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Rare respect ahead of Tyson Fury’s latest heavyweight title defence against Dillian Whyte

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The pre-fight antics ahead of most big fights have largely become rather tedious.

More often than not, two snarling fighters fling X-rated insults at each other from either end of a table.

Perhaps the rival camps will engage in a little push and shove at the face off, theatrics that rarely but increasingly likely will lead to a slap or two, before one or both fighters are led out the room hurling abuse at whoever gets in their way.

It’s as predictable as it is tiresome, not least due to the manufactured nature of these rivalries.

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There’s nothing artificial about the rivalry between British heavyweights Dillian Whyte and two-time world heavyweight champion, Tyson Fury.

The patient challenger and the brash world champion have made frequent desultory comments to each other on social media over the years, stemming from Whyte’s claim that he made Fury cry while sparring almost a decade ago.

Whyte didn’t even turn up to the first press conference to sell the fight, prompting Fury to brand him “Frillian Whytenickers”.

So to see the pair laughing and joking at this week’s final press conference ahead of Saturday night’s fight at a sold-out Wembley stadium was incongruous to say the least.

To see them acting as peace-makers in a spat between their respective support staff was even more bewildering.

Tyson Fury (left) and Dillian Whyte (right) were the ones acting as peace makers  at the press conference.(Getty Images: Warren Little)

“Sometimes you need to be a bit diplomatic,” Fury said.

“Both men are being paid to fight, so why do it all a few days before?”

The pair then swapped hats at Friday’s weigh in, where Fury came in at 119kgs, his lightest fighting weight since his 2019 victory over Otto Wallin.

Dillian Whyte eager to take his chance

Whyte has had to be patient for his shot at a world title.

The 34-year-old has, according to some estimates, been first in line for a shot at the WBC version of the world title for more than 1,500 days.

Dillian Whyte punches Joseph Parker in the head
Dillian Whyte beat Joseph Parker at the O2 in 2018.(Getty Images: Ben Hoskins)

Despite a stellar 28-2 professional career featuring victories over many of the division’s biggest names — Alexander Povetkin, New Zealand’s Joseph Parker, Derrick Chisora, to name but three — this will be Whyte’s first shot at a world title belt.

His two defeats came against fellow Brit Anthony Joshua in 2018, a devastating knockout that left him hanging on the lower rope of the ring at London’s O2 Arena, and a shock knockout defeat to Alexander Povetkin in Brentwood in 2020, which he avenged the following year.

A referee points at Anthony Joshua as Dillian Whyte lies on the ropes behind them
Dillian Whyte’s first career defeat came in a British title fight against Anthony Joshua.(Getty Images: Richard Heathcote)

Whyte was first named as mandatory challenger for the WBC belt — then held by Deontay Wilder — in mid-2019.

However, Whyte had to wait for his shot as Fury and Wilder played out their thrilling trilogy.

Also complicating Whyte’s mandatory status was a disputed drug test result that Whyte was eventually cleared of.

A brawler whose relentless attacks to the body earned him the nickname “body snatcher”, Whyte will pressurise Fury throughout, despite giving up 13cm in height and 18cm in reach.

Dillian Whyte screams with his hands by his side as a referee points him to a corner, as Lucas Browne lies on the ground behind
Dillian Whyte can also count Aussie Lucas Browne as one of his victories.(Getty Images: Dan Mullan)

“This is a heavyweight boxing fight, anyone can win with one punch,” Fury said at the pleasingly respectful press conference.

“If I’m not on my A-game, he’s going to knock my head off my shoulders.

Is Tyson Fury going to retire after this fight?

Tyson Fury scratches his chin
Tyson Fury says this fight might be his last.(Getty Images: Warren Little)

That’s what the champion has said, even if his father said it was rubbish.

The unbeaten fighter — who previously held the IBF, WBO and WBA belts before vacating as he dealt with mental health issues and drug use — has a record of 31-0-1.

His only blemish is that contested draw with Wilder in the first bout of their trilogy

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