There are many weight classes, but the heavyweights have always been and will always be boxing’s marquee division.
Saturday night at the ESPRIT arena in Düsseldorf, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany, WBA/IBF/WBO/IBO heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko (64-3, 53 KOs), from Kiev, Ukraine, by way of Zhangiztobe, Kazakhstan, defends his titles against undefeated Tyson Fury (24-0, 18 KOs), the entertaining contender from Wilmslow, Cheshire, United Kingdom.
Undefeated for over a decade and closing in on Joe Louis’ record of 25 heavyweight title defenses, Klitschko is a formidable presence. But he is cautious. He rarely throws uppercuts. He does not punch to the body. And his chin is questionable. But the 6-foot-6-inch Klitschko has more than enough strengths to counter his liabilities. He is always in shape. He moves beautifully. He has a powerful jab and a booming right hand that knocks challengers down and out.
Yet for all his virtues, Wladimir, unlike his older brother Vitali, is not a natural born killer Like Joe Louis, he is a manufactured killer who learned his lessons well and applied them with diligence. But unlike Joe Louis, who was a real fighter, Klitschko’s reluctance to engage often makes his matches less than scintillating. There is a numbing sameness to his performances. They are coolly efficient but rarely inspired. Maybe Fury, with his attempts at humiliating the champ, will encourage Klitschko to fight with more urgency. Maybe Fury has succeeded in rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
Fury has wanted this fight forever and is finally getting his wish. He is not as annoying as David Haye, who smirked his way through the pre-fight and ran like the dickens when he had his chance. But Fury has gotten under many people’s skin, except perhaps the skin of the one man that matters.
Whether it was the Batman stunt or calling Klitschko a devil worshipper or the never-ending issues with gloves, boots, and canvas, Fury has made the most of his time in the limelight. Even non-boxing fans, whoever those poor souls might be, are at least aware of the 27-year-old, 6-foot-9-inch upstart.
But when one strips away the theatrics and silly pronouncements, what exactly remains? Fury, for all his bluster, has yet to fight a top 10 contender. Granted, he has beaten everybody he has fought and often knocked them out, but that everybody includes Martin Rogan, Vinny Maddalone and Kevin Johnson in 2012, blown-up cruiserweight Steve Cunningham in 2013, chunky Joey Abell and Dereck Chisora in 2014, and Christian Hammer in February of this year.
Each of them is a genuine tough guy, but they are trial horses. None even qualifies as a gatekeeper. Fury may have honed his skills at their expense, thereby earning this shot at the title. They cannot, however, be compared to the man he faces tonight.
Boxing is boxing and anything can happen. It’s the nature of the beast. But Fury is facing a skilled and accomplished titleholder who takes no prisoners. Fury’s beard will be put to the test. Maybe he has an IED waiting to explode on Klitschko’s chin. He had better, or he won’t be singing Danny Boy at the end of the fight.
He’ll be singing for his supper.
The championship fight between Wladimir Klitschko and Tyson Fury will be televised live on HBO starting at 4:45 PM ET/PT.
This article was penned by the author who is not related to the WBA and the statements, expressions or opinions referenced herein are that of the author alone and not the WBA.