It’s hard to improve on Shakespeare. So let the immortal bard speak to Tyson Fury’s upset of Wladimir Klitschko last night in Dusseldorf, Germany, to claim the heavyweight throne: “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” (Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5)
Those are harsh words. But Klitschko-Fury was a dreadful fight that came on the heels of an embarrassing promotion that showed how far boxing has fallen.
There was a time when the heavyweight championship of the world was the most coveted title in sports. But those days are long gone. Few people other than hardcore boxing fans now know or care who the multiple sanctioning-body champions are.
Within that environment, Wladimir Klitschko offered a safe harbor of sorts.
Klitschko is 6-feet-6-inches tall and fights at between 240 and 249 pounds. Now 39, he has been the dominant heavyweight of the past decade. Prior to facing Fury, Wladimir had amassed a 63-and-3 record with 53 knockouts and been unbeaten over the past eleven years. During that period, he successfully defended his various championship belts eighteen times.
“Anybody can become a champion for one fight,” Klitschko said at a July 21, 2015, press conference in Dusseldorf announcing his title defense against Fury. “It’s really tough to be a champion for a long, long time. It’s challenging. It’s systematic preparation, plan, and experience.”
Fury, age 27, stands close to 6-feet-9-inches tall and has weighed in as high as 270 pounds. Prior to fighting Klitschko, he was unbeaten in 24 bouts with 18 knockouts but had yet to face an elite fighter. The most notable victories on his ledger were two lethargic decision triumphs over Dereck Chisora.
The second Fury-Chisora fight was particularly disheartening. Tyson entered the ring with flab around his waist and looked like a man who’d spent most of training camp eating bangers and mash. It was a dreadful boring encounter. Fury (an orthodox fighter) was content to stand back and jab from a southpaw stance, which he did for most of the night. Chisora came forward and went backward in a straight line without doing much else. After eleven rounds, Dereck got tired of being jabbed in the face and quit.
Fury’s size and reach can be intimidating. But he paws with his jab and brings it back slowly and low, which leaves him vulnerable to righthand counters. He also stands within hitting range too often with his hands down and chin up.
There are times when Fury’s mindset evokes images of the man he was named after: Mike Tyson.
Several years ago in a profile for The Guardian, Donald McRae wrote of the darkness and depression that are constant themes in Fury’s life. His father was a violent man who served time in prison for an assault that cost another man his eye. Among the thoughts that Fury shared with McRae were:
* “There is a name for what I have where, one minute I’m happy and the next minute I’m sad, like commit-suicide sad. And for no reason; nothing’s changed. One minute I’m over the moon, and the next minute I feel like getting in my car and running it into a wall at a hundred miles an hour. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m messed up. I think I need a psychiatrist because I do believe I’m mentally disturbed. Maybe it was the fact that, when I was a kid, my mother and father were always shouting and screaming and hitting each other. My dad had different women and different kids down the road. My mum had fourteen pregnancies, but only four of us survived. We had a little sister born for a few days and she died. That would affect you.”
* “I love boxing. I can’t wait for the moment I step into the ring. I feel calm then. It’s like everything has been forgotten. It’s just me and him and we’re going to go at it old school. But after that, it’s back to the reality and feeling angry with life.”
* “I’m British and Commonwealth champion. I’m doing OK. I’ve got a few quid in the bank. I shouldn’t be upset. But I don’t feel I’ve done any good at all. I thought, when the children were born, it would be a top thing. And when I became English champion, I thought there’d be a great feeling. But no. I thought, ‘Let me win the British title.’ But after I took that off Chisora, there was nothing. At the end of the day, what have I done? I’ve beaten another man up in a fight. I don’t know what I want out of life. What’s the point of it all?”
Klitschko-Fury was originally slated for October 24. Then, on September 25, it was announced that Klitschko had suffered a partially torn tendon in his left calf and the fight was rescheduled November 28.
Fury expressed confidence in the months leading up to the bout. But there was a touch of lunacy in his comments.
At the initial pre-fight press conference in Dusseldorf, Fury addressed Klitschko as follows: “Ich bin Tyson Fury, the sexy meister from the United Kingdom. I’m a unique fighter, one of a kind. There’s never been someone like me before in history. A fighter like me only comes along every one thousand years. It is my mission to rid boxing of you because you’re a boring old man. You have as much charisma as my underpants. Zero. None. You’re a wrinkled old man with a glass chin, and I am going to make that glass explode like a bottle hitting a wall. You’re fucked. I don’t care about money. I don’t care about my legacy or going down in history. I just want to smash your old face, and I don’t give a fuck what anybody thinks because I don’t give a fuck about being a role model. This clit is getting licked on October 24th.”
On September 23, Fury attended a promotional press conference in London dressed in a Batman costume, called Klitschko “a clown,” and proclaimed, “You fought plenty of peasants. You never fought The King before. You ain’t nothing. Whatever you are, I don’t know. An army sergeant, it looks like it, or a school teacher. You definitely ain’t a fighter. You’re getting knocked out. I can’t wait for this. Please, God, I wish it was this weekend.”
Suffice it to say, it’s hard to imagine Joe Louis or Rocky Marciano wearing a Batman costume to a press conference.
At times, Fury conjured images of the demented killer in a Halloween massacre movie. Other times, he sounded like a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.
On Sunday, November 8, Fury told the Daily Mail, “We live in an evil world. The devil is very strong at the minute, very strong, and I believe the end is near. The Bible tells me the end is near. The world tells me the end is near. Just a short few years, I reckon, away from being finished. There are only three things that need to be accomplished before the devil comes home. One of them is homosexuality being legal in countries. One of them is abortion. And the other one is pedophilia. When I say pedophiles can be made legal, that sounds like crazy talk, doesn’t it? But back in the fifties and early- sixties, for them first two to be made legal would have been looked on as crazy.”
“To be honest with you,” Fury continued, “I know Klitschko is a devil-worshipper. They are involved in bigger circles and stuff like that and they do magic tricks and whatever. You can go on YouTube and watch them playing with magic. God will not let him defeat me.”
Next, Fury told Boxing News, “The only thing I ever regret in life is having sex before marriage. If I could erase, that then my life would be practically perfect. I regret all the filth that you do with people. I must have had sex with over five hundred women, more, I don’t know, I’ve lost count. But it’s pure filth and horribleness. I look at that now as pure disgusting.”
Then Fury added, “My daughter won’t have an education because, our way of life, we don’t need one, especially women. They grow up, they get married, and they look after the man. I’d like to give my son an education rather than being a hustler. I don’t expect my son to follow in my footsteps. I think he’s got to go to school, get a proper education, and go from there.”
For good measure, seventeen days before the fight, Fury posted a video on his Twitter account that showed him head-butting a watermelon in half and intoning, “This is for you, Wlad. I’m coming for you.”
In response, Klitschko declared that Fury had “a brain the size of a walnut” and told him at the press conference in London, “I have got friends from the circus industry. They can give you a job as a clown. Clowns make people laugh. It is their job. And right now, after watching this theater, the screaming, the running and the costumes, it is in your genes.”
And on a September 19 teleconference call, Klitschko opined, “We need to go little bit deeper in Tyson Fury’s issues. There’s a lot of psychological issues here in Tyson Fury’s mind. I think he’s bipolar. He’s not really knowing what he’s going to do next. That speaks to me as a person that is psychologically unstable.”
The fight was contested in the ESPRIT Arena with 50,000 fans in attendance. Fury weighed in at 246.4 pounds, Klitschko at 245.3. Wladimir was a 4-to-1 betting favorite.
It was a stultifyingly, horribly boring fight. Both men fought cautiously. Long stretches of time went by with neither man throwing, let alone landing, a significant punch. Fury fought with his hands down and launched long lazy punches that begged for a righthand counter. But Wladimir seemed content to evade punches rather than throw them.
Both men threw a lot of stay-away-from-me jabs rather than punching with conviction. Fury circled and moved side-to-side for most of the night, which kept Klitschko from setting his feet to punch with power.
In round five, Klitschko was cut under the left eye by an accidental head butt. In round nine, another clash of heads opened a cut on the right side of his forehead. There were rounds that were hard to score for either fighter because Fury did nothing and Klitschko, if such a thing is possible, did sub-nothing.
In round eleven, referee Tony Weeks deducted a point from Fury for punching to the back of the head. Tyson landed a meager 86 punches over the course of twelve rounds, while Wladimir landed 52. Klitschko’s performance seems even more passive in light of the fact that all but eighteen of the punches he landed were jabs and he scored with only four body blows.
HBO commentator Jim Lampley referenced Klitschko’s effort as “a truly dreadful performance.” Fury’s wasn’t much better.
This writer scored the bout 115-113 (seven rounds to four with one even) in favor of Fury. The judges’ scorecards were comparable: 115-112, 115-112, and 116-111.
After the decision was announced, Fury grabbed a microphone in ring center, accepted the victory “in the mighty name of Jesus,” and sang Don’t Want To Miss A Thing, which he dedicated to his wife.
Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at email@example.com. His most recent book – A Hurting Sport: An Inside Look at Another Year in Boxing – was published by the University of Arkansas Press.