We hear the term must-win fight a lot in boxing, but this was just that for Dillian Whyte. On the back of his shocking fifth-round KO at the hands of Alexander Povetkin at Fight Camp, all the pressure was on the Brit for this rematch.
Whyte was in control of the first fight, as he knocked his opponent down twice before he was stopped himself by a once in a lifetime punch by the Russian.
The Body Snatcher made his intentions known right away that he wanted an immediate rematch, but he was made to wait. It was originally set for 21 November last year, but it had to be put back as Povetkin tested positive for Covid.
But four months later, we got to fight night in the unfamiliar surroundings of Gibraltar. Whyte was out to reclaim his Interim world title and his mandatory position.
A win would propel him right back into the world title discussion. But another defeat to the 41-year-old would have left him cut adrift with lots of work to do to return to the peak of the division.
How the fight unfolded…
Given the manner of the stoppage in August, it would have been understandable if both fighters were tentative in the early going.
The first fight was explosive from beginning to end and to the pleasure of fight fans watching around the world, they carried on right where they left off in round one of their rematch.
Backed by a raucous crowd of around 500 fans, Whyte and Povetkin traded blows in a thunderous opening round.
Whyte struck first as he visibly rocked his opponent in the first minute. Povetkin lost his balance as he was forced to retreat to the ropes to regain his composure.
The Brit used his jab well as he kept chipping away at his experienced counterpart. Povetkin looked cagey and unwilling to commit to anything as Whyte looked dangerous.
Despite how lethargic Povetkin was looking, Whyte knows better than anyone just how lethal he can be when he lands a right hand.
The Body Snatcher was smart in that he did not go fully hell for leather right away, as he knew Povetkin would be ready and waiting to counter.
Povetkin appeared to grow in confidence a little in the second, but the challenger did well to keep him at range and avoid any heavy hits. It was Whyte who landed the best shot of the round as his straight right hand caught Povetkin flush on the chin.
The best shot of the fight so far came in the third round as Whyte caught Povetkin with a vicious right hand on the inside. The Russian did well to shake it off as it was the kind of punch that would have downed a lot of heavyweights.
Whyte was boxing at his pace and he looked in control, just as he did in the first fight. After landing again with a right hook in the opening seconds of the fourth, the challenger unleashed on Povetkin with a flurry of punches.
The Body Snatcher took a step back to reassess before he struck with another lethal right hand in the final minute of the round. Povetkin was all over the place and he was grasping the ropes before Whyte floored him with a left to the temple.
The towel was thrown in just as Victor Loughlin waved off the contest to hand Whyte a well-deserved stoppage victory.
Whether Povetkin's age and that he had battled with Coronavirus contributed to the defeat is one to be debated, but he was definitely off the pace. It was a complete performance from Whyte, though, as he made a huge statement in Gibraltar.
Whyte told Sky Sports, as cited by DAZN, that he can "beat anyone" after his victory:
"I could have gotten the finish in the first round, but he's a tough guy.
"But I think I could have finished him early. If he wants a rematch and they offer me the right money, I'll fight him again. I shouldn't have lost the first time. I'm annoyed at myself for losing the first time. I just had to be a bit smarter, that's all.
"From the first round, I was onto him, but I was, like, 'Let me relax. He's an Olympic gold medalist'. He's only lost to me, Joshua, and Klitschko. It shows how good he is, and he's very strong still.
"I can be a world champion. I can beat anyone. The rescheduling messed me up, but I was in much better shape this time. He had to pay tonight, man."
What comes next…
This win for Whyte was vital and it now means that there are some fascinating fights for him in the pipeline.
It seems like the Brit will be action again this summer, with his first-ever bout in America a possibility. He is likely to face unbeaten American Trevor Bryan next.
He currently holds the WBA "regular" title after he beat Bermane Stiverne in January via an eleventh-round knockout.
Bryan has not fought anyone close to Whyte's level, but he is highly rated in the heavyweight ranks. This could be an ideal fight to keep him ticking over as he waits for a shot at the world title.
Should he get past Bryan unscathed, this would set up a potential bout with either Wilder or Andy Ruiz Jr in the winter.
Both of these bouts have the potential to be a fight of the year contender.
Whyte is very unlikely to face Anthony Joshua or Tyson Fury this year, with the two champions set to face off twice before the close of 2021.
With him, Ruiz Jr and Wilder among the next best heavyweights in the world, the winner would set themselves up as the obvious first challenger for AJ or the Gypsy King in 2022…