British heavyweight boxer Dillian Whyte has earned the nickname “The Body Snatcher” but he is fortunate not to have gone to an early grave himself after being shot and stabbed as a youngster.
The 30-year-old Jamaica-born fighter takes on former heavyweight champion Joseph Parker on Saturday in London with the winner in line for a potential shot at a world title.
The father of three — his first child was born when he was just 13 — says nothing in the ring can rival the dangers he faced on the streets.
“Growing up, I got stabbed in a few places, had a few stitches, I got shot in the leg,” he told the Sun shortly before he beat the experienced Australian Lucas Browne in March.
“But I’ve always been a survivor, that’s what I’m good at doing.”
He talks in reverential terms about his mother Jane but her departure to England to look for work spelt trouble for him.
“Man, when I was growing up in Jamaica we suffered, suffered, suffered,” Whyte, a former European kickboxing champion, told the BBC.
“My mum left when I was two to come and find work in London to make money, as we had nothing. Some days we couldn’t eat, we’d go to bed hungry.
“She left me with people who didn’t take very good care of me. They were taking the money my mum was sending and was telling me she wasn’t sending anything.
“I came here when I was 12 and was shot twice (he once pulled a bullet out of his knee), stabbed three times. That was my path. Thank God I found martial arts.”
Knight in shining armour
Whyte, who lost two years of his career to a doping ban, admits he will never be seen as a knight in shining armour like current world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua.
Whyte and New Zealand’s Parker have both lost to Joshua in their professional careers, Parker as recently as March this year.
However, Whyte did beat Joshua in their amateur days before Joshua was crowned Olympic champion in 2012.
“I could go to church, save a million puppies, 100,000 dolphins, seven blue whales and adopt 200 kids tomorrow and Joshua will still be the golden goose,” Whyte told the BBC.
“There’s no point me fighting that battle with him. People will get to see I’m real and a straight guy. And they’ll realise I can fight as well.”
Whyte, who belies his tough guy image by spending a lot of time caring for his puppy Zeus, comes into the Parker bout on the back of seven successive victories following the sole loss of his 24-fight career to Joshua and promises more pain for the Kiwi.
“There’s going to be blood, pain and a knockout,” said Whyte.
© Agence France-Presse (Additional Edits By Oisin McQueirns)