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ESPN Crew Talks Schwarz’ Chances, Fury’s Brilliance, Resurgent Heavyweight Division

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That Andy Ruiz win, yes, it certainly made Eddie Hearn blanch and Anthony Joshua is now at a career cross roads.

But for many of us, outside looking in, we actually feel a bit more buzz about the heavyweight division, because we realize that possibilities abound. Ruiz proved that underdogs still bark and bite and prevail…and though most think that German challenger Tom Schwarz can’t walk to same path and upend Tyson Fury on Saturday, in Las Vegas, on ESPN+…well, ya never know, until ya do.

ESPN’s on air boxing talent took part in a call to hype the Top Rank main event, and blow by blow bossman Joe Tessitore put into words his optimism surrounding the heavyweight scene. “What’s been happening in this division, with the major signings in this deal, Fury coming stateside, you just get the sense that we are right now in the early stages of what could be a golden era again in the division with depth and unpredictability and thrilling fights, dynamic characters. We feel that on Saturday night on ESPN+, the most dynamic and the biggest personality maybe right now in sports is ready to really shine,” Tess said.

He also gave fight fans some tidbits which should prove illuminating, perhaps, to you. “I will tell you that on this crew, we’ve all been involved for a long time in the sport, it’s noticeable to us things on two fronts in terms of when we use those words ‘awareness’ and ‘relevant’. There’s boxing and then there’s heavyweight boxing. Internally at ESPN, you see it on other platforms, these fights are covered differently. This week you see so much mainstream attention for Tyson Fury. I don’t think it’s by accident. I don’t think it’s because he’s the champion. This guy’s personality, this guy’s recent comebacks, the way he goes about his business with such authenticity, takes everything head on.”

Yes, when the heavyweight scene flourishes, more eyeballs come to the table. America loves their super sized everything, almost always has. That goes for pugilism, too; the little guys can help sustain a degree of relevancy, but nothing gets buzz popping like heavyweights.

Andre Ward, the former fighter who has come on as a superlative analyst, because he’s now less afraid to offend, he’s being more candid in his takes. (Of course, his job is but of course political in nature, he cannot be as unsparing in his critiques of the Top Rank/ESPN fare as perhaps he’d be inclined, were he speaking about another teams’ offerings.) “Just to speak a little bit about the main event, I’ll let Tim talk about the under cards, those fights. As you look at Schwarz, some people would say he doesn’t have a shot,” the Cali based Ward said on the media call. “On paper, it’s a tough ask for a fighter that hasn’t fought the competition of Tyson Fury. Also in the sport of boxing, all you can ask for is an opportunity and chance. Schwarz has his opportunity and chance come Saturday night. If you look at Tyson Fury, Dereck Chisora, he has fought some French contenders, but he hadn’t really fought the likes of Vladimir Klitschko. Not a lot of people gave him an opportunity either heading into that fight. Tyson Fury made his name and made his stance in the heavyweight division from that fight. The Germans are hoping that Tom Schwarz can do the same. It’s an exciting night. Tyson Fury has a lot to gain and a lot to lose if he performs or if he does not perform. Again, for the skeptics out there, who feel like this fight is a foregone conclusion, I’ve been on the record feeling as if Tyson Fury is going to handle Schwarz rather easily, we can’t help but look at what happened a couple weeks ago with Ruiz and Joshua. We just can’t.” Props to Ward for being honest in relating that he thinks Fury is two steps above the German…

And then ex hitter Tim Bradley, who has made noise of late about maybe gloving up again, weighed in:

“Just to piggyback what Dre (Andre Ward) was saying, the unexpected is always around us 24/7 baby. It is. The heavyweight division is back, like the ’90s, man. You know, the thing is that I got into boxing watching heavyweight boxing. When boxing is heavy, healthy, it’s exciting. It’s exciting for the whole sport. We have four guys right now, I honestly think we have more, Joshua, we also have Ruiz, we also have Wilder in there, then we have our guy here on ESPN Tyson Fury, baby. These guys are into a round-robin. There’s so much money to be made. These are the type of fights that no one knows who is going to win these matches. We can say whatever we want to say about each guy, we have every different shape and size. We have different personalities all the way across the board. I’m just happy, man, to be a part of this. I’m happy to be showcasing Fury and Schwarz this weekend. I think it’s going to be a great fight. I think a little differently. I think that Fury needs to have a good performance, a knockout would be beautiful, but I think he just needs to win. We all know the fight we want to see. We want to see the Wilder-Fury II. Fury has to take care of what he needs to do Saturday night, then Wilder needs to take care of Ortiz, we going to get that second match.”

I will take the opposite corner from Tim, though. Fury has a superb personality, but in this age, you wanna have it all. And “it all” means that winning is great, and the check is the same either way, but to maximize the hype and potential, he would want to stop Schwarz. KOs get buzz…KOs remove crappy judges from the equation…KOs better set the table for the next scrap. I confess, I didn’t at all like the vibe on display when Fury and Schwarz were making faces and vamping at the presser. It was like they were a duo, a performance duo, rather than rivals. I have a fear that Fury will treat this as an easy work outing, and handle Schwarz like he does a green sparring partner, and that viewers won’t be so entranced. I hope to be wrong.

Bradley quite often mentions the money, if you haven’t noticed. That subject popped up when a pressman asked if Fury is better than he was when he faced off with Wladinir Klitschko.

“I think he’s greater than. I think he’s confident. The fact that he got up when nobody gets up on Wilder’s right hand, is the fact that he’s a lot better now. He’s in a better place. Plus all the money they throwing at him. You can’t be more motivated when you getting that much money, that much bread. I’m telling you, man. You see how slim he is. He’s serious about this game. He’s always been serious. He’s always been a fighter. I know he had that two and a half years hiatus or off, but at the same time he’s back now. I think he’s a lot better now. I think he’s a lot quicker. I don’t know if you’ve been watching anything on YouTube or any of the press tour, what he’s been doing, the workouts he’s been doing. He’s quick, elusive, faster than ever, more powerful than ever.” I tend to think that the big payouts often make fighters less fun to watch, because they have more to lose, so they take less risks, because a stoppage loss makes it all up fro grabs. (See Joshua, Anthony.) Again, I hope to be wrong with this observation.

And the participants also got asked about matters off the main line. Like, might a thaw occur, might we be more likely to see more inter-promotional bouts, like a Crawford v Spence fight, if indeed we see the thaw happening, which leads up to Fury-Top Rank-ESPN doing business with Wilder-PBC. “I think there’s great hope. I’ll answer that first,” said Tessitore. “Obviously once you break through and you have people coming together on the network TV side, the promoter’s side and the advisor-manager side, a lot of this with Wilder and Fury, a lot of credit goes obviously to the promoters involved, but to Shelly Finkel, then folks involved in Top Rank, Creative Artists in L.A. But, yes, it does give hope. There’s a common sense to it. But I also think that the fighters have to sit there and say to themselves, what fight do I want and what defines me. They’re the ones that have to want it.”

Swinging back to the matter at hand…

“I think Schwarz definitely has a puncher’s chance,” Bradley said. “He has a right hand, packs a right hand. We’ve seen in the past Tyson Fury go down from right hands. We see him go down with Wilder’s right hand. Steve Cunningham knocks him down with a right hand. You also see Fury gets up, he gets up, then he dominates and finishes that round, then he comes back and knocks guys out or he wins the fight. You see the fight desire in Fury. I think experience alone through his whole career is going to help him in this fight. Schwarz is big enough, 6’6″, not small, not like Ruiz who is a small heavyweight. He’s big enough. But I think he lacks experience. I think he lacks speed. Like I said, he has a puncher’s chance. He doesn’t have the footwork or the IQ I believe to beat a guy like Tyson Fury.”

All in all, good stuff; these three have jelled, and mix humor and insight and candor and yes, some political correctness that has to be expected in this age. Anyway; your thoughts, readers, on this fight, and the takes put forth by Tess, Dre and Timmy…

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About Michael Woods

Editor/publisher Michael Woods became addicted to boxing in 1990, when Buster Douglas shocked the world with his demolition of the fearsome Mike Tyson. The Brooklyn-based journalist Woods has covered the sport since then, for ESPN The Magazine, ESPN.com, ESPN New York, RING, and he was editor of TheSweetScience.com from 2007-2015. Woods is also an accomplished blow by blow and color man, having done work for Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment, EPIX, and numerous other organizations.

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