Fury’s Center Ring Ali Imitation Toward Wilder – It’s said that imitation is one of the biggest forms of flattery. In professional boxing it started with Muhammad Ali imitating wrestler Gorgeous George. You know the routine – get in a future adversary’s face and make all kind of threats while pretending to be restrained from getting your hands on him. Ali observed Gorgeous George play the role of a perfect heel and used the script to get a fight with heavyweight champion Sonny Liston back in 1964. In fact, Ali’s “let me at him” theatrics worked so well that there was actually interest in the fight despite the fact that there were only four or five boxing fans on the planet who believed that the boxer then known as Cassius Clay would be around for the start of round two.
Ali launched his campaign after Sonny knocked out former champ Floyd Patterson in the first round of their rematch in July of 1963, ten months after beating Patterson for the title the previous year. Ali was in the ring, making threats and issuing challenges, even before Sonny had his hand raised in victory. Liston didn’t respond in kind, but it was evident by the look on his face that he was bothered at being upstaged by the young and unproven challenger who he didn’t take seriously as a worthy opponent. The closed circuit television audience witnessed Ali’s antics and five months later he and Liston fought for the title.
In the aftermath of WBC heavyweight title holder Deontay Wilder’s ninth round knockout over Artur Szpilka, lineal heavyweight champ Tyson Fury 25-0 (18) imitated Ali and went right after Wilder 36-0 (35) as he was being interviewed in the ring. And you know what? I was intrigued by the show Fury put on for the Showtime audience. Prior to Fury’s rehearsed routine I hadn’t much interest in watching Fury fight Wilder, but after seeing his WWE skit, I shamelessly admit my interest has escalated.
To summarize the dialogue between the two fighters – it went something like this…..Wilder called Fury a bum and said I’ll come to your backyard, my man…..and Fury retorted “anytime, anywhere” and called Wilder a bum before gracefully moving away. When Jim Gray resumed the interview, Wilder said Fury isn’t a real fighter and that he, Deontay, doesn’t play, this is real, it isn’t wrestling. And as he was saying that, Fury was taking off his vest and pretending that he was ready to fight then and there. Then Wilder said when they step into that ring, “I will baptize you.”
In all, the theatrics took roughly a minute and a half, and will no doubt serve as the launching pad for sparking interest in a proposed Fury-Wilder bout as long as neither loses before the contracts are signed for them to meet. And if you doubt the interest stirred by Fury’s act, the YouTube clip of their post-fight exchange had over 870,000 views and over 1300 comments posted as of Sunday night, Jan. 17, roughly 24 hours after the conclusion of the telecast.
Regardless of what you may think of Fury as a fighter, he must be accepted and recognized as the real heavyweight boxing champion. In his last bout he defeated Wladimir Klitschko 64-4 (53). The universally recognized champion at the time, Klitschko hadn’t in lost 11 years, turning back nearly two dozen challengers before losing to Fury. The 6’7″ Wilder holds the WBC version of the title, the one that Wladimir’s older brother Vitali had a stranglehold on before retiring in 2012. So in Fury vs. Wilder, you have the two fighters who succeeded the Klitschko brothers, two big men physically, both undefeated, but about whom there are many unanswered questions.
It also doesn’t hurt that both Fury and Wilder love to talk and be the center of attention. And in this case it isn’t necessarily a determent that there are legitimate questions concerning both of them as upper-tier title holders, which makes the impending clash all that more anticipated. Ironically, in the eyes of the public and most boxing observers, Fury and Wilder are thought of as being flawed fighters – which basically levels the field as to who should be considered the favorite. Fury beat Wladimir Klitschko when he was 39 and hadn’t looked all that impressive in his last few bouts. As for Wilder, his best win came in his title wining effort against Bermane Stiverne a year ago. Fury is 6’9″ and awkward and difficult to fight. Wilder is supposedly one of the biggest single shot punchers in boxing who also lacks sound defense and stamina. So as you can see, anything is possible once they touch hands and try to impose themselves on the other.
In all honesty I hadn’t thought for one moment about how a fight between Fury and Wilder would go. That all changed when Tyson Fury jumped into the ring and tried to upstage Deontay Wilder moments after he just may have landed the knockout punch of the year…and it was only January 16th. That’s why if Fury beats Klitschko when they fight a rematch later this year, and Wilder can get past his mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin in his next defense, Fury-Wilder will be become a must-see heavyweight championship bout.
I shamelessly admit that Fury’s WWE shenanigans at center ring after Wilder-Szpilka sparked my interest in seeing Tyson and Deontay confront each other with a majority of the heavyweight hardware on the line. Never did I think I could be lured and tempted with sizzle over substance. Then again I suppose it’s a good thing that they bring some electricity to what has been a dormant division for more than a decade.
But then again, you know there’s a problem when what they do outside the ring is more interesting than what they do inside it. And that no doubt has a lot to do with the fact that Tyson Fury is the perfect heel and bad guy!
Frank Lotierzo can reached at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
Check out this video about the heavyweight division at The Boxing Channel