Newspapers in England are reporting that the rematch between Tyson Fury and Wladimir Klitschko will be held at the 20,000-seat Manchester Arena on July 9. The bout will be televised in the U.K. on BoxNation, a broadcasting company owned by long-time British boxing promoter Frank Warren. In what is considered something of a coup, Warren outbid rival SKY for the rights to televise the fight. Fury, the lineal heavyweight champion, will be defending his WBA Super and WBO World heavyweight belts. The IBF belt was also at stake in the first meeting, but isn’t in play here as the organization does not recognize rematch clauses.
The first meeting was held in Dusseldorf on Nov. 28, 2015, before an announced crowd of 50,000. Fury sprung the upset via unanimous decision to end one of the longest title reigns in boxing history. Wladimir Klitschko won a version of the heavyweight title in 2006 and entered the contest riding a 22-fight winning streak.
Fury-Klitschko I, in the words of Thomas Hauser, was “a stultifyingly, horribly boring fight.” Longtime boxing broadcaster Jim Lampley described Klitschko’s performance as “truly dreadful.” Many in England, “the cradle of pugilism,” saw the fight through a different set of eyes. Thirsting for a homegrown lineal British heavyweight champion, they reacted as if Fury had just emerged victorious from a skirmish every bit as lusty as the Thrilla in Manila.
Fury, who quit school at age 11, is a member of the Irish Traveler community, a sub-group disparaged as uncivilized by a large segment of the English population. He has been chastised for homophobic and misogynistic opinions, but yet one can fairly say that Tyson Fury is one of England’s most popular sportsmen. He is articulate, has an appealingly snarky sense of humor, and is having fun with his new-found fame in a way that harkens to the young Muhammad Ali.
The first Fury-Klitschko match was pushed back five weeks when Klitschko suffered a partially torn tendon in his left calf. Fury is currently dealing with a back problem. “Every time I get punched in the back, it goes like a spasm, like a trapped nerve,” says the Englishman, adding that it’s very painful.
Fury’s “home field advantage” in Manchester is huge. He is a devoted fan of the Manchester United soccer team. Several years ago, he said that his fondest wish was to someday fight at Old Trafford, the team’s 70,000-seat soccer stadium. A potential conflict at the venue forced the fight indoors.
Wladimir Klitschko isn’t getting any younger. He turned 40 on March 25. By contrast, Tyson Fury, at age 27, is seemingly in his prime. But there will be plenty of people looking to back the would-be avenger who will undoubtedly go to post the underdog.