ON a sombre day for boxing, Dillian Whyte has been discussing his next fight. Whyte will fight Lucas Browne at the O2 arena on March 24. But the death of Scott Westgarth after his bout at the Doncaster Dome on Saturday has concentrated thoughts on issues that go both beyond sport and to the heart of boxing.
“It’s always an emotional subject,” Whyte reflected. “The main thing is, as bad as it might sound, he died doing something he enjoyed doing. But it’s such an emotional and touchy subject. All we can say is may he rest in peace and if his family need any support from me or any help or anything, they know where I am, they can reach out and I’d be more than happy to help out in any way I can but it’s just a reminder of how dangerous our sport is. It’s a very, very dangerous sport. We risk our lives and our health every time we step in the ring just to make a living and put on a good show for the fans. But I don’t know what to say because even though I’m thinking about it, I’m [also] thinking I’ve got a fight coming up in a couple of weeks. I’m happy he died doing something he enjoyed doing. A lot of people waste their time dying doing something they don’t enjoy doing, or die doing something silly.
“He actually died and he got the win as well, didn’t he? So it’s sad.”
The mental state of a fighter, especially as they close in on a fight of their own, is a complex thing. Whyte can’t afford to dwell on thoughts of death and punishment. “Boxing is full of stupidly, ignorantly proud fighters. Fighters don’t like to talk about stuff that makes them seem weak or make it seem like they’re scared or nervous so I’m sure a lot of boxers worry about it but they will never openly say I’m a bit scared of this or that or the other. But that’s just how the sport is. A lot of fighters don’t want to seem like they’re scared or they’re nervous or weak but I’m sure it plays a part in everyone’s minds because we’ve all been there, we’ve all seen it,” Whyte said.
He can’t block it out of his mind entirely. “I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t [enter his thoughts]. But I just try not to think about that. Because if you think about it, there are so many things that can play on your mind and affect your performance so I just try to think: I’ve accepted the fight, trained, I’m going to go in there and have a fight and try and look after myself, be the best I can be defensively and try and do as much damage as I can before it gets done to me. Unfortunately it’s a bit harsh saying that but that’s the reality of the sport.”
As a fighter he doesn’t consider that boxing is too dangerous a sport. “It’s nonsense because more people suffer from concussion and stuff from rugby than they do in boxing. Even Moto GP drivers suffer from being unconscious and other things. It’s a sport, every sport has dangers in it, it’s the risk we all take and that’s why people need to give us the due credit and the due respect we deserve because when we step in the ring, everyone is responsible — the boxers, the promoters, the commission — but we’re doing something that’s not normal and we know it. It’s a risk we all sign up for,” he said.
“No one wants to lose a son or a daughter or a dad, no one wants to lose a family member. But I just hope they can see from the point of view of he died doing something he enjoyed doing. There is no happy time to die but if I had the choice to die doing something silly or die trying to do something that is going to better my life and my family’s life and something that I want to do, I would always choose what I enjoy doing and what I want to do.”