Photos: Ed Mulholland
Dillian Whyte and Lucas Browne suspended hostilities for a day as they weighed in earlier amid the swanky surrounds of the Courthouse Hotel, in Shoreditch, London. Just around the corner from the famous Columbia Road flower market, Whyte and Browne, as might be expected, introduced a somewhat earthier feel to this hip corner of London — even if their meeting possessed a more humdrum aspect then recent affairs. While the tension between Whyte and Browne has simmered for weeks, on this occasion they were civil and respectful — as though in acknowledgement that they can exact their dues tomorrow night.
Although heavyweight boxing has long specialized in feuds of the more mechanical variety, these two have seemed to bear a genuine antipathy toward one another. Whyte has taunted Browne repeatedly in the build-up over his short-lived stint as a heavyweight beltholder, which began in 2016 when Browne thrillingly stopped Ruslan Chagaev in Chechnya, then was rapidly curtailed by subsequent events at the drug testing lab. This being boxing, Whyte’s taunts have certainly been a little rich given his own fuzzy past, and Browne’s response to his failed test continues to mix anger with bemusement. Still, the aftermath of all this means the two have certainly worked up an appetite for punching one another come Saturday night. Browne, whose aggressive fighting style is matched by a smear of threatening tattoos across his body and face, looked particularly ready to go.
Having taken his training the high-tech route in recent years after relocating to Loughborough University’s sport science facilities, Whyte, who grew up round the corner in Brixton via Jamaica, once again looked impressively chiseled and mean at 254.2 pounds. Browne, from Sydney, Australia, lacking the same bulging muscles as Whyte, weighed in at a thickset 264.5 pounds – not quite so photogenic, but in neat shape for a heavyweight all the same.
Looking ahead to Saturday night at the O2 Arena, the oddsmakers have Whyte, 22-1 (16 KOs), a fairly narrow favorite – a valuation that reflects his relative youth, home advantage, and greater technical pedigree. Although Whyte can look outlandish and gauche from time to time, he’s still shown a decent facility for some of boxing’s slicker lineaments in recent years – squeaking past Dereck Chisora in a thriller in December 2016, then comprehensively outboxing a disappointing Robert Helenius in Cardiff last year. While Whyte is best known still for his competitive loss to Anthony Joshua, in which the now-reigning heavyweight champ was given more than his fair share of tap, the Brixton man is almost certainly a better fighter today than he was then.
Yet Browne, 25-0 (22 KOs), has traveled well in the past, no better than when he came from behind to wallop Chagaev in the tenth, and has won in the U.K. on multiple occasions. No stylist by any means, Browne has a hammer of a right hand and not much of a left. This makes for a home-grown brand of good old one-sided fighting – Browne flashes out his jab almost solely in the service of smashing home his right. But he’s by no means so crude as to lack wherewithal in the ring. When Browne visited these shores to fight the long, ungainly Richard Towers in Hull, in 2013, he smartly picked up on Towers’s habit of leaning back against slack ropes and came crashing over the top to turn his legs to jelly. Whyte has his own penchant for lingering on the edge from time to time, as witnessed in his 2016 bout with Chisora – a tendency that repeatedly allowed for Chisora, on the undercard himself on Saturday night, to exact due punishment. Browne certainly represents a threat.
Ultimately, for both these fighters, the biggest prize will stare them in face when Joshua himself returns. All roads lead in one direction in heavyweight boxing these days (not far down the road from here). If old-timers at the weigh-in were nostalgically remembering simpler times in the past, when one man and his dog showed up to see the fighters strip to their undergarments, Browne and Whyte can still hope for even flashier occasions in the not at all distant future. With Tyson Fury reportedly shedding dozens of pounds in recent months to pull hulkingly into the rear view mirror, the time couldn’t be much riper for either man on Saturday to try to distinguish themselves within the biggest division’s contender tier. The flowers will be back on Columbia Road come Sunday morning. Until then, it’s for Whyte and Browne to decide who’s the next best big man in town.
Weights from London:
Dillian Whyte: 254.2
Lucas Browne: 264.5