I can’t remember ever watching a heavyweight championship fight and simultaneously laughing and crying at the same time. Which is precisely what I did during the Wladimir Klitschko 64-4 (53) vs. Tyson Fury 25-0 (18) championship bout this past Saturday. I should’ve trusted my initial instincts which screamed at me to watch the “Iron Bowl” also known as Alabama vs. Auburn.
Can you even say it with a straight face – “Tyson Fury heavyweight boxing champion of the world?!” There have been some very limited heavyweight champs over the past 100 years. But at least you could say Jess Willard was as strong as an Ox, Max Baer’s right hand was a genuine life-taker. Leon Spinks at his best was non-stop aggression, Buster Douglas could box and punch a little bit when in supreme shape and John Ruiz was as tough and determined as a fighter could be. Whereas Tyson Fury can’t break an egg, he isn’t aggressive and he certainly can’t box like Douglas and I doubt he has the grit and determination of Ruiz.
It’s been said in this space for years that Wldimir Klitschko doesn’t like fist or the threat of them flying around or near his face. So much so that whether the opponent is big or small relative to him, if they throw bombs or even threaten to do so, he’ll stall and clinch and look to punch when he thinks it’s safe. And that was certainly evidenced during the 12 uneventful rounds Klitschko spent in the ring with Fury trying to hold onto his IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight titles. It’s hard to fathom after watching him fight Tyson Fury that Wladimir Klitschko held the heavyweight title for nine consecutive years. Longer than Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Larry Holmes, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis. Only the immortal Joe Louis’ reign of 12 consecutive years is longer than Klitschko’s.
Prior to the bout I couldn’t pick Fury to win, but I felt he was a live underdog because of his awkwardness and the fact that Wladimir was aging in dog-years. It was shockingly amazing to see Klitschko blunted and stunted by Fury’s lateral movement, feints and clinching. It was apparent Wladimir was truly bothered and troubled by a fighter with equal height and reach to him. He was also a sitting duck, due to his lack of head movement, to Fury’s telegraphed looping right hands to the head. Klitschko showed that he is utterly clueless at cutting off the ring, and won’t cut loose with his right hand, perhaps the biggest single power shot in professional boxing, unless his target is stationary or moving into him. And the thought of trying to bang Fury to the body or on the inside when Tyson was attempting to wrap him up in a clinch was nonexistent. It was always noted that Wladimir couldn’t fight on the inside, something that would’ve paid huge dividends against a giraffe like Fury.
One hates to admonish a fighter who has accomplished so much as Klitschko has since turning pro nearly 20 years ago, but let’s be honest, watching that bout, did you see any evidence that Fury can throw any punch other than a jab? His left hook is a slap, he has no uppercut and his right hand you can see coming a mile away. Yet Klitschko stood in front of Fury and instead of initiating the action, he waited and flinched at every flimsy feint by Fury. Wladimir was frozen offensively by Tyson’s amateurish bouncing around the ring with his hands down by his hips. And one must ask why? Because the few times Fury did manage to get through with a wild looping right hand, Wladimir wasn’t the least bit shook. Oh, his nerves caused him to become undone some but he wasn’t visibly hurt, and yet he still wouldn’t let his hands go.
In round 10 when Klitschko realized the fight was slipping away he looked to pick it up, and even then he was a half-step too far away because he wasn’t willing to commit himself to engaging without his focus mostly on getting out without being touched or hit in the process. Perhaps the most troubling thing about the fight was, not only did Klitschko get schooled by a fighter whose biggest asset is height/length and awkwardness, it was the way he let round after round go by and refused to fight like a wounded animal in trying to hold onto his title and prevent the perception observers have of him from falling further than it has in the eyes of many over the years. Can anyone imagine “Smokin” Joe Frazier or Evander Holyfield relinquishing their title to Tyson Fury with such little resistance or fight? I know I can’t.
As fighters, Wladimir Klitschko can do everything in the ring that a fighter can be asked to do over another better than Tyson Fury. Yet Fury showed up doing a cheap impression of Muhammad Ali via his antics and mockery while circling to the left and Klitschko was clearly stymied. Had Klitschko been able to land one good right hand and shake Fury, Tyson would’ve lost some of his nerve and Wladimir’s confidence would’ve escalated. But that never happened and Fury’s confidence grew with each passing round as Klitschko became an interested observer.
After 12-rounds of inept boxing, two things are clear. Wladimir Klitschko won’t fight and Tyson Fury can’t fight, at least not at the championship level despite waking up this morning as world heavyweight champion. He’s just very lucky to have been in with a fighter like Wladimir Klitschko who has gone back physically as a fighter. And on this night demonstrated that when he doesn’t own every physical advantage conceivable over his opponent, is very limited and physically handcuffed by his mental trepidation.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedGFist@Gmail.com