Express & Star

No distractions for Ben Whittaker ahead of next test

Ben Whittaker has vowed not to get distracted by his own hype as he looks to continue the perfect start to his professional boxing career tomorrow night.


Darlaston’s Olympic hero takes on Leon Willings at London’s O2 Arena aiming for a seventh straight win at light-heavyweight.

The fight follows last month’s fifth round stoppage of Khalid Graidia, a performance which has been viewed more than 100 million times online and considerably boosted Whittaker’s profile.

But the Tokyo 2020 silver medallist, who has also received attention for his somewhat controversial showboating in the ring, knows it is hits made with the fists which matter far more than any earned on social media.

Whittaker said: “Nothing has really changed. Me and my dad have already said from a young age, I have not done anything yet.

“There are world champions in this sport, unified champions. Getting a couple of likes and followers is great but my boxing needs to speak for itself and that is what I need to show on Sunday.

“I suppose Leon is the bounty hunter on Sunday. I have a big bounty on my head but that is what I want. I work hard. I like to put myself out there so people can call me out. When the time comes, I will show what I can do.

“If people are not calling me out, or aiming for me, then there’s something I am not doing right.”

No sooner had those words left Whittaker’s mouth, than his pre-fight press conference was interrupted by Nigerian light-heavyweight Ezra Arenyeka, who loudly accused the Midlands fighter of taking on inferior opponents and demanded he face him next.

Whittaker, who appeared genuinely nonplussed as to Arenyeka’s identity, cheekily warned the Sale-based boxer to “make sure he had his tickets ready” for tomorrow’s bout as he was ushered out of the venue by security staff.

Regardless, finding opponents prepared to face Whittaker as he builds experience appears to be increasingly tricky for his promotion team. Willings, the Central Area champion, was confirmed at less than a fortnight’s notice.

The Widnes-based fighter, who has won seven of his eight pro bouts, said: “It’s a massive opportunity for me, one that I could not turn down. Yes, it is short notice but I have been staying ready and I am ready for it.

“You prepare the best as you can. We have done the best we can in the time we had.

“Everyone knows how good Ben is. I just have to make sure I perform on Sunday night.

“Everyone knows what Ben does. It is his game. I just have to make sure I do my game as well. I could not say no to this opportunity.”

Whittaker's bout is on the undercard of his former GB team-mate Frazer Clarke's British title clash with Fabio Wardley. Unbeaten super-middleweight Callum Simpson will also look to further his claims for a British title shot when he takes on Dulla Mbabe.