Ben Whittaker is preparing to reunite with SugarHill Steward after his fight with Eworitse Ezra Arenyeka. 

The 27 year old on Saturday enters his eighth professional contest, against an opponent who has been vocal about fighting him, and does so on the undercard at Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park of the WBO cruiserweight title fight between Richard Riakporhe and the champion Chris Billam-Smith.

Whittaker revealed in the build-up to his victory over Leon Willings in March that he had amicably separated from Steward, most widely recognised as the trainer of Tyson Fury having first built his reputation at the Kronk.

On Saturday against Nigeria’s Arenyeka, 28, Whittaker will again be guided by his godfather and long-term trainer Joby Clayton, but in the coming weeks, with Steward no longer occupied by preparing Fury for his fight with Oleksandr Usyk, they will work together once again.

“I’m actually going to go and see him after this and train with him,” Whittaker said. “I’m not big-headed – I might come across like it – but if I was Fury, would I want Sugar coming out of his training camp, wasting his time with me? I’m a seven-fight novice as a pro, and it was the biggest fight of his career. It would kind of annoy me [if I was Fury]. 

“So I said, ‘Just focus on Tyson – I’ve got my godfather, who’s been with me; my dad who’s been with me; let those deal with me now, and when we can rekindle, we rekindle’. Hopefully we do. He knows all this stuff. I’m in a privileged position. I’ve been to work with other people – I won’t say the names, but some good coaches – and my coach Joby has been with me since I was seven, so I’d never get rid of him.

“I’ve been sparring [Willings] this camp, and the spar was even easier. [When we fought in March and went the full eight rounds] I set out with a great pace, dropped him the first round, and if anything, that was to my detriment. Boxers know – when you’ve got someone going into their shell – if I didn’t push the action we’d both have just been standing there. He was tucking up. It wasn’t the best fight in that sense, but instead of pushing the pace it was a good learning thing. 

“If anyone tells you they don’t want the knockout, they’re lying. I wanted the knockout. I ain’t gonna stand here and go, ‘I wanna learn’. I wanna get it as easy as I can, knock ‘em out, look good, and get more views. But if the learning comes I’m not going to say ‘No’ to that as well, ‘cause that will push me on in my career. At the end of the day – a win. I don’t mind what happens as long as I win. That’s the mentality I’ve got since a kid. Win looking good; win ugly; as long as you win. The person that did great was Andre Ward.

“I don’t want to be big-headed, but if you lose to me you can go back to the drawing board and say, ‘The only person I’ve lost to is Whittaker’, but on the flip side this is [Arenyeka’s] World Cup final. He comes out and goes crazy and – I doubt it – but clips me, something happens; more opportunities are there. His best round will be his first round, but when you come with that eagerness, you might walk on to something.”

The sought-after fight between Joshua Buatsi and Anthony Yarde had previously been on course to be Saturday’s main event until the contractual dispute between Yarde and his long-term promoter Frank Warren contributed to their inability to agree terms.

Willy Hutchinson’s recent victory over Craig Richards and therefore the expectation that he will instead fight Buatsi has made the light-heavyweight division in which Whittaker campaigns increasingly open, and to that end Dan Azeez, another potential domestic rival, fights Croatia’s Hrvoje Sep on Saturday on the occasion of his first fight since February, when Buatsi inflicted his only defeat. 

“I like Richards a lot,” Whittaker said. “I’d been sparring him that camp. But I thought Willy might give him problems. It’s good – it shows the young guns are coming up now, so it’s quite good.

“As an amateur I fought [Hutchinson] and I beat him, but those were the amateur days. It just shows the young guns are coming up now. The 175lbs division – it’s one of the best weights.

“[Richards and Azeez are] the ones – you don’t want to say they’re at the back end of their careers, but they are, if that makes sense. They’re 34. They’ve both lost. They’re not really going to get into bigger fights unless it’s a young gun like myself. Maybe they need to impress me – that’s the way I’m seeing it. At the end of the day, I’ve got all my sights looking up, and they’re kind of peeling off to the side. But I would like to put those names on my résumé, so if they look good, and it stirs up a buzz, we go with it. If they look silly, or don’t look the best, it’s just gonna make me look silly fighting them. 

“It all goes on Saturday. I’ve got to win, of course – which I will do. Then after that, I’m sure the landscape will open up. If they win – Richards lost but he’s still got a good name; if Dan Azeez wins – the opportunity’s there.

“[Hutchinson’s] got the style to beat [Buatsi]. But Buatsi’s been tested. He’s tried. He’s fought these names and beat them. Olympic medallist. Very interesting.

“It’s been a shame [Buatsi’s not fighting Yarde]. It’s been a shame. I thought that would be the right fight to make, but different people behind the scenes; money; this; that. All opinions. It is hard. It looks like Buatsi wants it but Yarde’s got other plans.”

Read the full article here