Well, it’s official, former heavyweight champ Tyson Fury, 29, who hasn’t fought since November of 2015, announced he’ll be returning to the ring on June 9th at the Manchester Arena. The last time Fury laced them up he zigged and zagged and feinted the recognized top dog in the heavyweight division, Wladimir Klitschko, out of his IBF/WBO/WBA titles. No, Fury didn’t remind anyone of Joe Louis, or Lennox Lewis for that matter, but he fought a smart fight giving Klitschko doses of things he’d never been confronted with before and managed to get inside Wladimir’s head before and during the fight.
Shortly after conquering Klitschko, in a manner that wasn’t necessarily the announcing of a new era, Fury’s life came apart as he battled alcohol, drugs and depression. In the process he reportedly shot up to over 400 pounds. At the time beating Klitschko was all it took to be considered the man in boxing’s flagship division. However, during Fury’s excursion away from boxing, Anthony Joshua 21-0 (20) and Deontay Wilder 40-0 (39) succeeded him.
Joshua and Wilder have a more fan friendly style than Fury, but they both come up short in the personality department when measured against Tyson. Joshua has a ton more natural charisma and if he emerged among the trio as the best he would be the biggest star. But make no mistake about it, if Fury were to hand Joshua and Wilder their first career defeats during his return, his WWE antics and verbal hyperbole would enable him to overshadow any other heavyweight on the scene.
Fury is undefeated but because of his long exile and his fighting style being one that disarms and neutralizes his opponents instead of pounding them into submission, he doesn’t get his due credit in some circles for being such an effective fighter. And for those reasons, many observers will scoff at his return and that could be a mistake.
The First School of Thought:
By sitting out so long Fury has regained his hunger. Watching the UK fans follow Joshua around as if he’s the fifth Beatle no doubt gets under Fury’s skin. Yes, I’ve seen Tyson attract crowds on the street but if Joshua walked down the other side of it, Fury would witness a mass exodus from him to AJ. Sure, Fury likes to claim he’s the true champion but that’s only in his head. He knows it’s Joshua now, and not him, who is perceived as the baddest heavyweight on the block. And as much as he likes to boast that he beat Klitschko easier than did AJ, that’s not necessarily true. No, he didn’t get dropped or hit as much as Joshua did, but what most recall about Joshua’s fight with Wladimir is that AJ beat him up and dropped him three times and won by a convincing stoppage, something Fury never came close to doing to the disinterested version of Klitschko that he faced.
Tyson Fury is a great talker and promoter, but one thing about him that’s real is his confidence. I have no doubt that he sees gaping flaws in both Joshua and Wilder, especially after watching them against Joseph Parker and Luis Ortiz. In Joshua he sees a heavily muscled Adonis who was spooked and held on alert mode by a fighter whose double jabs missed and never were intended to land or score. They were sent Joshua’s way with the hope of convincing AJ not to bother him because he had something up his sleeve, and it worked. So Joshua never dared to become bold and was content with controlling the fight at a safe distance behind his jab and now Joseph Parker can claim for the rest of his life that he was the first to extend Joshua the distance.
In Wilder, Fury observed a fighter who really has nothing but awkwardness with some hand speed and a big right hand. He saw Wilder can be hit with jabs and crosses and if you just catch him clean you can hurt him. Sure he showed heart and fought back when the fight was slipping away, but that was against a fighter who was crowding 40 years old and was tiring. Fury, who’s only crowding 30, knows he’s the one with the more difficult style, complimented by even greater height and reach than Wilder. He no doubt sees Wilder as a guy he could light up just boxing him, and in Joshua he sees a guy he could get to emotionally, causing him to fight tentative and not let his hands go…and that’s all Fury needs.
The question is whether Fury can get back to almost what he was against Klitschko. And the answer to that is how bad does he want to? If he did, it is certainly plausible that he could out-box both Joshua and Wilder. Joshua would have the onus to do what Klitschko was too frustrated to attempt against Tyson, and that’s open up and make Fury fight to survive instead of boxing at the range and tempo he chooses. As for Wilder, he’d be reduced to looking to land a lottery punch while being out-boxed and tied up when he was close to getting something going.
For arguments sake, just for a moment, I’m going assume Fury gets back to near Klitschko form – and under that scenario I’d pick Fury to beat Wilder by decision and lose by decision to Joshua while in the process making Joshua look somewhat out of sorts the way Lennox Lewis looked at times on the night he fought Zeljko Mavrovic.
The Second School of Thought:
Tyson Fury is coming back to cash in, then check out, meaning he’s going to fight a few times against opposition with recognizable names that have no chance to compete, let alone beat him. His goal will be remaining undefeated and ultimately fighting Anthony Joshua for what will amount to his retirement fund. In this scenario, Fury has no intention of killing his body and trying to get back to what he was against Klitschko, fully realizing his name and undefeated record while being the man to beat the man is all that he’ll need to guarantee the fight with Joshua. In this money grab scenario, Fury has no interest or desire to fight Wilder unless he were to beat Joshua, and if he were to do that then everything changes….other than he continues fighting until he loses while earning a bigger purse with each bout.
If Tyson Fury is serious and can return to being close to the fighter he was against Klitschko, he’s capable of beating any heavyweight in the world, not so much because he’s a great fighter, because he’s not. What makes him a tough proposition is his size and reach, he’s almost Vitali Klitschko type awkward, and he has decent speed and knows how to box. He’s a guy who is impossible to look good against or to break down enough to really beat up. Unconventional fighters like Fury are every bit as tough to beat as are authentically great fighters. And Fury has the means to bring the best of the best down to his level and that’s a formidable asset.
If Fury is dead serious about regaining his previous form and recapturing his title, he shouldn’t be dismissed. But if he’s in it just for the money, which is very conceivable, then he’ll lose convincingly to Joshua and the writing will be on the wall long before that fight arrives.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
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