A fantasy fight selection always infers more about the selector than it does either the given fighters or the readership. Whilst choices will often betray a chooser’s age and perhaps the location of their upbringing, they will always reveal the experiential outcomes one innately prioritises. They reflect our pretensions, our vanities and our insecurities. The choices are metaphors, indicative of how one consciously perceives themselves, as well as the projection that they wish to impress onto others.
Take, for example, the snobby and conceited. They cherish their pretentiousness and delight in heaving great gobbets of intellectual condescension toward any proximate unfortunate. They peacock their distain with self-congratulatory choices, often comprised of esoteric unknowns, fighters from backwater Panamanian provinces or reticent former Soviet republics. The casuals, who value disposable entertainment, showcase their fickleness by selecting from the pool of the most recently prominent PPV names. My choice averts either of these temptations, however it renders me vulnerable to yet another difficult, compromising query, that being: why on earth are you fantasising about either Eric Esch or Dillian Whyte, and especially the two of them in combination, semi-naked?
‘Well, they are boxing,’ is a statement which usually normalises the peculiarity of their undress, but as to why I choose to consider this fight at all, this impulse is best justified by explaining that I value fun as a preeminent experiential outcome. If I’m fantasising about two men fighting, the experience best be enjoyable, and after much consideration, I believe that Whyte vs Esch is. Here’s why.
Eric Esch was – he’s retired not deceased – a 300lb knockout artist more widely known, and indeed colloquially referred to, as Butterbean. He holds an impressive 77-10-4 record with 58 of his victories coming, as Jimmy Lennon Jr. would say, ‘by waaay of knockout’. Fighting in shorts emblazoned with the stars and stripes motif of the American flag, he was a charismatic, front-foot showman, whose technical boxing ability and reflexive hand-speed belied his hefty physical form. To watch him jab, feint, slip and move was to reconsider the perceived wisdom that with increased size there must also come a diminished capacity for grace and agility. It was to cheapen the certainties of nutritional experts and sports scientists, rendering their theorems superannuated dogma.
Butterbean defied intuition, congruity and status quo expectation. He carried knockout power in either hand, could hold a shot, had an unexpectedly high punch output and threw an accurate overhand right which often collapsed numerous opponents to a conclusive, concussive defeat. He also fought professionally in mixed martial arts, wrestling and kickboxing contests.
Dillian Whyte is the current WBC Interim champion – the chief contender and gentleman in waiting to challenge Tyson Fury (it’s as great writing it in print as it was watching him claim the title) for the full version of the title – and former WBC Silver, WBO International and British champion. To date, he has been waiting over 700 days for his title shot, yet with Fury contractually beholden to a trilogy of contests against Deontay Wilder, and popular talk of a blockbuster unification fight against Anthony Joshua gathering momentum, Whyte could be left waiting for hundreds more.
Despite being fantastical in nature, serendipitously a fight against Esch would therefore fit seamlessly into Dillian’s current schedule. Parallel with Esch, Whyte has also competed as a mixed martial artist and kickboxer. He, too, enjoys coming forward, can hold a shot, and is oft-inclined to sacrifice form, technique and discipline in favour of simply ‘planting his feet and letting his hands go’.
…But just how would this fight go…? Well in my fantasy, it goes like this.
Esch would come into the contest at his optimum weight of dead on 300lbs. Whyte, who fought Chisora at a career-lightest weight of 246lbs, recently weighed a career-high of 271lbs when facing Mariusz Wach. He looked noticeably unconditioned and slower that night, and so I’d have his weighing around 255-260lbs when fighting Eric, within the same range he weighed for fights against Joseph Parker and Anthony Joshua.
I also have Esch as the ‘A side’. Why not? Let’s utilise ready-made narratives and position Whyte as the ‘bad guy’. He’d walk first, alone and with his head concealed within an all-black robe. The lights would be dim and there would be no entrance music. Contrasting this stygian entrance with bright lights of vivid reds, whites and blues would walk Eric Esch. He would be seen bobbing and weaving – his robe also a brilliant, scarlet red – as Bruce Springsteen (and the E Street Band) launched into ‘Born in the USA’.
Michael Buffer is ring announcer and Mills Lane is the referee. The commentary team consists of Andy Lee, Emanuel ‘Manny’ Steward and Jim Lampley. At the end of each three rounds, we go to Harold Lederman’s scorecards.
Esch starts with characteristic alacrity. Backing Whyte onto the ropes, he throws his renown, relentless combinations. Whyte would endure these but concede several undefended left hooks to the body. Rather than returning with unremitting combinations of his own, at this stage Whyte is instead following Mark Tibbs’ game plan, looking to move, tire Esch and work off of his own solid and disrupting jab. This pattern continues until the completion of round 3. Harold ‘Ok Jim’ Lederman scores the contest 30-27 Esch.
Rounds four and five would be messy to observe but favourable to Dillian. By now, Eric’s punch output would have reduced significantly, and Whyte would be continuing to pick him off with the jab, whilst also increasing his own output of power shots. However, this routine also proves unsustainable and thus round six sees both fighters expressing visible fatigue. Holding becomes the leitmotif, with Whyte looking to impose his 10cm height advantage. At the half way stage, Lederman scores the contest an even 57-57.
Round seven is the necessary low which facilitates the soaring, Icarus-high of round eight. It is the setup, the tee shot, the shade we must endure before experiencing the warmth of a brighter sun. It is the round of the heel. Both men would continue to press forward; there would be holding, hugging and deep, drawn breaths. Yet there would also be paroxysms of explosive violence. Both would throw and both would land. The crowd would surge in appreciation at the unchallenged register of flush hooks and dogged uppercuts. With a minute left, ‘The Bodysnatcher’ would evade an Esch right hand and counter with a thudding left hook to the fleshy America’s ribcage, dropping the crowd favourite initially to his knees before reducing him to a foetal curl upon the canvas. Esch staggers to his feet and beats the count, rising at eight before spending the final minute of the round harangued, pained and yelping as continued Whyte salvos decorate his upper torso.
Slumped and gasping, the 60 second interval between rounds seems to now only delay what the certainty of a Whyte KO victory.
The bell sounds commencing round eight. Both men hold the centre of the ring. Planting their feet and beginning to trade, Whyte is landing two shots to every Esch one. Backing towards the ropes, contracting and retreating, it looks as though all is finally lost; though Eric, in observance of the warrior’s code, will be departing on his shield.
Grinding down on his gumshield in survivalist habit, rather than conscious action, Eric throws one final supplication to offset defeat. It’s now kill or be killed, and he instinctively calls upon a faithful companion, throwing an overhand right in blind anticipation of the intended target. As though experienced in slow motion, time decelerates; the closed fist departs upon its arc, whilst Eric’s face bows to the canvas. It is a punch he has thrown many times, across many years and landed upon many chins. It desperately needs to find its destination again.
It does! Rattling into the Whyte jaw, the discombobulation is immediate. The jaw promptly dislocates, separating the mandible condyle from the skull; the eyes glaze with white sclera as the balls roll upwards, and the knees instantly buckle. Whyte collapses to the canvas, defeated by KO. No count is required from Mills Lane. Esch, both fatigued and redeemed, savours the rapturous adulation from the heady crowd. He enjoys restful repose upon the turnbuckle of his corner. Bruce Springsteen clicks into Glory Days. Esch is now the new WBC Interim champion, with a record swelling to an impressive 78-10-4.