Photos: Ed Mulholland
By Kieran Mulvaney
As the heavyweight division rumbles into life after a period of protracted dormancy, Dillian Whyte entered the ring at London’s O2 Arena on Saturday night with one clear mission: to make sure, amid all the talk of Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder, in the cacophony of taunts and challenges from a come-backing Tyson Fury, with the swirling of domestic attention around Tony Bellew and David Haye, that he didn’t get left behind. He needed to keep his name in the mix of opponents and challengers, to ensure that, even if he was on the outside looking in, he remained highly visible to, even unavoidable by, those on the inside looking out.
Whyte achieved much more than that. The man from Brixton — who had previously been best known, on these shores at least, for an amateur win over and professional loss to Joshua — made a case for himself as a legitimate contender as he outclassed, out-punched, battered and bloodied a pedestrian Lucas Browne before knocking the towering Australian out cold with one punch in front of an ebullient hometown crowd.
Although Browne (25-1, 22 KOs) began the evening undefeated, even though all but three of his wins had been by knockout, and despite the fact that his victims included the likes of former titlists Ruslan Chagaev and James Toney, there was a sense that his record flattered to deceive. He was a tough guy, certainly, and he possessed thudding power in his right hand, but his punches often appeared ponderous and slow, and Toney and Chagaev had long seen better days by the time he faced them. Would he be exposed once he came up against an apparently world-class opponent who unlike the man from Sydney had a decent amateur career, as well as a kickboxing one, before turning professional? An opponent who had faced, and beaten, a far higher quality of non-washed opponent than Browne could claim?
Whyte (23-1, 17 KOs) set about answering that question emphatically in the first round. After feinting his way through the first couple of minutes, judging Browne’s responses, assessing his positioning and quantifying his defensive abilities, he began zeroing in on landing a straight right hand over Browne’s lazy jab. He only landed cleanly a couple of times in those first three minutes, but by the time Browne returned to his corner, he was already cut over his left eye.
In the second, Whyte targeted that wound with extra purpose, and mixed up his offense with some digging punches to Browne’s flabby midsection. Browne, now bleeding freely from his cut, sought to impose himself in the third, thudding a right hand into Whyte’s nose and drawing blood himself, but his blows were largely telegraphed and slow. Whyte was controlling the distance, circling and allowing Browne to walk forward and into range. If the Australian walked through Whyte’s first wave of mid-range punches, then he was punished even more by the combinations to head and body that the Londoner unleashed in close.
After a slight slowing of pace in the fourth, Whyte came out for the fifth on a mission, tearing into Browne’s torso and head, ripping his opponent’s face to shreds. Browne appeared a man bereft both of ideas and the ability to implement any that might occur to him, while Whyte pushed his own battle plan into top gear. Whyte’s right hand now landed with abandon, no doubt aided by Browne’s habit of pulling back his head and then leaving it conveniently still for Whyte to hit. But, it was a left that brought the fight to a sudden and briefly worrying conclusion.
It was frankly questionable whether Browne’s corner should even have sent him out for the sixth round, such was the pummeling he was receiving; perhaps they felt he had the proverbial puncher’s chance of securing victory. It was Whyte, however, who had that weapon in his holster, backing Browne to the ropes to start the round and then unleashing a left hook that exploded on his opponent’s jaw and sent him crashing to the canvas face-first, out cold.
There were some hushed minutes of concern as medical personnel attended to the stricken Browne, followed by the exhale of relief as he first sat up and then stood to be helped out of the ring. With that, Whyte was able to luxuriate in what may well have been the best, and was certainly the most emphatic, performance of his career.
In an ebullient post-fight interview, Whyte called out Wilder, and expressed his desire to face Joshua another four or five times: “We’re like lifetime lovers,” he explained, improbably.
“I proved to everyone I’m world class,” he said. “I’m a good fighter, but no-one’s seen it yet. I rise to the challenge. I’m going to lay all these guys out one by one.”
After his destruction of Browne, he’ll at least get the chance to try.