Until the last few days, Ezra Arenyeka’s grand plan to annoy Ben Whittaker and goad the unbeaten light heavyweight into a fight had been perfectly executed but Whittaker’s demeanor this week suggests it might all soon go wrong.

When the fight was first announced, the Olympic silver medallist seemed – understandably – perturbed that the unknown but heavy handed Arenyeka, 12-0 (10 KO’s), had been allowed to insert himself into his career and alter his roadmap so easily. 

The fight is now hours away. Whittaker’s attitude towards the whole affair appears to have softened and that could prove to be a pretty heavy blow to Arenyeka’s hopes of springing what would be a huge upset when the two fight outdoors at Selhurst Park on Saturday night. 

Rather than entering the ring irritated and under motivated, Whittaker seems to have decided to enjoy the novelty of boxing in a football stadium, put on a show and make a real example of the 28-year-old Nigerian. 

“They need to get some more security for this fight because I’m sure many people are going to do that [create a scene] to get their opportunity. It’s one of those things. He got his opportunity, he saw his opportunity but sometimes what you ask for is a bit too much,” Whittaker, 7-0 (5 KOs), said on Sky Sports.

“If I’m honest, I’m in great spirits. Everything has gone right and when you’ve got that feeling about you, you know something special is going on. Of course, I’ve got to respect him. He took his opportunity and if I was in his position I would do the same but – for me – it’s too much that he’s bitten off.

“I’ve studied, I’ve watched and if I’m honest, he’s nothing I haven’t seen before. Of course this will be his World Cup Final so he’ll come with everything he’s got and I’m expecting that. But sometimes if you come with that eagerness, it works against you.”

If Whittaker does as expected and wins on Saturday night, demand will build for him to be matched with a fighter capable of posing a more significant threat. The 27-year-old has made no secret of his belief that he is already a main event attraction and has begun to cast his eye over the light heavyweight division for a suitable next step but knows that if he totally overlooks a fighter with Arenyeka’s power and self belief, his rise could come to a quick halt. 

“I’m fifty-fifty. I’m always in the future. I like to look in the landscape and look what’s there. If you do that, you can forget the now,” he said. “I’m living in the now, right now, because at the end of the day, he still might be dangerous. I’ve got to go out there and perform. When you put a performance on, the future looks brighter so if I do the right thing on Saturday, the ball is rolling.”

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