Charles ‘The Killa’ Whittaker feels he is in the best shape of his life despite having to travel 10,000 miles to train on the other side of the world in the Philippines.
After a nightmare journey that involved five planes spread over two days traveling, he finally got there last week and settled in quickly just outside Digos which is the capital town of Davao del Sur, about 500 miles south of Manila.
He flew from Cayman to Miami, then on to Los Angeles, then Guam, then Manila and finally Davao. Whittaker is staying in a part of a house owned by an American right beside the gym. It’s hot there. Not as hot as Cayman but still sweltering enough for the sweat to pour off in floods.
Whittaker, 34, defends his WBO NABO light-middleweight belt against Luther ‘Sugarman’ Smith at the Lions Centre on 8 March and is already primed for action. Going to the Philippines to work with his American trainer Norman Wilson has added an extra edge to his power, Whittaker feels.
‘It’s so humbling to come out here,’ he said. ‘It motivates me to see these kids I’m training with, how hungry they are and how hard they work. They’re so poor, the poverty is incredible, yet they’re so pleasant and resilient and gracious. It really motivates you and I draw a great deal of strength from their resilience. The people are so amazing. Today I watched these kids train and then they sat down and ate. It was so sad, I broke down crying to see how poor they are. I went out and bought some kids some running shoes because their shoes had holes in them. It was an opportunity to help them.’
Whittaker always has to borrow heavily from the bank to put on a show in Cayman because there are no boxing promoters here. Sponsorship is sparse and this time he has borrowed $40,000 from the bank. That’s why he couldn’t afford the trip to the Phillipines himself.
He cannot praise highly enough Minister of Sport Alden McLaughlin for helping finance this important trip. ‘I’m so grateful for being out here, I’m going to dedicate this fight to the Honourable Minister of Sport Alden McLaughlin for funding my trip. This is my way of showing him how grateful I am for supporting me. I was a little bit reluctant to ask the ministry for money and I was trying to raise the money on my own. This has also been a blessing for me to help others.’
Killa runs at the crack of dawn and has at least one session in the gym every day. Digos is delightful but he has neither the time nor the inclination to be a tourist. ‘In my spare time a lot of times I might ride down to the town with the other fighters, or just walk around. There ain’t really a whole lot to see or do. But it’s cool, I can stay focused.’
Before he left, Whittaker was uncharacteristically declaring war on his opponent, a fighter he has never even met. That’s because Killa knows that a loss at this stage of his career – with a world title in the offing – would be disastrous.
‘I promise that Luther Smith is going to fall anywhere between rounds one and three rounds. My training’s going so good. The sparring’s excellent, I’m working the mitts, heavy bag and everything. Tremendous training. Nobody can push me like my trainer Norman. If he tells me to go outside and stand on my head, I’ll do it because I’ve got that sort of confidence in him.’
He hopes the Filipinos in Cayman will come out and support him in what is sure to be a pulsating night’s boxing. ‘I’m only 8lbs above the fight weight (154lbs) because I keep myself in great shape. I’m ready, man. I’m just looking forward to 8 March.’