Five years ago today it was an historic showdown in the heavyweight division, Wladimir Klitschko vs Tyson Fury in Düsseldorf, Germany and our own Eliott McCormick was a keen observer of this clash for the undisputed crown. To mark the anniversary of this historic changing of the guard, here are McCormick’s reflections on a showdown that shocked more than a few fight fans on this day back in 2015. Check it out:
Tyson Fury is the new heavyweight champion of the world. This is not a fictional sentence, perhaps the lede in some speculative article imagining a post-Klitschko boxing future. Today in Düsseldorf, the Manchester heavyweight outpointed Wladimir Klitschko to remove him of his four belts. It was a shocking result, both for the low expectations most had for Fury and for the impotent way in which the champion gave away his titles.
Fury executed his gameplan masterfully. He remained outside Klitschko’s reach, repeatedly shifting his defensive positions and making his body smaller. The vaunted power that had carried Wladimir through his career never materialized. Perhaps out of fear of being countered, or just his own insecurity, Klitschko refused to unload, boxing tepidly round after round. And predictably, Fury’s confidence soared as the champion’s sagged. At one point the challenger even put both hands behind his back, begging Wladimir to tee off. For whatever reason, Klitschko didn’t.
What began as an agonizingly frustrating bout took on increased seriousness when a cut opened underneath Klitschko’s left eye. But rather than be spurred on by his dire circumstances, the champion couldn’t mount sustained pressure, holding and clinching during crucial moments instead of letting his hands go. And Fury, to his credit, continued to fight with a higher level of energy, finding Klitschko’s face with snappy punches, even battering the older man at several points.
Only in the twelfth did Klitschko take any chances, at which point hope for a comeback was foolhardy. Despite the protestations of trainer Johnathan Banks, who pressed him to begin opening up in the middle rounds, the champion never established any rhythm, as if Fury was a puzzle too complex for ‘Dr. Steelhammer’ to solve. For Klitschko, it was the worst possible way to surrender his titles because they were ceded so ineffectually. This performance, so wretched and devoid of courage or urgency, will haunt him.
From an aesthetic standpoint, it was an utterly dreadful fight. Klitschko looked helpless, while Fury, who boxed effectively, did so in his customarily cumbersome way. He made the best use of his limited gifts, flicking his jab to keep Wladimir at bay as he won the fight from the outside. This strategy was both surprising and surprisingly effective. Prior to the fight it was believed Fury would try to box from close proximity and nullify Klitschko’s power by smothering it. Things unfolded otherwise but the effect was the same, as Klitschko threw few power punches, fewer still doing any damage.
After the scores were read Fury’s party celebrated wildly. Tyson, the new owner of four belts, cried during his interview, in the most genuine glimpse of emotion we’ve seen from a wildly inconsistent person. Then, perhaps to formalize a theatrical new era in heavyweight boxing, he sang a love song to his wife, for which the German crowd applauded politely.
It was a strange scene, but doubtlessly welcome for boxing fans who have long wanted a new champion. For many, Klitschko’s reign was met with begrudging respect: its longevity was impressive but his style and level of competition did little to inspire. He had simply been the division’s apex predator for so long that most had come to accept the long-established order. Tyson Fury, however, was intent on overthrowing the status quo. Prior to the fight he spoke of how loss is inexorable for every champion. What’s astonishing is that Klitschko lost so ignominiously.
2015 has seen the expiration of two boxing institutions. Floyd Mayweather is ostensibly retired while Wladimir Klitschko no longer rules the big men. For team Fury, this is the apotheosis of a family legacy forged amid bareknuckle hard men in British campsites. For the United Kingdom, this begins a new era of heavyweight boxing that becomes more interesting in December when Anthony Joshua fights Dillian Whyte in London. For boxing, this is the best possible scenario, as a new ruling house in the sport’s glamour division will only serve to re-popularize the heavyweights, however long the Fury reign lasts.
For Wladimir Klitschko, this was a rotten night in a highly successful career. However harsh it is to suggest, his impoverished effort will ensure future psychological torment. While champions always fall, it is not paradoxical to suggest a hard landing is preferable to a soft one. –Eliott McCormick