FROM the outside looking in, Jason Whateley and Ben Kelleher couldn’t be more different.
The Melbourne-based Whateley (7-0, 6 KOs) has been groomed for success in the punch-for-pay game from the moment he joined professional circuit. Meanwhile, Kelleher (13-1-2, 4 KOs) has taken the longer road, competing in several combat sport disciplines before finding a home in boxing.
But on closer inspection, the likeable and well-spoken pair have far more in common than one would initially suspect — starting with their strictly business approach to their March 28th date in Melbourne.
“It’s just business,” Whateley told Aus-Boxing.
“I’ve had so many fights as an amateur that were just like this, where you just go about your business. Even with this fight, I’m keeping it that way and just going about handling my business.
“I don’t know how to feel about him, but I don’t think too much about it. At the end of the day, a fight is a fight. I’ve done tough spars and my first fight was six rounds against good opposition, which I did comfortably.
“Hopefully Ben can test me, and I can prove what I’m capable of. Given the chance to go later rounds, I know I’ll get through it with no problem. I’m looking forward to the test.”
As the regional title clash fast approaches, it’s clear that an air of mutual respect floats between both camps. The kind that is built over time and with the credibility that accompanies a quality resume.
Having secured the national title at his first attempt, Whateley sees the looming test against the 32-year-old Kelleher as a chance to validate his credentials for an eventual Commonwealth title challenge.
“That belt has been the plan for a long time, and especially with the Australian title before that,” he explained.
“I started eyeing that off in my third fight, and we aren’t surprised by how fast it came. As a team, we wanted to do it quickly and hit the ground running, which we did in just over a year.
“Even with the fight (against Russell), it didn’t surprise me. I’d practiced a similar shot in the gym, eight or nine weeks ahead of time, probably even longer because I like longer training camps.
“Playing that scenario in my head over and over, I knew that was the shot I wanted to land. Looking back, I was surprised that I landed in the first round, it was probably the first right hand I threw.
“The next step is the Commonwealth title. I just know the weight it holds, and the way they talk about the belt, it’s a good title to have. The belt looks cool as well. I’d like to have it around my waist.”
At this level, there is no such thing as coincidences.
Every detail in Whateley’s career is mapped out and thoroughly examined, down to the finest detail, which is why the former Olympian has experienced a swift ascension towards regional level.
This approach, mirrored by a collaborative desire to improve as a collective, is what Whateley sees as a key point of difference in his latest chapter.
View this post on Instagram
Can @jwhateley_boxer keep his KO streak alive against Ben Kelleher March 28th ??? . . stylesmakefights #wildfighter #australia #melbourne #boxing #fighter #fightnight #training #action #fight # gym #gymlife #gym #fit #fitness #nutrition
A post shared by W I L D F I G H T E R (@wildfighter_) on
“I’d like to go overseas or get some overseas guys in,” he added.
“My team and I really want to try and take that Commonwealth belt. In my eyes, it holds a lot of weight. As we move into this year and lock away fights, we’re going to try and start tracking that down.
“The insight that my team, and in particular Matt (Clark) has been able to give us has been huge. He’s got the connections hopefully, we can get that here soon.
“We’re always open to learning new things. It’s about travelling and learning as we go, jumping into other camps, and observing the way other people work.”
Less than a week removed from Daniel Lewis’ bold attempt to impact the world stage, Whateley sees a similar run in his immediate future.
When assessing the parallels between his rise and that of his former Olympic teammate, Whateley was quick to spot the similarities in their approach to competition.
“I think Daniel and I are similar people,” he said.
“There are a lot of things that he’d be thinking, and I’m thinking the same thing as well. Even though our styles are different, the way we conduct ourselves is pretty similar.
“We take on all comers, and are happy to challenge ourselves. It was great to see him hit the ground running, it was a real privilege to watch him on the big stage, and to see him have a crack.
“I thought he boxed good and he represented his country really well. The dude he fought was huge, it was freakish to see how tall he was. When you look at it, he was a centimetre taller than me, but 20 kilos lighter.”
As the business end of his eighth professional training camp nears, the 29-year-old is determined to reach the unchartered territory that comes with a title fight.
Despite the tension that surrounds a high-profile challenge, Whateley sees the upside of testing himself against a quality operator and experienced campaigner.
“Now that we’re starting to get these tough fights, there’s no greater test,” he concluded.
“When it comes down to it, you want to fight someone that is potentially as good as you, and genuinely wants to win. It’s funny what your body comes up, and you learn a lot about yourself in a tough fight.
“He (Kelleher) might not know anything about my life, or what I’ve gone through, but he doesn’t need to. I love being in the trenches. It’s always been that way with me.
“I’m a long fighter that could probably box at range, but I like to sit in and fight. I do this because I like to fight and I’m ready for that. If Ben can give me a hard fight, I know I’ll flourish in those later rounds.
“When that time comes, I’ll bite down and back myself on fight night. There’s no doubt about it.”