Next Sunday, Joseph Parker will get in the ring with an opponent the likes of which he has never encountered before.

Dillian Whyte was stabbed three times as a boy. He was 13 the first time and took it as a badge of honour on the streets of south London where his family lived after their arrival
from Jamaica.

Whyte was reunited with his mother at that time; she left him in Jamaica as a two-year-old.

He is one of 12 children and his mother took his older siblings, as they could help support her.

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It is a harrowing story delivered matter-of-factly by Whyte, a true streetfighter who fears no man and will attack Parker from the first bell at London's O2 Arena in seven days.

"I bounced around from family to family," Whyte said in a recent interview. "It taught me to adapt and survive from an early age."

Whyte's father wasn't around, he said, but knew of his existence in Jamaica and was "old school". Whyte explained that meant as long as he was breathing, then he would be considered to be okay.

For as long as professional boxing has existed, it has been a way out for those with disadvantaged backgrounds; it has been a path to discipline, order and perhaps victory for the first time in their young lives. That applies to Whyte, now 30, as much as anyone who has gone before him.

He has always taken risks and he still does in the ring. It's what has characterised his fighting career; for him, it is that — fighting — rather than boxing, and for that reason he will be a unique and potentially dangerous opponent for New Zealander Parker, a 26-year-old who has never been put on the canvas as a professional or amateur.

Whyte, the No 1 mandatory challenger for undefeated WBC world champion Deontay Wilder, didn't have to fight Parker. He is risking his ranking but wants to fight because that's all he knows.

"My mum hates the fact I fight," Whyte told the Independent. "My sisters hate it, too, but they understand that boxing gave me a way out. It saved me, it made me someone, it made me the person I am today, mentally and physically.

"I was one of those kids who was not meant to be anything at school, I was either meant to be dead or in prison at this age, to be honest.

"I came here from Jamaica as a kid and didn't go to school really, never had a great education. I was a little bit bad on the street, running around, doing this, doing that and always getting into trouble. I was completely written off, so boxing has definitely saved my life.

"I've been stabbed, I've been shot. I wasn't the best kid. I was running around being crazy and excited, and I thought it was cool at the time.

"I thought 'I've been stabbed, I'll show my mates'. I'd lift my top up and say 'look, I got done here at the weekend'. But you never realise the risk you were taking in those days."

Whyte sees himself as an inspiration for those from similar backgrounds and is a man appalled by the knife crime which has become so prevalent in parts of London. He used to carry weapons but wants to educate those tempted to do likewise that there is another way.

"Boxing is a great sport for any kid out of control or who thinks they're a bad boy.

"Boxing humbles you and teaches you discipline. It teaches you self-control, discipline and self-respect.

"If you think you're a hard man who can go and stab someone, they'll put you in the ring and make you spar someone for one or two rounds and you'll realise this is where it's at.

"But it's good that people from the same background as me can look at me and think 'do you know what, Dillian is doing all right, maybe I can try to change my life, too'.

"Boxing draws you in, you just want more. The technical side of it, the mentality side of it, it grows you as a person. That's the difference between boxing and other sports; it's a self-driven sport, you can see yourself going up, climbing and learning."

Whyte v Parker

02 Arena, London
Sunday, July 29 (NZT)
Fight will be screened live on SKY NZ pay per view; coverage starts at 5am, main event not before 9am.