It’s official: on October 24, Tyson Fury, the heavyweight division’s ‘Gypsy King’, gets the chance he’s longed electioneered for. He will fight Wladimir Klitschko in Dusseldorf for WBO, WBA, IBF, and IBO heavyweight titles. For many months Fury has bemoaned the state of the heavyweight division and the dearth of opportunities he’s had for advancement, but his time has finally arrived. Actually stripping Klitschko of his titles before 54000 fans at the Esprit Arena is another matter, however. Though Tyson has done well to arrive here, don’t expect an upset. Unlike the foot soldiers Fury has made a career of beating, it will take more than serviceable boxing skills and a size advantage to slay the king.
Klitschko vs Fury was finalized this week at the WBA offices in Panama City, just minutes before it would have went to a purse bid, thus obscuring some interesting developments behind the scenes. Fury earned this shot by virtue of his stoppage of Dereck Chisora last November in London. It was a fine performance against a bad opponent, but the fact remains that Fury’s résumé boasts no significant names. He last fought against the little-known Christian Hammer in February on a card titled ‘Risky Business’, which, predictably, turned out to be anything but. Tyson wailed on Hammer for eight rounds before the beaten man’s corner tired of the assault.
Klitschko, meanwhile, comes into this fight having decisioned Bryant Jennings at Madison Square Garden in April. It was a forgettable bout, mostly due to its poor clash of styles: Wlad couldn’t hurt Jennings, who showed an exceptionally good chin, while the light-hitting Philadelphian never effectively pressured Klitschko. Prior to Jennings, Wladimir turned in one of the most exciting performances of his career when he blew out Kubrat Pulev in five rounds last November.
Fury is being positioned as a craftsman whose skill and wits will make the champion uncomfortable. To hear Tyson’s promoter, Mick Hennessy, talk about his fighter, is to listen to a proud father speak grandiosely about the exploits of his son. After his defeat of Hammer, Hennessy held forth on Fury’s “brilliant” (an adjective repeatedly invoked) footwork, hand speed, knockout power, and ability to box orthodox and southpaw, after which he declared, implausibly, that even Lennox Lewis didn’t possess such rounded abilities. He also said that Fury’s body type and skills are more suited to the tall, modern heavyweight, of which the 6’6 Klitschko is the epitome. Hennessy is just doing his job here, but many of the elements he touched on will be regurgitated by professional and amateur analysts alike. From these elements, the mirage required to sell this fight will take its shape.
Hennessey’s take conjures imagery of a fleet-footed Fury boxing circles around the plodding Klitschko. Such a scenario is farfetched. Contrary to what Hennessy says, Fury is not a highly skilled boxer, nor a great puncher. He won his last four fights via stoppage, but in each instance the ‘knockout’ didn’t arrive through any one, particularly devastating shot, but by way of his opponent’s erosion. In other words, the 6’9, 260 pound Tyson allows his exceptional size advantage to overwhelm the other man over time, as it did against blown-up cruiserweight Steve Cunningham in 2013. Tellingly, Cunningham, a relatively feather-fisted boxer, almost knocked Tyson out when a cartoonishly-large bomb sent Fury to the mat in round two.
Klitschko is exceedingly more skilled, experienced, and powerful than anyone Fury has faced, and the interplay of size between these two mammoths will be a talking point prior to the bout. Like Fury, Klitschko uses his huge body to lean on and bully his opponents, an advantage he somewhat surrenders against the larger challenger. But, though Fury’s taller and weighs more, it’s difficult to envision him pushing Klitschko around, as the champion simply looks more solid and is unquestionably the bigger puncher. Wlad’s chin is seen as his Achilles Heel but he’s learned to shield it over time, and will that even factor against a man who doesn’t own true heavyweight power? It is rather Fury’s chin, not Klitschko’s, that is the bigger question mark.
What effect will Tyson’s punches even have? He flicks his jab and launches himself forward, often awkwardly, to throw his right hand, which seldom lands sharply. Fury might have his moments, but they should be fleeting and their effect minimal. Klitschko, meanwhile, works off of his devastating jab-power right, a combination that should easily pierce Tyson’s guard. Fury is not Floyd Mayweather, or a boxer so talented he can win on skill and guile alone. Eventually, he will have to stand and fight, and in such an unforgiving scenario he’ll be overwhelmed by a better man, whose power and skills will throw Fury into a hole from which his considerable heart won’t pull him out of.
What, then, should we expect? A fun promotion and an entertaining fight that will likely end with Fury unconscious. Tyson is a charismatic, enjoyable showman, who will enliven the buildup. He has leveraged a good record and a big mouth in getting himself here, as Klitschko noted this week. But while Fury and his father have always considered Tyson world class, Klitschko is world class, and will exploit all vulnerabilities. And so boxing fans should look forward to this bout, which should entertain at every stage. Just don’t subscribe to the myth that a big, profane Gypsy has the alchemy required to overcome “Dr. Steelhammer.”
— Eliott McCormick