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Tuesday, December 06, 2022

‘I was a thug’: White’s wild ride to heavyweight title shot

Dillian White’s journey to the long-awaited shot at the world heavyweight title has taken a well-worn path for boxers from survival on the streets to salvation in the ring.

The fight got him into trouble.

The fighting game again saved him.

“I was a thug,” 34-year-old White says candidly of his wild teens.

He used to beat up miscreants for sandwiches. He was stabbed thrice and shot twice in gang wars in London. He spent time in jail.

“I am a boy who, as a child, had no future, no education, no family,” White continues. “I’m a survivor.”

And there’s more to White’s story.

He became a father for the first time at age 13, a year after arriving in the UK from Jamaica – where he was born into poverty and left to be raised by another family at age 2, as his mother moved to London. A better life for him and his children.

After turning to kickboxing, mixed martial arts and eventually boxing to break away from a life of crime, he was suspended for two years in 2012 for testing positive for a banned stimulant. In 2019, another drug test came back positive for the banned steroid, though his suspension was later revoked after the sample was contaminated after more tests.

Then came the years of disappointment, from 2019 onwards, being a mandatory challenger to the heavyweight belt without giving a title shot. He waited and waited, and was close to giving up hope.

No wonder, it is with a sense of pride that White got into a fight with Tyson Fury on April 23 at Wembley Stadium.Where there will be approximately 94,000 spectators – the largest ever capacity for a boxing fight in Europe, according to those promoting the fight.

“The kids who come from where I’ve been raised don’t make much time,” White said in a video call.

“I am showing people that no matter how bad your situation is, whatever happens to you in life, just stay put. Believe in yourself. Don’t listen to anyone who doesn’t bring positivity to your life, And let’s keep pushing. All I do is grind and grind.”

And that’s what he’s been doing for the past few months, deciding to move to a base in Portugal for his training camp before Fury Fight.

It’s hot out there, sure, but White said she needed to escape the life in London that bothered her so much as a youth.

“I needed to go somewhere where I could focus on my boxing and not get distracted and potentially get back into things,” he said.

That’s why White has disappeared, while the loud and charismatic Fury has campaigned for the fight as much as he can.

Fury and his team summon White for their no-show, Fury’s UK promoter Frank Warren called it an “disgrace”. Fury, 33, said it was “fear, terror” on White’s part, while brushing it off “because Tyson Fury versus his own shadow sells.”

White, however, insists that his presence in the all-British fight is just as important as that of Fury, who has been making his homecoming after fighting in the United States since late 2018 – most recently in a collaboration with Deontay Wilder. Completing the entertaining trilogy.

“This is not a Tyson Fury show,” White said. “Everyone is saying, ‘It’s Tyson fury this, Tyson fury that.’ If Tyson Fury was a big star, why would he never sell any of his feuds with Deontay Wilder?

“I don’t dance to anyone’s tune..we can dance together. It’s difficult to clap with one hand, it takes two hands to clap.”

While Fury – the self-proclaimed “Gypsy King” – remains unbeaten in 32 fights as a professional, White has lost two of his 30 fights. They were up against Anthony Joshua in 2015 and Alexander Povetkin in 2020, though they won a rematch against the Russian last year to once again become mandatory for the WBC title.

The second major win of White’s career came against Joseph Parker in London in 2018.

Ahead is this fury, and they go far behind. It wasn’t until 2012, in fact, when White was a sparring partner in the making of Fury’s proposed fight with Martin Rogan, before the latter’s fight with Martin Rogan and then with David Hay in 2013, which never materialized.

White recalled “months” of living and training with Fury and his team at a camp site in Warrington, northwest England.

“He needed the help of stronger guys to get him up to a level,” said White, who at 6-foot-4 is still several inches shorter than Fury.

Now they are on the same level, considering they are meeting in one of the biggest fights ever on British soil.

Somehow, White got there, and would pocket nearly $8 million — 20% of the purse bid — for the privilege.

“It’s been a long time coming,” White said.

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More Associated Press Sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80

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