Trainer SugarHill Steward has compared new protege Ben Whittaker to former multi-weight world champion Roy Jones Jr; BOXXER CEO Ben Shalom says Whittaker is set to make his professional debut in July.
Ben Whittaker approaches boxing with a “real life WWE” mantra. He understands and relishes the theatre, but appreciates and adheres to the business, strutting into the professional ranks bearing signs of a veteran delicacy to flick the switch between flashy salesman and steely-eyed technician.
He peacocks for the cameras and showers himself with compliments because he believes he works hard enough to vindicate it all in the ring, he will raid food buffets and feast on his mum’s cheesy potato pie as his favourite cheat meal because he knows he will burn it off.
Behind the brash talk and the bravado lies 3am runs, 6am swims and an Olympic silver-medalist who has kept humility up his sleeve amid a rise stuffed with success-bound projections and predictions.
Whittaker recently committed his future to BOXXER and Sky Sports as widely-coveted property at the top of the amateur class, shouldering the pressure as one of British boxing’s most gifted and compelling prospects. It is as though he is used to it all.
“When I came in the gym, I was told I was going to be a star so I said ‘I will be a star’. Today people are saying I’m going to be a star, and I will be a star.
“At the light heavyweight division, who have you seen with dynamic speed, skill, power, the looks, the tallness, the reach, you tell me who else has got that at the light heavyweight division. I’ve got it all really.
“I’m the face of the sport. I’ve got the skills, I’ve invested in myself with people like SugarHill [Steward] so I’m taking it serious and if you want a bit of charisma, a bit of controversy, I’m the man for that,” he told Sky Sports.
“I talk a bit of rubbish really but I know I can back it up. That’s why I talk like this.”
‘Biggest announcement since Khan’
The unveiling of Whittaker’s first professional deal came in suarve underground surroundings likened to a James Bond-type location by trainer SugarHill Steward.
Between the DJ in attendance, the cleverly-crafted trailer preceding Whittaker’s emergence and camera-pleasing arm-fold on stage, the dedicated background graphics depicting BOXXER’s shredded new signing and the teaser session on the pads with Steward, it set the tone for a ready-now disruptor.
Such is the desire to get him up and running that BOXXER CEO Ben Shalom says Whittaker will be fighting in early July with a view to competing five or six times a year.
“He knows off the back of last week that he made a very, very good decision for his career and we got to see how big he can be,” said BOXXER CEO Ben Shalom.
“We’ve always said he’s going to be a marmite character but it seems like the fans are really happy and everyone was just happy to see another potential star and really warmed to him. He seems extremely popular.
“I don’t think we’ve ever seen a pro debut announcement like that, maybe not since Amir Khan. I think there was that sort of noise around it that you never see.
“It’s the start of what’s going to be a very, very high-profile career.”
Already he has outlined his intentions to strip Dan Azeez of his British light heavyweight title within five fights. He has no plans to hang around.
‘The talent of Roy Jones’
Whittaker has vowed to become a multi-weight champion, sought to leave a staple-of-British-boxing legacy like a Chris Eubank or Nigel Benn, and nourish the foundations for others as a gold-medal-winning Anthony Joshua did for him.
Frazer Clarke captained Whittaker as part of the Great Britain boxing set-up, and is as qualified as anybody to warn against misinterpreting the showmanship. By now, he admits he finds himself looking up to Whittaker.
“He can do everything. He’s a good-looking guy, he can talk, he can rap, I’m pretty sure he can dance,” laughed Clarke.
“The good thing about Ben is his prime focus is always the boxing. Even when I was captain if I had to have a word with a few different people, with Ben you let him carry on with all that stuff, I know his prime focus is boxing and improving and winning.
“I don’t want to put no pressure on him, but I was watching that Canelo-Bivol fight and the crazy styles. Eventually Ben will be that level.
“Ben can compete with the trickiest style in the world, he can do whatever. He’s so diverse, he can do anything in boxing.”
During the short workout at his signing announcement Whittaker displayed the fleet-footed sweet science advocacy that has contributed to his reputation entering the pros, while offering a glimpse at the power-punching at the root of his decision to seek out Steward’s expertise.