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Ben Whittaker's plan to conquer Britain, then the world: 'My style, speed and the way I fight will cause a lot of problems'

Olympic star Ben Whittaker will be training in Miami with SugarHill Steward ahead of his big return to boxing in 2023; Whittaker explains the route he wants to take to world championship class; he also speaks candidly about living with ADHD and how he can struggle to manage his emotions

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Ben Whittaker dazzles as he stops Greg O’Neill in two rounds on his pro debut in Bournemouth

Olympic silver medallist Ben Whittaker intends to return to boxing "with a bang" early in 2023.

The light-heavyweight star dazzled on his professional debut in July. In front of a frenzied crowd, he showboated, dancing round Greg O'Neill in their first round before he levelled his opponent with a one-punch finish in the second.

"The feedback I had from it was crazy," Whittaker told Sky Sports. "I'll never forget that night.

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Whittaker made it two for two to begin his professional career as he outclassed Petar Nosic to claim a unanimous decision victory

"Everything just added up and made it a special night and hopefully more special nights to come."

In August he outpointed the previously unbeaten Petar Nosic over six rounds to win his second professional contest.

Since then, however, he has been sidelined with an injury.

But Whittaker promises he will be "back with a bang" and is hoping to secure a fight date in March.

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He will travel to Miami to go into camp with trainer SugarHill Steward.

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Whittaker had time for some showboating during his victory over Nosic

"Since my last fight I had a bit of time off, I had a bit of a niggle but I've been in the gym now, I'm training hard, I'm developing a lot of my strength. The strength is probably the best it's been so far, so I'm really happy about that," Whittaker said.

"It's the technical edge [to focus on] now. Go over there, get my technical right, marry the two, we're laughing."

He scarcely had two weeks between his first and second pro fights, a mistake he does not intend to repeat again.

"I knew I had the niggle but I thought I'm used to fighting. Went over there and made it a bit worse. Now I know this pro game, I've just got to take my time, take the fights at the right time, take the dates at the right time because each performance matters," he said.

"I do love to stay active, I do love to fight. In the back of my mind, yeah, the niggle's there but I wanted fights. I wanted to rack up these fights. That's why I tried to take them as fast as possible."

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Whittaker analyses his second fight after making it two wins from two to begin his pro career as he outclassed Nosic

In facing Nosic in just his second pro bout, Whittaker was doing something rare for a prospect. He was boxing an opponent with a spotless 6-0 record who had ambition. Nosic was an undefeated pro who had been an international amateur boxer. Whittaker had actually boxed him when they were teenagers.

"When you fight someone the first time, it's completely different the second time. We fought each other, we were still young, I was 16 or something like that and stopped him," Whittaker said.

After their pro fight, Nosic told Whittaker: "There is no way that was going to happen again."

Whittaker continued: "He came in with hunger. That's the type of fight I want to be in. I want to be in those hungry fights, where it's not going to go my way. Because down the line I will need that."

After the highs of his first fight he was, though, frustrated with his performance in the second.

He controlled that bout, dominated it, essentially won it with use of a quality jab. But he was by far his own harshest critic.

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Whittaker reveals he picked up a injury during his victory over Nosic but promises there is more to come from him

"I felt really down. I can't help that. I'm really high or I'm really low. I was very, very upset. And everyone was like, 'What are you so upset for? It was your second fight. You won unanimous'. I was like, no, no. I'm a real perfectionist and if something like that goes wrong I do get a bit upset," Whittaker said.

"I can't help it but that's the way I am. I think it does drive me, if that makes sense. Because I don't want to feel like that. I train harder. I spar harder, I try and learn and listen better so I don't feel those times."

Whittaker has ADHD and can find it difficult to manage his emotions. "I still struggle with it now and again. In the Olympics when I had the medal, I didn't really know how to show my emotions and the only way I knew what to do was put it in my pocket. I've got two sides to me and I can't really help it," he explained.

His sport has always been his outlet. Looking for ways to cope with ADHD first led him to a boxing gym when he was a child.

"It gave me discipline, it gave me somewhere to channel my energy and ever since I did do the boxing it has really changed me and calmed me down," Whittaker said.

"It's changed my life as well."

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Whittaker showed off some fancy footwork during a public workout

"Boxing, it sounds a bit cliched but that's where I really do feel at home and I can express myself," he continued.

"I really enjoy myself. Sometimes I do go a bit overboard. I look out the ring, I dance, I have a bit of fun. But that's just me really expressing myself and thanks to boxing it's helped that come out.

"I'll speak whatever's on my mind so something goes in my head I can't help but say it. I'll call people out on the spot, I'll do something on the spot, that's just the inner child in ADHD just speaking. And then sometimes I'll be very moody, very down and that's the ADHD again. But when people get to know me, they get to know me."

Getting back to training, after a short time out recovering from his injury, has been a great relief too.

"I wasn't training for a bit, I actually didn't know what to do with myself but now I'm back there's nothing better and there's nowhere I'd rather be. I do thank boxing. It's one of those - I hate it but I love it," he said.

BEN SHALOM...S BOXXER BATTLE ON THE BEACH PROMOTION .BOURNEMOUTH 30/07/2022.PIC LAWRENCE LUSTIGLIGHT-HEAVYWEIGHT CONTEST.BEN WHITTAKER v GREG O'NEILL
Image: Whittaker can express himself when he is boxing (Photo: Lawrence Lustig/BOXXER)

Much of his 2022 was taken up with negotiating his professional contract, a blizzard of calls, messages and offers after his stellar Olympic campaign. This year he can fully immerse himself in the actual boxing. That is something he is looking forward to.

He wants to take on British rivals as he works his way up the ranks, rather than racing to a world rating by winning minor ranking belts from the sanctioning bodies.

"I don't want to mess around. There's two routes I could go down really. You do see the decent amateurs, they go for the 'Intercontinental' [belts] and things like that. I do like the traditional route and I think especially in Britain, a lot of British boxing fans they do like the traditional route," Whittaker said.

"I'd like to do that. I think you get more fights, you learn a lot more on the way and you pick up a lot of titles. I'd like to go down the traditional route and I think I'd beat those type of people at that level pretty fast and pretty early.

"Two Brits, a title on the line, whether it's the English, the British, something like that, it always brings eyes to the fight.

"I think that's the route to go down and then when you've conquered Britain, then you start moving out slowly."

Ben Whittaker (Photo: Lawrence Lustig/Matchroom)
Image: Whittaker has a vision for how he wants to plot his course to the top (Photo: Lawrence Lustig/BOXXER)

Dan Azeez, the current British champion, is actually a good example of that.

"He could have easily taken some international fights that nobody really knows, nobody really pays attention and that's when you do go under the radar," Whittaker said.

"He's fought these ex-British champions, ex-world champions, people like that. It brings a bit of buzz, brings a bit of eyes and he's shining. So that's a good route to go down and it's more exciting fights that way."

With what he accomplished as an amateur, as tough as the light-heavyweight division is, he knows if he performs he can make it to world level.

"If you don't think that, you're in the wrong sport," he said.

"I just think my style, speed and the way I fight, I think it would cause a lot of those guys problems. All I need really is the experience. More time in there, and fighting at that top level, and I think I could beat them."

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