Some like to say that money would never change them, that if they won the lottery or became a huge overnight success, they would still be the same, regular person they’ve always been. But the simple fact is money changes everything. You might think it won’t change you, but just the prospect of winning millions will change you big-time, maybe even make you try to be something or someone you’re not. And it looks to me like that’s what has happened to Tyson Fury and his comeback. Money has changed it from a gradual, four or five fight plan as he slowly gets back into proper shape, into a quick cash-grab against Deontay Wilder. Fact: he just ain’t ready!
When Fury fought Wladimir Klitschko in 2015 he was at the top of his game and in excellent shape at 246 pounds, but the Fury of today is a different story. He certainly is in better shape having gone from 276 pounds in the farcical Sefer Seferi “fight” of June 9, to 258 for last week’s ten round waltz with Francesci Pianeta. But coming back from having ballooned up to more than 300 pounds over the course of some 30 months away from the ring, Fury has had one and one-half tune-up fights and, in truth, the half fight with Seferi doesn’t really count for anything. The Brit talking heads for the Belfast broadcast were “home-towning” when they called that stinker “slightly farcical;” no, fellas, that one was a total farce that did Fury little to no good at all.
Now, yes, he did get in a bit of legit work against Pianeta but here’s the rub: at this juncture, going into a championship fight with Deontay Wilder, Fury has had a single “tune-up” fight, ten rounds of work, after an almost three year layoff during which he didn’t take care of himself at all. One tune-up fight, against a fringe contender who hasn’t had a win of any consequence at all in at least four years, just isn’t going to cut it. This is no way to prepare for getting into the ring with perhaps the baddest man on the planet in the heavyweight division. Again, Tyson Fury just ain’t ready, people! Wilder will take this fight either by decision or straight knockout and it will be barely competitive. In fact, one British boxing blog (which you’d think would have a home-boy bias) has said a Fury win over Wilder will be one of the biggest upsets in heavyweight history.
Back in May when Fury was getting set for his first comeback fight and when it looked like Joshua vs Wilder might be happening, Tyson’s people let it be known that they planned to take things slowly and let their man gradually get back into fighting shape. There was talk of four or five tune-up matches and something major in 2019. Now that Joshua vs Wilder is off the table and Wilder is looking for a big payday, suddenly Fury vs Wilder is a go and all of those careful comeback plans are out the window. As the Showtime commentators put it, what looked like a two-horse race to the top now might be three. Fury is focused on immediately getting a piece of the heavyweight title.
But I can’t over-emphasize the fact that this horse ain’t ready! First of all, one has to ask whether Fury’s years out of the ring took a greater toll on him than was thought. Of course no one can really judge from the fight with Pianeta, who was a statue, sitting there and waiting to be hit. Yeah, Fury was putting in work and he showed some brief glimpses of the Tyson Fury of old, but the fact remains he may never regain his conditioning of the past.
That long and tumultuous extended vacation of partying, booze, coke, girls and depression may have just taken too much out of him. That certainly is a different kind of layoff than one where an athlete maintains a modicum of conditioning and visits the gym from time to time. This showed in a lackluster performance against the first full-fledged heavyweight Tyson has faced since 2015. While Fury was certainly looking lighter in weight, and his footwork and movement looked sharp at times, his overall performance was totally inconsistent. Hate to break it to you, Fury fans, but the ring rust is obviously still there and in my opinion he needs at least two more legit match-ups to get rid of it.
During the Pianeta fight the British play-by-play commentators at first puffed their boy in true hometown fashion, but later in the match they went to the very heart of the matter when they asked if Fury was maybe trying to hide something from Wilder. Was he intentionally holding back, they wondered, since Wilder was present and watching closely? ”Maybe he wants to keep something up his sleeve to give a false sense of security to Wilder?” “Perhaps he could’ve knocked out Pianetta earlier, but maybe he’s holding back for strategic reasons?”
Sorry, fellas, but that’s some wishful thinking on your part. The inconsistency was nothing clever, just Fury’s ring rust showing. Your man was doing work and, believe it or not, he wasn’t holding back at all. And, as Steve Farhood noted, Fury was in fact showing his hand, switching to the southpaw stance in the later rounds, practicing being a lefty as Wilder had trouble landing his jab against southpaw Luis Ortiz.
But even if Fury is focused on Wilder and trying out tactics for what will be a huge money fight against the WBC champ, is he ready for this title fight? Emphatically, NO! What everyone saw last week was a boxer struggling to get back into top form, but he is nowhere near where he needs to be to compete against the top guys. Hell, at best, he’s halfway there. And even then that’s an optimistic evaluation, assuming that age, non-stop partying, drugs, and depression haven’t forever destroyed the 2015 edition of Tyson Fury who, in tip-top shape, masterfully dismantled the aging but still dangerous Wladimir Klitschko.
At one point the Brit talking heads last week quoted Tyson himself on what he expected to do against Pianeta: “Fury said before the fight we would see the heavyweight version of Sugar Ray Leonard and anything less is a failure.” Well, did anyone see that? Because I sure as hell did not. Let’s face facts: we saw not the next WBC champ, but a man in recovery, trying to rehab himself back to championship condition and contention.
“The Gypsy King” is not taking Wilder’s strap with only one tune-up fight in which Fury looked like he’s supposed to look at this stage, which is inconsistent and rusty. And to be brutally honest, the fact is both the Seferi and Pianeta matches were not real fights, but closer to live sparring, exhibitions, the guy on the comeback trail putting in work. Fury needs at least two or three full-distance legit scraps before facing a hard-punching-from-every-angle Deontay Wilder who is at the top of the division and the top of his game, otherwise this showdown with Wilder is just a cash grab and nothing more.
I agree with Steve Farhood that Fury is not your typical boxer, that he presents unique problems: “He’s so tall but has that movement and reach that’s so unusual for a guy his size.” True, but he’s not exactly Willie Pep either, and Wilder has knockout power in both gloves. Plus, last week Fury showed a bad habit of dropping his hands and if he does that against “The Bronze Bomber” Tyson is going to find himself in serious trouble.
Bottom line: money is what a Fury vs Wilder match-up is all about, and nothing more. Money totally changed Tyson Fury’s comeback strategy from a gradual and realistic plan of four or five fights and prolonged conditioning to what we’re getting instead: a one-shot, big fight event that, barring an unlikely “puncher’s chance” home run bomb, can only end one way. The simple truth is Tyson Fury just isn’t ready. And I for one find it difficult to believe that, deep down, he does not know that. — Ralph M. Semien