On the 12th December, Anthony Joshua faces the toughest challenge in his professional career to date at London’s O2 Arena.
His perfect record of 14 knockouts in 14 bouts will be tested as he fights nemesis Dillian Whyte for the British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles.
“The big difference was that when Nelson put questions to him, Joshua remained calm and composed”
Whyte defeated Joshua at amateur level. Since then, however, Joshua has won an Olympic gold medal, become a household name and is widely regarded as a future heavyweight champion of the world.
Whyte, on the other hand, despite an impressive record of 16 wins, 13 knock outs and zero losses, has largely gone under the radar.
And so, as the fight nears, Joshua and Whyte – as is now apparently a protocol for major fights – joined Johnny Nelson for Sky Sports’ The Gloves Are Off.
What was clear as these two bitter rivals sat opposite each other across a table, with Nelson acting as referee, is that they really don’t like each other.
Whyte actually said “I don’t like him” while Joshua sat, arms folded, staring at Whyte with a face so expressionless you could’ve mistaken him for a waxwork.
The big difference was that when Nelson put questions to him, Joshua remained calm and composed, as if he was used to these pressure-filled scenarios.
Whyte, on the other hand, often looked out of place and seemed agitated by Nelson’s questioning. Joshua must surely have been licking his lips at the idea of getting under his skin and already winning the mental battle.
Anytime Whyte dangled a line for Joshua to bite on, the Watford boxer wasn’t having any of it. But whenever Joshua went on the attack, Whyte reacted.
“All Whyte could do was scan the table for a reason – it was as was as empty as his mind”
Whyte kept looking for any opportunity to irritate Joshua and get inside his head, but Joshua simply didn’t rise to it.
Bizarrely, on several occasions, Whyte offered Joshua out for a street fight. Even the ever-implaccable Nelson was visibly confused by his antics.
Nelson raised the issue of jealousy early in the programme. Whyte has previously beaten Joshua and is also undefeated. Yet Joshua is the poster boy of British boxing.
Whyte, unsurprisingly, denied any such feelings. “I’m not jealous, because I’m providing for my children,” he said.
He then accused his rival of being “fake”, humorously bringing up a time when Joshua borrowed his trousers for a night out.
Whyte continued to be riled throughout. “I’m composed, I’m composed, I’ll deal with you in a composed manner,” he said, ironically in a far from “composed” tone.
When asked by Nelson what made Joshua “fake”, Whyte replied: “I don’t need to explain anything.”
Nelson pressed for an answer but all Whyte could do was scan the table for a reason – it was as was as empty as his mind.
“Joshua clearly feels Whyte will simply be another one of his victims”
Deadpan Joshua responded with a smirk and a comment: “Who’s Dillian to me… nobody.”
Whyte let himself down again by demanding a street brawl, which seemed to annoy Nelson more than Joshua. “Street fighting and boxing are two completely different games,” he said, almost chastising Whyte.
As their TV bout entered its final rounds, a crucial moment occurred. Whyte stated that if he were to go down he would do so fighting. Joshua wouldn’t even allow the “if” factor to enter his head.
That is where the viewer was reminded that this is Joshua’s fight to lose, and that perhaps simply lasting 10 rounds will be an achievement for Whyte. You got the impression Whyte knew that too.
Joshua said the only fighters he’s worried about are those with a championship belt. On Whyte, he added: “He’s fat, he doesn’t train hard enough.”
He clearly feels Whyte will simply be another one of his victims, a stepping-stone to greater things.
Nelson then asked Whyte to give Joshua a little bit of credit. Whyte then seemed to turn his anger towards Nelson himself, as if he was his upcoming opponent.
The body language of Nelson, a former cruiserweight world champion, in his chair was telling. Putting his weight on his right shoulder in order to face Whyte, it looked as though both he and Joshua were up against him.
As the programme drew to a close, Nelson asked for the obligatory handshake. He knew what was coming next. We all did. Whyte refused, and Nelson jokingly asked for security to keep their eye on the two on their way out.
Whyte just had time for one more “Come on, lets go outside”. Maybe that would be the best place for him. No Sky Sports cameras to record his humiliation, but there will be when Joshua surely knocks him out on December 12th.
Feature image courtesy of Sky Sports. Joshua v Whyte is a pay-per-view event on Sky Sports Box Office.