Anthony Joshua vs Dillian Whyte: How Ireland can claim both boxers under the 'granny rule'
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Anthony Joshua vs Dillian Whyte: How Ireland can claim both boxers under the 'granny rule'

PERHAPS Irish sports fans and media were a little too quick to cling on to Tyson Fury in the wake of his era-ending win over Wladimir Klitschko on November 28.

Guilty as charged.

Love him or loathe him, the new heavyweight champion of the world pulled off arguably the biggest sporting shock of the year with his unanimous decision win over the Ukrainian in Germany, a country that hosted the majority of Klitschko's 23 world title defences.

No doubt, It's up there with Japan beating South Africa at the Rugby World Cup and Ireland beating World Champions Germany en route to Euro 2016 (any excuse to mention that).

So huge was the win in Düsseldorf, Tyson's father John – who was born in Galway – proclaimed “we have changed the world”.

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Fury after the fight with Klitschko (Photo: PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/Getty Images) Fury after the fight with Klitschko (Photo: PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Changed the world? The people who really changed the world this year were the 62 per cent of Irish voters who helped their country become the first in the world to legalise same-sex marriages by popular vote.

Thankfully, Tyson Fury was ineligible to vote as, being from the Irish Travelling community, his father's lack of documentation prevented him from obtaining an Irish passport some four years ago.

If his recent comments linking homosexuality to paedophilia are anything to go by, it's a fair assumption that the 27-year-old would have been on the 'No' side had he gotten anywhere on his quest to become an Irish citizen.

Alas, we can now say 'sure he's from Manchester' and pretend we never briefly claimed him as one of our own.

However, washing our hands of Fury means that Ireland is still without a world heavyweight champion (unless you count the great Jack Dempsey, who had Irish descent on his father's side, according to Sports Illustrated).

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Step forward Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte. That's right, these two heavyweight specimens go toe-to-toe on Saturday night, and they each have, or at least had, Irish grandparents.

Joshua, who won gold for Britain at the 2012 Olympic Games, made the revelation that his dad's mother was Irish in an interview with underrated video blogging website Irish-Boxing.com last year.

The 6ft 6ins man mountain doesn't really embrace his ancestry, and that's fine. But, on the other hand, his upcoming opponent Whyte does.

“My grandfather was half Irish and half Jamaican,” Whyte told The Irish Post ahead of his long-awaited bout with Joshua.

“He never told me how his parents met, but he used to tell me a bunch of crazy stories about Ireland, fighting and boxing and stuff. He was from Cork, but eventually emigrated from Dublin.”

Similarly, Whyte first revealed his ancestry in an interview with Irish-Boxing.com, saying: “My grandfather Patrick Whyte left Ireland years and years ago.”

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He elaborated on how much of an influence his grandfather actually had on the direction of his career in an interview with The Irish Post at a press conference in London during the week.

“As a young kid I was getting in trouble and a friend of mine brought me to a kick-boxing gym and for me it was like raw, all-out fighting, and I loved it,” he said.

“I thought ‘this is great, I can fight, not get into trouble and maybe even make some money out of it’.

“So after speaking to my grandad and my dad they actually told me that they both boxed when they were younger, but they didn’t want to tell me because they viewed it as a dark, blood sport.

“They didn’t want their grandson getting into it but, eventually, when they told me, that actually gave me more of a push to get into boxing.”

Currently ranked number five within the British heavyweight rankings, Whyte's diverse background extends beyond his Jamaican-English-Irish roots, as he's also a former British heavyweight kick-boxing champion and a former professional MMA fighter.

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“I finished with MMA the moment I went into boxing,” he said. “As a young kid, when you’re getting into trouble a lot, your parents get you to try kung fu or karate, or some sort of martial art, and you can get pretty good at it pretty quickly.”

But boxing is where he feels he belongs, and the greater public profile the sport brings helped put the 27-year-old in touch with some old family members he otherwise may never have met.

“When I boxed in Belfast on a Carl Frampton card I met some cousins of mine who I’d never met before,” said Whyte.

“I’d spoken to them through my grandad and through social media. We spoke on the phone before I went and they actually came to see me fight in Belfast.

“I finally met up with them after the show and went for some food and they might be coming over for this fight as well, which is great.”

Anthony Joshua, left, is the big favourite against Dillian Whyte [Picture: Lawrence Lustig] Anthony Joshua, left, is the big favourite against Dillian Whyte [Picture: Lawrence Lustig]
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Although they've been bickering away publicly for years – ever since Whyte became the first and only man to knock down and beat Joshua in their amateur days – both men conduct themselves in the manner one would expect of a heavyweight world champion, one of the most privileged positions in sport.

Maybe Ireland had a lucky escape when bureaucracy failed the current man in that position.

Whyte would make a better ambassador of the country than Fury, and the undefeated orthodox fighter – who has had visa issues when travelling Europe with his Jamaican passport – is open to the idea of one day utilising his right to Irish citizenship.

Whyte said: “Passports are like gold, but I’ve already got two, so if I can get another one – why not?

“I’d have to go through my grandfather’s past and chase up a lot of paperwork, but I’d love to get an Irish passport, I’d absolutely love to.”

Right now, all Whyte can focus on is halting Joshua, who has been tearing up the lower end of the heavyweight division, with greatness for the current WBC International and Commonwealth champion already ear-marked by the majority of the boxing community.

Whyte has shown no sign of fear of Joshua - who has never gone beyond three rounds due to his ruthless knockout power - and why should he? He's beaten him once already.

“The luck of the Irish will be with me,” he smiled, as we closed out our encounter.

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And if big Dillian does go crashing to the canvas from Joshua's power like so many have before him, well then we can always train him up to be the next Richard Dunne and call him up under the 'granny rule'.