Dillian Whyte will have a new face in his corner when he returns to the ring against Jermaine Franklin on Saturday night.
The all-action British heavyweight begins his latest assault on the top of boxing’s glamor division against undefeated American Franklin, his first bout since a sixth-round KO loss to WBC champion Tyson Fury at a sold-out Wembley in April.
After that punishing setback, those closest to Whyte persuaded him it was time for a change and he has linked up with the esteemed Buddy McGirt in Los Angeles.
“I’ve got a great team of people around me. They’re very honest people,” Whyte said. “They’ve got my best interests at hand. They’re not suck-ups. They’re like ‘listen, the last few fights this has happened, that has happened — we need to change something’.
“I’m a loyal person, I can get clouded with loyalty. These guys said ‘no, no, we need to make these changes’. I trust them, they gave the advice, we sat down as a team, and we made the decision.”
Whyte parted company with Mark Tibbs in 2020, who helmed his standout wins over Joseph Parker, Derek Chisora and Oscar Rivas, so he could base his training camps in Portugal and work with Xav Miller.
That partnership suffered a nightmare start as Russian veteran Alexander Povetkin got off the canvas to score a stunning one-punch KO over Whyte in August 2020. He added Lennox Lewis’ former assistant trainer Harold Knight to his team for an emphatic rematch win over Povetkin seven months later, but the loss to Fury prompted another re-think.
So, who is McGirt and why has Whyte decided he is the man to guide what is likely to be the final chapter of his career?
Who is Buddy McGirt?
Despite drawing on his professional debut in 1982, McGirt went on to have a decorated career as one of the leading operators of his era.
When he retired in 1997, he did so with a record of 73 wins (48 KOs), six defeats and one draw and as a former two-weight world champion.
In February 1988, McGirt avenged a loss to Frankie Warren with a 12th-round stoppage to lift the IBF super-lightweight title, a belt he defended against 1976 Olympian Howard Davis Jr. before a final-round loss to Meldrick Taylor.
That preceded a move up to welterweight and a stunning 21-fight victory streak, during which time McGirt beat Simon Brown to become WBC champion and establish himself as a leading pound-for-pound star. In 1994, he lost the first of two unanimous decisions against the great Pernell Whitaker.
Which world champions has Buddy McGirt trained?
It speaks volumes for McGirt’s career that his achievements as a trainer arguably outshine his time as a fighter.
He began working with super-middleweight Byron Mitchell shortly before a shot at Manny Siaca for the WBA title in 2001, a tale in which Whyte has become well-versed.
“His first world champion was a guy he was training for two weeks,” he said. “The guy was getting beaten and then he knocked the guy out.”
Mitchell went on to lose to British great Joe Calzaghe, while McGirt continued to compile an enviable roster of star names who turned to him for guidance.
He coached all-action fan favorite Arturo Gatti for a spell that encumbered his incredible trilogy with Micky Ward. McGirt presided over another celebrated three-fight series when his man Antonio Tarver dropped a controversial points decision to Roy Jones Jr. before producing a stunning KO in their rematch and winning the third encounter.
Other notable McGirt pupils include Paulie Malignaggi and Hasim Rahman, while a current star of his gym is undefeated WBO middleweight champion Janibek Alimkhanuly.
McGirt took on light-heavyweight world champion Sergey Kovalev for his revenge mission against Eleider Alvarez in 2019 and the trainer’s capacity for applying telling late-career tweaks is a key part of the appeal for Whyte.
“It’s been good, I’m learning a lot. It’s a good reset,” Whyte said. “Buddy is a very technical guy. You think he doesn’t see something and then he sees it and he’ll correct it. He’s sitting there like ‘hey, hey – I saw that, man! Get your right foot back!’ .
“It’s a good change for me. I’ve had good trainers but he’s more of a teacher than he is a trainer, he’ll reiterate stuff all the time. Doing pad work or bag can be annoying sometimes, but in a good way , because he stops you for every little thing.
“The very important thing is Buddy doesn’t necessarily try to change you. He tries to add little bits and pieces and make your style stronger.”
Whyte isn’t the only Briton working under McGirt’s tutelage, with Callum Smith closing in on a shot at becoming a two-weight world champion at light-heavyweight. From the same weight class, Dan Azeez was recently out in LA training alongside Whyte.
Why has Dillian Whyte chosen Buddy McGirt as his new coach?
All three of Whyte’s career defeats have come via KO against Anthony Joshua, Povetkin and Fury, with booming single uppercuts doing the damage on each occasion.
Tightening things up defensively is an obvious aim and McGirt is also keen for the Body Snatcher not to load up on his shots unnecessarily.
“He didn’t say I need to get on my toes and bouncing, running around and bouncing,” Whyte explained. “If anything, he said you don’t need to kill everything with one punch. You just need to tighten things up and deliver things with less effort.”
Aside from spotting technical tweaks, Whyte believes McGirt’s vast experience will prove invaluable: “Buddy has the experience on the big stage and he’s been doing it for a while with guys in big fights — [Lamont] Brewster against [Wladimir] Klitschko, Tarver against Roy Jones.
“When you watch those fights back and you see the advice he gave and how the information was delivered, experience is the only thing that can give you that.
“There aren’t a lot of teachers left in boxing. There are a lot of young guys who are going to be great trainers in the future. Some of them are good trainers already. But there are not a lot of the good old school guys left. There’s Buddy, Freddie Roach, Virgil Hunter, Al Mitchell — not a lot of guys left.”
Whyte added: “Once you’re training he’s like ‘you can do whatever you want to do, as long as you can explain it to me and it makes sense to me and you prove it works in the sparring session, I’m good with that’. That’s the kind of trainer he is.”