Dillian Whyte vs Oscar Rivas and Manny Pacquaio vs Keith Thurman will cost £32.95 to watch – but is it worth it?

Martin Hines
The Independent

So, there’s good news and bad news. Let’s start with the good and get you totally excited. Tonight, two excellent boxing cards are taking place in both London and Las Vegas. Prospects, legends and world class fighters will all compete on both events which each feature competitive bouts up and down the card.

Sounds great, right? And it is! In London, Dillian Whyte leads a bill stacked full of heavyweights against Colombian dangerman Oscar Rivas, while in Vegas, the iconic Manny Pacquiao looks to roll back the years one more time against the undefeated Keith Thurman.

Two great main events and a brace of excellent undercards. What could possibly be the bad news? As with most negative announcements within the boxing industry, it’s about money. To watch both cards on UK television tonight, you’re going to have to pay £32.95. Whether you’re minted or broke, that’s a lot of money, but is it worth it?

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Let’s start in London where Whyte continues his box-office reign against the undefeated Rivas. As a personality and a fighter, Whyte is money, and his recent run of results would put him near the top of just about every division in boxing.

The heavyweight division is a little different however, and though Whyte has slogged through an array of tough opponents since his lone defeat by Anthony Joshua, his route to the top has been blocked by the big three of Joshua, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury. With Andy Ruiz now firmly in the mix too, Whyte’s attempts for a title shot will need to go on hold until at least this time next year, hence this tickover fight against Rivas.

Whyte verges between crude and exhilarating in the ring seemingly between punches, while his opponent tonight prefers a more measured approach. 26-0 across a ten-year career in the paid ranks, Rivas has flown under the radar so far, but his January victory over Bryant Jennings finally got people talking about him.

At a shade over six-foot Rivas is small for a heavyweight but his patient style is often advantageous against the wild swings of bigger men. A decorated amateur, Rivas is definitely the better boxer of the two, but will Whyte’s will and strength ensure another victory?

There are concerns over Whyte’s weight heading into the bout, with the Brixton-based fighter weighing in at his heaviest for some time. Against a smaller mover, if Whyte can’t assert dominance earlier, there’s a real chance he can get unstuck in the middle rounds if his stamina lets him down as it has before.

While the fight is officially for a WBC trinket, the real drama is whether Whyte keeps winning and keeps his crusade alive to finally fight for a world title. With Joshua, Wilder and Fury all tied up until summer 2020, the only option is a spectacular win for the 31-year-old who needs all the help he can get to stay relevant at the highest level.

The general vibe around boxing this week has been not to be too surprised with an upset. A heavy, disinterested Whyte is rarely good entertainment, and if he gets jabbed out of the bout there will be a thousand told-you-so’s emanating from all corners of boxing.

Dillian Whyte faces Oscar Rivas at London’s O2 Arena (Reuters)
Dillian Whyte faces Oscar Rivas at London’s O2 Arena (Reuters)

A strong undercard in London is headlined by former Whyte rival Dereck Chisora, but the other heavyweight fight everyone is talking about is an all-domestic affair between David Price and Dave Allen.

It’s hard to believe now, but at one point 2008 Olympic medalist Price was once considered the number one prospect in heavyweight boxing. Now 35, the Liverpudlian is firmly in the last chance saloon after a series of stoppage defeats, and meets the people’s champion of British boxing tonight.

Somehow, using force of personality and a decent body shot, Dave Allen has become a domestic hero, with his early career defeats to the likes of Luis Ortiz and Dillian Whyte now firmly in the past for many fans. Allen is on a good run of wins and is in the best shape of his life under trainer Darren Barker, but surely this has to end somewhere, right?

Whyte has found himself on the outside of the heavyweight title picture (Getty)
Whyte has found himself on the outside of the heavyweight title picture (Getty)

Price still has power, and if he’s finally found the confidence again which once made him such a destructive force at domestic level, he should have too much for Allen. Stranger things have happened in this sport than an Allen win however, and this contest is one of the most keenly awaited of the summer for a reason.

Meanwhile, in Vegas, another mouthwatering bout takes place for the WBA welterweight title between Thurman and the legendary Pacquiao. Now 40, and into his 25th year as a professional boxer, Pacquiao competes in his 71st fight tonight against Thurman.

The only eight-weight world champion in boxing history, Pacquiao coolly disposed of Adrien Broner in his last contest, but knows the pressure - and the challenge - has been raised much higher with sterner opposition tonight.

Once heralded as the future of the entire sport, the undefeated Thurman has endured some barren years recently as a series of injuries has threatened to destroy his career. The 30-year-old has fought just twice since June 2016 and looked poor in his January comeback fight against Josesito Lopez.

Known for his power on his way up through the ranks, Thurman has just one stoppage win over his past six fights, and takes on the Pacquiao challenge out of form and out of practice. The same can’t be said of his veteran Filipino opponent who has managed to combine fighting with politics fairly well over the past few years, and who is now back with Freddie Roach for another big fight.

Manny Pacquiao and Keith Thurman fight for the WBA super welterweight world title (AFP/Getty)
Manny Pacquiao and Keith Thurman fight for the WBA super welterweight world title (AFP/Getty)

This is a huge opportunity for Pacquiao to emulate Tom Brady and Tiger Woods and join the list of athletes in their forties who have managed to return to the top of their game. A win for Manny is up there with any of his previous victories, even considering Thurman’s recent inactivity. Thurman is still undefeated, he’s bigger, he’s supremely confident and on his day, still possesses a flawless mix of power and skill.

Big, strong, but will he be resilient? After all the injuries and failed comebacks, is Thurman still able to go through a storm in order to sail out the other side as a champion? Tonight is the night we find out a great deal about some excellent boxers - and that may well be worth the £32.95 after all.

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