Tyson Fury’s march towards the title shot he’s long politicked for continues this Saturday when he fights Christian Hammer in London. If you’re not German (or even if you are German), you can excuse your unfamiliarity with Fury’s opponent because, though he sounds like a religious-pornographer, he’s a fighter with a fairly low profile. This is a bout designed to give Tyson work as he waits for the heavyweight title scene to organize itself. The word ‘work’ in boxing is sometimes used euphemistically to gloss over a predetermined outcome. But while duplicity is always possible (who knows, it’s boxing!), Fury shouldn’t need that sort of intervention.
Hammer (17-3), a blocky heavyweight who was born in Romania with the less-phallic surname ‘Ciocan’, fights out of Hamburg, the same city heavyweight sovereign Wladimir Klitschko makes his title defenses in. With the same number of losses as the champ but far fewer wins, he’s not someone Fury sees as a problem. And he shouldn’t be, unless Tyson becomes careless and exposes his chin to the blunt end of Hammer’s right. Rather, the Romanian is a man for Fury to beat as he readies himself for the other, more fearsome Hamburger: Klitschko.
Fury’s (23-0) opponent is seven inches shorter and has an unassuming résumé, having been stopped twice. His last knockout came three fights ago against a man named Leif Larsen, whose ancestors likely accompanied Erik the Red on his conquest of Greenland. Two fights before that Hammer vanquished Danny Williams, the same man who did away with Mike Tyson in 2004. This makes him the man who beat the man who beat the world’s once-baddest man. Unfortunately for Hammer, the contemporary Tyson (named after “Iron Mike“) will be a stiffer challenge.
It’s a test Hammer shouldn’t emerge from victorious. Even if the fight is on the level, and the Romanian acquits himself well enough to win, boxing’s institutional weight will come down against him. HBO President Ken Hershman will be in attendance on Saturday, doubtlessly scheming about how best to use Fury in the future. And, if he will be used, it will be as an opponent for Klitschko, who Fury has taunted over youtube and twitter for years, deriding him as a ‘pussy’. The Ukrainian is a substantially better boxer than Fury and should win easily if, or when, they meet.
They should meet because it makes financial sense for them to fight. Fury is popular even if his skills are plain. Klitschko would get paid handsomely to stop him, and then could move on to face Deontay Wilder and unify the belts. This hinges on Tyson Fury winning Saturday, Wladimir Klitschko winning in April against Bryant Jennings, and Deontay Wilder getting one or two tune up fights before his date with reality, which comes in the form of a very large Ukrainian. All of this is possible because all of it is financially expedient.
Interestingly, Fury’s dad is back in his corner after serving a four year prison sentence for gouging out a man’s eye in a street fight. Years ago, during an interview on British television, he boldly asserted that Tyson would eventually become heavyweight champion. “No problem,” he said, so inevitable was Tyson’s future reign. While Fury remains undefeated, his lack of athleticism and power will prohibit him from ruling a division of big punchers. But, by virtue of the mouth he acquired from his father, Tyson will continue to talk his way into fights. He is the greatest purveyor of his own myth, at once a boxing bard and a matchmaker. That’s why Ken Hershman will be there on Saturday: because big mouths generate big dollars, and dollars, ultimately, make sense.
— Eliott McCormick