With the Whyte vs Rivas fight now elevated to WBC Interim title status, the winner will have more to gain than when the fight contract was signed. This late development raises the stakes because the winner will be guaranteed a lucrative shot at WBC champion Deontay Wilder next year.
Oscar Rivas came into this fight with a last round knockout win over quality contender Bryant Jennings as the only result that casual boxing fans might consider relevant. In his 26 wins with 18 Ko's record, Rivas has gained experience against decent opposition rather than by facing any ranking contenders other than Jennings.
The transplanted Columbian has a good amateur pedigree having beaten Andy Ruiz Jr and Kubrat Pulev amongst others in the amateur ranks, but it was the Jennings win that catapulted the short stocky pressure fighter into the public eye and this opportunity.
Most pundits have cried out that Whyte has been shunned time and again by the WBC in regards to being ranked No1 and not being given a shot at Wilder, but he did turn down the opportunity to fight in an eliminator ordered by the governing body to face Cuban Luis Ortiz, a move that possibly drew proceedings out longer than necessary. Whyte has been WBC No1 contender for over 600 days now.
Promoter Eddie Hearn has voiced misgivings that in the build-up to this fight the rhetoric has centred on WBC politics and fighting Wilder rather than the threat that the Columbian poses to Whyte's immediate future. Having been through something very similar in the Joshua/Ruiz Jr build-up, it's not surprising that the Matchroom Boxing boss wants to avoid a similar slip-up.
Whyte has sounded supremely confident and seems in a good place but this fight is a potential banana skin. Rivas will pile the pressure on from the first bell in a similar fashion to Dereck Chisora who Whyte has faced at this venue on two occasions, the first resulting in a wafer-thin decision win before knocking out the Finchley man in the 11th round in their second encounter.
Unlike Chisora, Rivas uses a more polished style where he comes in behind the jab a lot more before moving into range for his shorter hooks, uppercuts, and overhand rights. At just over 6ft tall, Rivas makes himself a small target, dipping and rolling his way inside arm's length of his opposition. He is happy to stay in the middle of the ring and dual using the jab and fast footwork, evidence of why he was such a good amateur.
It will be important for Whyte to establish a strong jab and pivot to the sides to land his powerful right hand and left hook as the Columbian commits to coming inside to work. He can not afford to be put on the back foot as this is where Rivas excels. If he gets Whyte on to the ropes he will win rounds purely by outworking him.
Rivas has good power, he is capable of scoring a stoppage win which will send ripples through the heavyweight division just as Ruiz Jr's shock triumph at the start of June, but in Whyte, he meets a fighter that has improved tremendously since hooking up with trainer Mark Tibbs, and I expect him to weather a few storms before landing his heavy shots and stopping Rivas in the last third of the contest.