Heavyweight Dillian Whyte will make the first defense of his interim world title against Alexander Povetkin on May 2 at Manchester Arena in Manchester, England, Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn announced on Tuesday.
The fight, which will be on Sky Box Office pay-per-view in the United Kingdom and likely on DAZN in the United States, comes as no surprise because Hearn has talked openly for weeks about making the match. But now it is official and it brings together two top-10 heavyweights in a division that has not had this kind of depth in years.
"This is a heavyweight thriller and so important to the landscape of the division," Hearn said in a news release. "Dillian Whyte sits as mandatory challenger to Tyson Fury and while the wait is frustrating, Dillian continues to take high risk fights and that's why he is such a fans' favorite. The last time Dillian fought at this arena, we witnessed all-time classic against [Dereck] Chisora. We are planning a huge night in Manchester as Dillian Whyte continues to march towards a shot at the heavyweight world title."
Whyte and Povetkin are scheduled to meet face-to-face a news conference in Manchester on Wednesday.
Whyte (27-1, 18 KOs), 31, of England, claimed the vacant interim belt in July in London, where Oscar Rivas knocked him down in the ninth round but Whyte rallied to win by unanimous decision. The WBC later suspended its recognition of Whyte's interim titlist status due to a doping violation, but following an investigation, Whyte was cleared by United Kingdom Anti-Doping and reinstated in December.
The day after Whyte was reinstated, he trudged to a sloppy unanimous decision over former world title challenger Mariusz Wach in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, on the Anthony Joshua-Andy Ruiz Jr. II undercard. Whyte had taken the fight on short notice but now he has plenty of time to prepare for the fight with Povetkin.
"This is a great fight. Povetkin is an Olympic gold medalist, has loads of experience, he's a former [secondary] world champion and he's only lost to Joshua and [Wladimir] Klitschko," said Whyte, whose only loss came to Joshua in 2015, before Joshua won a world title. "[Povetkin] is still very dangerous. He gave AJ a lot of problems and then beat Hughie Fury. I am not overlooking him at all. He will come in shape. He's tough and very well-schooled.
"I want to be heavyweight champion of the world so anywhere in the world is my lion's den," Whyte said. "If you aspire to be world champion, you should be able to fight anywhere. Manchester is a great city with great fight fans and I'm looking forward to going back there."
Povetkin (35-2-1, 24 KOs), 40, of Russia, who has twice tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, was also on the Joshua-Ruiz II undercard and fought to a split draw with contender Michael Hunter.
"I am pleased to fight Whyte," Povetkin said in the news release. "It has long been discussed but didn't happen for whatever reason. Dillian is a good, strong boxer and it will make for an interesting fight. I am not about big announcements, I am about winning in the ring, and on May 2nd people will see a spectacular fight."
Whyte is risking his status as the WBC mandatory title challenger. The organization decided not to order the mandatory bout until Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury concluded their two-fight deal. Fury knocked out Wilder in the seventh round of their rematch on Feb. 22 to win the WBC belt and they are headed to a third fight on July 18.
The WBC said it will not order the mandatory defense until February 2021, but Whyte has no intention of sitting idle waiting for the fight and accepted a dangerous bout against Povetkin.
"You only have to look at his résumé to see that he's always been considered as one of the most fearsome punchers in the heavyweight division," Whyte said. "He showed in Saudi Arabia that he still has a lot left in the tank and he is still very dangerous. I've got respect for him but I'm on to maximum violence, straight animal instinct."