DUSSELDORF – “Some things are always the same at these press conferences, but some things are also always new,” said Wladimir Klitschko at some point during the extended conversation, some incendiary, between he and Tyson Fury at their initial media gathering.
That statement is quite true, and in this instance some of those new things cast a better illumination on what to expect from each personality as the Klitschko – Fury saga unfolds.
It seemed appropriate that the participants emphasized mental aspects of their contest, which appears to pit opposite personality types who may actually be of more similar philosophies than they generally present.
If mind games are the first meaningful engagement before a fight itself, then Klitschko’s heavyweight title defense on October 24th at ESPRIT Arena could be quite unique.
Unique, as in a slugging scenario in which the usually unflappable Klitschko faces serious problems. Klitschko was the usual epitome of class, but he seemed a little uptight, out of character.
Fury might have stung him with some eye-to-eye criticism, but that also seemed to fuel Klitschko’s ferocity in a dangerous way. By the final third of the nearly three-hour session, he eyed Fury like a shark.
Trying to evaluate fighters’ psyches as they attempt to get into each other’s head is often an exercise in folly, but if such psychological analysis could always be accurately determined before the first punches land it would sure help tell me which way to bet.
When they glanced calmly at each other arriving on the podium, Klitschko leaned over to shake hands and Fury responded with a polite smile, indicating a mellow demeanor. His team was very respectful to Klitschko and to their German hosts.
Until provoked, Fury’s comments were relatively mild. “I have to give credit to the older champion for taking on a challenge like myself. I’m just wondering, after I beat him, does his TV deal roll over to me?” pondered Fury, not so much tongue in cheek as money in bank.
An opening, super hi-def montage with multiple clips of Fury making derogatory remarks made Fury look bemused. Klitschko’s montage showed numerous prefight promises by previous opponents. In case anybody missed the point there were high slow motion replays of each challenger’s face getting rearranged.
It was the champion who shook matters up later, repeating passive-aggressive prods like, “Fury right now isn’t everything he shows, just portions. I hope it’s going to get more entertaining because I was a little disappointed. Is this it? He didn’t throw the table, or a microphone or maybe a shoe? We used to get flying shoes here (Shannon Briggs).”
Interesting that the European urban dictionary seems to define those press conference outbursts as “Amerikanisch”.
For his part, Klitschko offered biographical musings on a wide range of subjects. He is an aged vintage, Fury is a shot and a beer.
“It was always challenging to find the right key to beating my opponents, but it is also motivation to myself,” continued Klitschko reflectively, while Fury seemed to suppress a yawn. “He really means what he’s talking about and he’s definitely not coming here just to be present and be on the canvas.” Those words didn’t hide the unspoken dismissal of the challenger’s chances.
“The first time I heard about Tyson Fury was a running joke about a guy punching himself in the face,” said Klitschko as Fury began to look less cordial. “He sings, he dances, he’s a cool dude, so entertaining. Some people adore him and some say they can’t stand him.”
When Klitschko stated “I haven’t seen much (film) of his fights, only a little bit.” Fury growled, “He’s lying.”
Maybe we lost it in translation, but it sounded like Wlad almost took a swipe at beloved mentor Emanuel Steward, when Klitschko referenced Papa Kronk’s supposed prediction of fighters like Fury becoming champion someday.
Therein lies what we believe was the reason for Dr. Steelhammer’s more aggressive than usual stance at the press conference. It seemed like he felt a lack of respect from Fury, the media, maybe even the fans.
“Anybody can become champion quick, for one fight. It’s very tough to be champion for a long, long time,” said Klitschko, staring harshly.
“I think this is going to be the toughest fight of your life, I think it is not going to be simple for you. I also believe I am going to face one of my toughest opponents. Just your size and your stance, switching from southpaw to regular, is going to be a challenge. But I’ll be ready, that I can promise. I wish you fast healing.”
Fury understood that announced butt-kicking time. A subdued light in his eyes turned into fire as he became incensed, little by little.
Klitschko’s shtick on this cranial chessboard cited sports psychology academics, referencing “therapy” to make unstable Fury a better person ala Klitschko’s fight against David Haye. Not the most brazen posture, but it incensed Fury, who launched into a raging half soliloquy on Klitscko’s lack of fistic virtue.
“It’s a personal mission for me to rid boxing of a boring person like you,” Said Fury. “I could have fallen asleep listening to your sheepish talk. I ain’t interested in all the titles, all the belts you’ve got on that table. I’m interested in breaking your face in, that’s what I‘m interested in.
“Your jab and grab style, surely all of Europe wants to see you get beaten, and the rest of the world will see you get beaten. You have about as much charisma as my underpants, zero.
“You’re a ‘sports psychologist’, speaks 37 different languages, so what? You’re still a boring person. I am the new blood in the division, you’re an old man. You’ve got grey hair like my trainer and my manager. You’ve got wrinkles in your face. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve had Botox as well. It is what it is, you look old.
“You can have as many idiots on that television as you want, all them stupid Americans that’s got no gas. They run out of steam after five rounds. It’s a known fact that if you take these American guys six or seven rounds they fall on the ground, out of energy. I have the American style with the European conditioning, and that equals you’re (“in trouble”).
“History does not lie. History says all old champions move over for the new ones. Is this man better than all the great champions of the past? I think not. And all the great champions of the past, at 39 years old, are on the decline. You are nothing and you’re getting knocked out.
“I don’t care about being a role model, I don’t care about going down in history. All I care bout is beating you. I dream about knocking your head off. How dare you mention my name in the same sentence with David Haye.
“I’ll hire you to be my therapist after I knock you out because you’ll need a job. I’m unpredictable, and all you types hate unpredictability. So right now I’m already inside your mind. How’s that for psychology?”
The suddenly heated rhetoric concluded, Klitschko acted pleased that Fury was finally pumping the promotion. Still, intensity lingered. Fury delivered an impersonal, hilariously filthy one-liner that he was probably saving to close the show, so how much of his indignation was actually sincere remains unclear.
But their second handshake was much less cordial than the first. As in ice cold.
As they next made their way onto the bright stadium field for photos, Fury paused amidst a mass of multi-colored seats to glance toward the open roof, a pair of gigantic fight posters underneath. Contemplating that looming image was one of the few times Fury looked completely serious all afternoon.
From the sound and look of things with just a few people around, Fury was respectful of Klitschko but had gotten under his skin.
There was another serious moment for Fury as he waited between TV interviews, watching Klitschko, twenty feet away, interact seamlessly with the media. “Look at him,” Fury said, almost wistfully, listing Klitschko’s achievements. “I can’t be that guy. I don’t want to be that guy.”
First impression odds considering only physiques and personas observed at press conference and photo shoot: pick ‘em.
Odds including prior knowledge of fighter performances: Klitschko 5 – 1 favorite.
Odds considering only Klitschko performance against Bryant Jennings: Klitschko – 250 (almost 3-1 favorite).
Odds considering only Fury performance against Steve Cunningham: Klitschko 10 – 1 favorite.
Odds on Fury to impress: 2 – 1 for.
Odds on Klitschko to impress: 3 – 1 for.
Klitschko by decision: even / pick ‘em.
Klitschko by KO: 3 – 1 for.
Fury by Decision: 15 – 1 against.
Fury by KO: 5 – 1 against.
Draw: 50-1 against.
Disqualification: 5 – 1 against.
Visiting Brits to handle their beer as well as the locals: 1000 – 1 against.
At first glance, this bout looks anywhere between one of Klitschko’s patented dominant performances and one of his surprising debacles. It would be careless of him to use any different method than he has recently. Can Fury force him out of that conking comfort zone?
Fury’s uncovered arms looked bigger than Klitschko’s while Klitschko was in a slightly padded suit.
Which brings us back to early predictions. Obviously, each man will likely play true to their general form, without many exchanges during the first minutes. The more typically they fight, the more it favors Klitschko, and his chances for a late round KO, but something hints this will not be a typical Klitschko fight.
Don’t be surprised if Klitschko switches stances or charges out more aggressively, especially if there are any new additions to his training camp. If Fury responds well to some unusual tactic, it is not impossible to visualize a multi-knockdown brawl, maybe the first one in either Klitschko’s career in which each fighter gets dropped.
As they were walking off the pitch, somebody asked Fury, who’d been playing around with a soccer ball photo prop, how he was with the football.
“I’m great at everything I do,” he replied sternly, then smiled with a nod and a wink.
The real Fury is somewhere between that casually intense character who narrowed his gaze at Klitschko on the pitch and the guy who took a humble, extended glance at his own image on the huge arena billboards.
That’s pretty serious elevation, even if you’re 6’8.
Whether that guy can generate near enough power or pressure to make things interesting, let alone highly competitive, against an elite champion like Klitschko is just one of many factors probably on each fighter’s mind, right about now.