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Before Dillian Whyte battled heavyweight rivals, he traded fearsome strikes in the unforgiving world of kickboxing.

The Brixton man is within touching distance of a world title ahead of next Saturday's fight with rival contender Oscar Rivas at The O2, live on Sky  But Whyte's toughness had been tested before he stepped into the boxing ring as the south Londoner was a professional kickboxer, claiming wins and titles as he entered the punishing K1 circuit.  Why did you take up kickboxing?

I was getting in trouble all the time fighting, so I did it to keep myself occupied. It wasn't as big as what it is now. I was like 'this is hard as hell, these people are kicking the hell out of me'. Some guy kicked me in my leg and I was like 'huh', but then I fell in love with it! This is cool.

Can you remember your first kickboxing fight?

I fought a guy that had 10 fights, 10 wins. I was always a bit of a slugger anyway, so for me, I just went in there and slugged it out.

Why did you travel to Holland for training?

A couple of years later I went over there because I had to take myself away from London and getting out of trouble. Train over there, try and get a bit of focus. If you're doing K1, being in Holland is the best place. Kickboxers turned heavyweight boxers?

Vitali Klitschko, Alexander Povetkin and Jarrell Miller also tried kickboxing. I sparred a guy called Branko Cikatic, who is probably one of the hardest and strongest guys I've sparred ever. It was hell. There wasn't much skill. Kickboxing teaches you to be tough. It was just like 'keep going, keep going.'Are kickboxing fights more painful? Getting kicked in the head is harder than getting punched in the head, especially when you're getting a knee to the face. But in some twisted way, I enjoyed it.

Why did you finish your kickboxing career?

I was winning fights, picking up a couple of belts here and there. For me, I was young at the time, I was just thinking about staying out of trouble and letting off some steam, and then I got into it probably more than I wanted. Boxing is a bigger sport, it's more of a homegrown sport. I can stay at home and train at home, become a bigger star and have a better career.

Should boxing have less champions like kickboxing?

The best should fight the best. Everyone says 'one face, one champion,' but the best don't want to fight the best, so how are we ever going to get 'one face, one champion'?
Everyone is scared about losing. People should just fight. So what if you lose, the best can fight each other over and over again.

Do you still watch kickboxing?

I watch all sorts of fighting. I watch Karate, Kung Fu, MMA. I watch all style of fights, because I'm a student of fighting.


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