of who Tyson Fury really is.”
Whyte can win ‘shootout’ with Fury
Fury is undefeated in 32 fights. Three fights with Deontay Wilder saw the ‘Gypsy King’ show almost every side of himself, from agile boxer to knockout artist to brawler.
But Coldwell thinks that while Fury is undefeated, he hasn’t always looked unbeatable.
“Tyson looked fantastic in the second fight with Wilder, but in the third fight he technically looked terrible,” he explains. “If Dillian can drag him into that kind of fight, then it’s a shootout. You don’t know who’s going to win in a shootout.”
Whyte, who was able to avenge the second loss of his career to Povetkin in his last fight in March 2021, insists that Fury is not as special as advertised.
“He is a very good fighter. He is the only one of our era who has won all the titles: he is a top fighter, undefeated, big guy, but I don’t see him as everyone else sees him, as if he were the 6-foot white Muhammad 9 inches. Mix of Ali, Mike Tyson and Joe Frazier that has been reborn, I don’t see it that way,” he says.
Although Coldwell is leaning towards a win for Fury, the British trainer says Whyte has the tools to stop Fury.
“Dillian is not going to go out there and beat Tyson Fury,” says Coldwell.
“Dillian is a great body puncher. He’s the Bodysnatcher. He’s got some vicious body punchers. I think he has to do that in this fight. If he can do that in this fight, then that’s the key. Lightning left hook.
“But his feet have to be in range and that’s where the difficulty of the fight lies. It’s whether he can get his feet in range and if he can’t, then this is a very difficult question.”