By Scott Gilfoid: Dillian Whyte (26-1, 18 KOs) had to get up off the deck to go on to defeat Oscar Rivas (26-1, 18 KOs) by a 12 round unanimous decision to win the interim WBC heavyweight title on Saturday night at the O2 Arena in London, England.

The judges scored it 115-112, 115-112, and 116-111. Boxing News 24 had Whyte winning 7 rounds to 5. Dillian gave away a lot of rounds by throwing mainly jabs, and missing badly with his shots. Whyte looked sloppy and tired much of the time. Luckily for him, his opponent Rivas rarely let his hands go. Rivas appeared to need rest breaks when he would throw a few heavy shots.

In the second round, Whyte landed a clean right hand to the head of Rivas. Whyte then all out trying to score a knockout Rivas did an excellent job of ducking Whyte’s wild swings, and coming back with some hard head shots that made him back off. Whyte was wide open for everything that Rivas threw in that moment. Had that been a big puncher like Deontay Wilder, Whyte would have been trouble.

Whyte hurt in the 12th round by Rivas

Whyte was knocked down in the ninth round with an uppercut by Rivas. In the 12th, Rivas hurt Whyte with a big right hand to the head. When Rivas was attempting to finish Whyte, the referee Victor Loughlin stepped to pull him away and warn him for coming in with his head. It’s unclear why the referee picked the point in the fight to suddenly insert himself repeatedly during a crucial moment. On social media, some boxing fans thought the referee had picked a strange time to start giving Rivas warnings. He could have done this earlier in the fight. It looked like Rivas was fighting two people inside the ring in the final round. He was trying his best to get past the referee to finish Whyte off, but it was no use.

Bad timing for the referee to give warnings to Rivas in the 12th

It would have been better if the referee had stayed out of it in the 12th, because it some boxing fans the impression that Dillian was being saved. In Whyte’s previous fight against Dereck Chisora last December, he was on his way to losing the fight when the referee penalized Chisora in the 11th for the use of the elbow. This was the second time in the fight that Chisora had been penalized by the referee for fouling. The timing of the second penalization looked odd in the eyes of some boxing fans, because Whyte was on his way to losing. Whyte had been fouling too, but the referee didn’t call his fouls.

Whyte had complained before tonight about him having to wait over 600 days as the #1 WBC challenger before he was given the mandatory position. However, the WBC tried to get Whyte agree to title eliminator last year against Luis Ortiz, but he chose instead to fight Dereck Chisora and Joseph Parker.

With the win, Whyte, 31, has now earned a title shot against WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder. Whyte will need to fight a lot better against Wilder than he did tonight, because he looked sloppy in missing nonstop, and getting hurt twice. We’ll never know what would have happened in the 12th if not for the referee pulling Rivas away from Whyte after he had him hurt.

Hearn says he’ll make sure Whyte gets title shot

“He’s mandatory, he deserves it, that shot will come,” said Whyte’s promoter Eddie Hearn after the fight. “It’s up to us all to make sure this happens. He’s got it now.”

As much as Hearn is going on about wanting to make sure Whyte gets his title shot, he still may need to wait until whoever emerges as the WBC champion fights in a unification match. WBC champion Deontay Wilder is facing Luis Ortiz next. Ortiz is the guy that Whyte chose not to fight last year when the World Boxing Council ordered him to fight in a title eliminator.

Ortiz would have been pure trouble for Whyte had he been in there with him tonight instead of the short 6’0″ Rivas, who Hearn selected on his own. If Wilder gets past Ortiz in November, he’ll face Tyson Fury in a rematch in February. Whyte will get his title shot eventually, but it’s probably not going to be by May of 2020. Hopefully, Hearn can find some guys that he can match against Whyte. Ortiz would be a nice choice for Whyte to fight, as would Filip Hrgovic, Oleksandr Usyk and Michael Hunter.

Whyte will likely need to wait until late 2020 to get title shot

The winner of that fight will likely ask the WBC to allow them to fight the Anthony Joshua vs. Andy Ruiz Jr. rematch winner in a unification fight in the summer of 2020. Whyte will likely need to wait until the fall of 2020 before he gets his title shot.

Dominic Breazeale had to wait two years for his title shot after becoming the WBC mandatory in 2017 with his stoppage win over Eric Molina. It won’t be the end of the world if Whyte has to wait a year or so before he gets his title shot against whoever holds the WBC belt in 2020. It’s better for Whyte. He can face the last man standing, be it Wilder, Ortiz, Joshua or Ruiz Jr.

Whyte says his focus is on winning world titles

“The pressure was on, Rivas is a great fighter and I have a lot of respect for him,” said Whyte after the fight. “I got caught with a punch but got straight back up and finished the round well. Titles matter, we’re in this to be world champion. Everyone writes me off time and time again.”

Well, Whyte had a chance to fight Joshua in April when he held the IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight titles, but he passed up the opportunity. Whether Whyte felt that he didn’t match up well with Joshua or if he would be better off against Wilder is unclear. Obviously, Whyte should have taken the fight with Joshua, because he could have lost tonight if not for the referee picking an odd time to warn Rivas about his head in the 12th after he had hurt Dillian.