The big man is back. Former unified heavyweight champion Tyson “Gypsy King” Fury (27-0-0, 19KOs) has fought twice in the past three months and will leap into a world title fight before the end of the year. His return to the sport is now getting serious after his 31 month absence from boxing.
Easing himself back against cruiserweight Sefer Seferi in June before lacing them up against Francesco Pianeta, an actual heavyweight, last Saturday, Fury is once again front and centre in the minds of boxing fans. His next move – agreeing to face undefeated WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder before the year is out – has sparked conversation and debate in boxing circles and beyond.
Is it too early in his return for Fury to be a legitimate threat to hand Wilder his first defeat? Is Fury just seeking a cash out fight against the huge hitting American? Can Fury hand out a boxing lesson and win? Has Fury been planning a quick attempt at winning a world strap all along? Many questions for which there are many answers depending on who you speak to. Below is some background and my attempt at presenting my thoughts on this interesting development.
Almost as soon as Fury won the WBA “Super,” WBO and IBF portions of the heavyweight crown by upsetting Wladimir Klitschko in Germany in November 2015 things started going wrong for him.
The IBF quickly stripped the English boxer of their belt as he signed a rematch contract with Klitschko instead of facing their mandatory challenger. The rematch was postponed after Fury injured his ankle training in June 2016. The re-arranged date was then cancelled when Fury admitted to not being well enough to compete due to mental health issues.
While this was happening we found out that Fury had another on-going problem. A UK Anti-Doping Agency release informed the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBC) that Fury had submitted a sample containing nandrolone. Fury's licence was revoked by the BBBC and it seemed his troubles were mounting. Throughout this time Fury maintained his innocence regarding ingesting the banned substance.
In a revealing interview with Rolling Stone in October 2016 Fury went into detail regarding his mental health along with confessing the extent of his drug and alcohol abuse which had been speculated on in numerous reports: “They say I've got a version of bipolar. I'm manic depressive. I just hope someone kills me before I kill myself. I've not been training. I've been out drinking, Monday to Friday to Sunday and taking cocaine. I can't deal with it and the only thing that helps me is when I get drunk out of my mind.”
A consequence of this unhealthy lifestyle was huge weight gain. Even on Fury's 6'9″ frame the reported 350lbs he was carrying looked mightily chunky. Fury was out of boxing and seriously out of shape. Something had to change.
It must have taken a lot of mental strength but Fury eventually got himself back into the gym towards the end of 2017. Seemingly dealing with his mental health, the boxer could now concentrate on getting back to work.
The months passed and Fury, his licence reinstated, weighed in at 276lbs for his comeback fight against Sefer Seferi in Manchester. The date was June 9, 2018. 924 days since the Klitschko fight. Standing a full foot taller than his opponent, Fury predictably lacked sharpness as he struggled to walk down the smaller man who spent the duration of the comical looking bout scrambling away. In the fourth round Tyson managed to land a couple of decent looking shots and this was enough to convince Seferi to remain on his stool. The win was secured but it was clear there was plenty of work for the still lineal champion to do.
This past Saturday saw Fury glove up again. He weighed in at a much trimmer 258lbs to face Francesco Pianeta in Belfast. The bout was scheduled for ten rounds and Fury used the full 30 minutes to get some work in and shed some rust. Pianeta seemed happy just to be there and showed no ambition to actually win the fight. Fury looked better in terms of his movement and towards the end of the bout his timing seemed to be coming back to him.
Rumoured next foe Deontay Wilder (40-0-0, 39KOs) was ringside for a closeup view of Fury and once the former unified champion's shutout victory was announced the two alpha fighters faced off in the ring – confirming to the world that their clash is happening. Although still to be officially announced the bout is reputed to be happening in Las Vegas with November 17 the date in play. The fight is slated to air on PPV in the UK and America.
So here we are – the undefeated WBC champion will face the undefeated lineal champion in the biggest fight of the year in the heavyweight division. Both boxers are charismatic and can sell a fight so I expect this promotion to capture the imagination of fans across the globe.
The main point of interest for many will be the timing of the fight. I already asked whether or not Fury was taking on this challenge too soon into his comeback. Many of the intangibles will be unknown until the opening bell, but one factor we can consider is weight. The night Fury defeated Klitschko he weighed 247lbs. He is only 11lbs away from hitting that number again so with more gym time before November I expect Fury to be very close to what would appear to be his optimum weight.
Of course weighing in light enough to box and move cleverly and effectively against a dangerous power puncher like Wilder is only one part of the equation. Will he have the skills, sharpness and concentration to pull it off? Although many think Fury will be slaughtered early by Wilder I'm seeing it differently. Based on what I saw against Pianeta, coupled with one more training camp, I am cautiously optimistic that Fury can box his way to a decision victory over Wilder in a tense affair.
Was this Fury's plan all along? At 30-years-old Tyson is far from being considered old but he may have perfectly engineered his comeback performances with the idea of luring either Wilder or current unified champion Anthony Joshua into a fight. For now Joshua fighting Fury looks a non-starter so the lineal champion got a little lucky when the negotiations between Wilder and Joshua broke down. Wilder put the challenge out there and Fury didn't hesitate to accept.
The “Gypsy King” is a smart operator in the ring so it wouldn't surprise me if he viewed the out of the ring landscape and saw an opportunity for a quick super fight. The rust laden fighter routine helping to guarantee he got his wish. We will never know for sure but with Joshua's camp seemingly happy for the big head to head encounters to marinate till 2019 or beyond Fury vs. Wilder emerged as a possibility. Now it is a reality.
While Fury's style may not be to everyone's liking his ring IQ is impressive. Coupled with a skill-set that doesn't seem possible for someone of his size it will take something special from Wilder to defeat a focused Fury. In saying that Wilder presents the exact abilities needed to prevail against Fury. Athleticism, speed and an unorthodox style just may be the key to solving the Tyson Fury puzzle for Wilder. Put another way, Fury can defend all day and night against a conventional fighter – Wilder is anything but conventional and some of the angles his punches arrive from will pose danger for the Englishman. Wilder is at time of writing correctly favoured to win the fight.
I'm going with the underdog though. We can't be sure how it will play out but what we can be sure of is an entertaining buildup and come fight night hardcore and casual fans alike will be tuning in for the show. This fight is a financial winner for everyone involved.
Yes, the big man is well and truly back. He wants to regain his status as the top heavyweight on the planet. That can be achieved with victory over Wilder. It's good when a plan comes together.