Dillian Whyte does not like to be contemplative for too long, but he is thinking about the turns his life has taken, both good and bad. Of twice being shot, thrice stabbed and yet still being alive to tell the tale.
There are others, though, without a survival story. Friends from his childhood, mates of his own children and family members have lost their lives to knife and gun crime. Most recently, the son of his close friend Dean Whyte, the drill rapper Perm, was one of two people shot dead last month in Brixton.
The boxer has repeatedly tried to warn others of the perils on a pathway he once took, and his frustration that things are getting worse rather than better is palpable.
“It’s sad when a young man loses his life and these deaths are increasing the last few years,” he says. “I’ve been so close to so many people that have died — friends and family and cousins and kids I’ve known since growing up, kids that come to my house and played with my brothers and my kids and stuff like that. You get used to it living in south London, which is really sad.”
His anger is aimed at the Government for not doing enough to make a change, and he would welcome the opportunity to work with officials to try to create a different path for kids in London and beyond.
“It’s becoming ridiculous,” he says. “When this sort of thing happens, it messes up everyone’s life, not just the victim, but the other person’s life, too. Either way, it’s lose, lose for everybody.
“It’s frustrating, but I can only do so much, especially while I’m active in competition in this stage of my career. I’ve only got so much resources to do things. The Government needs to start pulling its finger out.”
The latest tragedy has made him turn back the clock to his own brushes with death, not something he enjoys.
“You’re just one wrong turn away at the wrong moment,” he says. “I try not to think about it, because it can leave you in deep thoughts and bring negativity into your day. Being alive and doing what I’m doing is an inspiration for me. I shouldn’t be here, so I take every day and every fight as a blessing.”
I shouldn’t be here, so I take every day and every fight as a blessing
For Whyte, that next fight is on Saturday, at the OVO Wembley Arena, against American Jermaine Franklin, undefeated in 21 professional fights and the Londoner’s first opponent since his sixth-round loss against Tyson Fury.
Since then, he has switched trainers to Buddy McGirt, who has previously worked with Arturo Gatti and Hasim Rahman. McGirt’s focus has not been to dissect what Whyte did wrong in his last fight — as the fighter points out “I’m not fighting Tyson Fury again” — and yet the manner of the Fury loss still hangs over him.
By Whyte’s own admission: “I’m a wounded lion at the moment, so guys think I’m easy prey and they can take me down. And an undefeated heavyweight is one of the most dangerous things in the world.”
Given the chance again, he knows he would have done things differently in the Fury fight. Rather than try to box his way into it, he says, “I should have rushed him from early and started swinging.”
As for Fury, he is adamant he is nothing special. “He was a dirty b****** in the fight. He’s just bigger than everyone else. It’s not that he’s a great fighter, he’s just a giant. He’s only got puppy-power.”
Whyte would dearly love another shot at Fury and believes he can be victorious against him, also backing himself against Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua. Joshua looks the likeliest next opponent in a repeat all-London fight for the pair.
“I can beat any one of these guys,” he said. “I carry the power to knock out any of these guys. I just need the chance and to make sure I’m right on the night. I just want to whoop some ass.”