Since it was announced for October in Germany, the Wladimir Klitschko versus. Tyson Fury bout has provided plenty of fodder for boxing fans and pundits alike.
The Ukrainian champion is stoic and laidback when compared to the animated challenger, although his dry wit and likeable personality have already had chance to shine through. Fury is brash, with bold predictions and a seeming lack of respect, but he knows that sells fights, as well as the Tyson Fury brand. Without it, he might not even have had this chance.
It will take place in Dusseldorf in a nation favoured by Klitschko for his outings. As a professional, almost 50 of his 67 fights have been there. There’s no doubting he feels at home in Germany. It’s also been very unforgiving to those coming to test him. Fury has it all to do when he goes on his travels across Europe in a few months’ time, and that’s shown in his odds with betfair at the time of writing of 4.2 compared to Dr Steelhammer’s 1.22.
On paper it would be a huge upset for the undefeated Englishman to leave with the silverware, but can we take enough from past performances to think he has a chance?
The Chisora victories
There was a marked improvement in the two performances against Dereck Chisora, which does show he’s matured as a boxer in the three years that separated the bouts. As he clearly outboxed Chisora en route to a 10th round corner stoppage last year, Fury was composed and calculated. In the first fight, Chisora at least showed some eagerness to get on the inside, but the second fight showed very little spark from the side of the Londoner.
Arguably the best thing to glean from the second fight was Fury’s reliance on the jab, and his accuracy with it. He found big success from a southpaw stance and tagged his man at will, fully utilising his 6’9″, which gives him a slight advantage of Klitschko. If he can assert that in Germany and stop what he calls the “jab and grab” attack of the champion, then there’s a chance he can fight from range and collect a good amount of points.
It’s rare Klitschko has that threat so it makes for an interesting stylistic battle within the fight. A disciplined Klitschko is patient and effective, but what if he gets beaten to the jab? That’s the real key.
Fury has had his whiskers tested and he has generally passed the test pretty well. He can take a shot, but Steve Cunningham and Neven Pajkic did manage to send him to the canvas. As a 16-0 Canadian champion, Pajkic dropped Fury for the first time in his career, only to be stopped in the second round (with some controversy). It was the hard right over the top that felled him, and it’s something the taller man is susceptible to. He managed to use his weight to bear it on Pajkic to buy some time and see out the round. He then showed his grit to come out firing in the third, putting Pajkic in all sorts of trouble, although he wasn’t happy with the stoppage.
Cunningham is not a fighter with a great KO ratio – 37% in fact – but again it was that dastardly overhand that did the trick. Fury came back to score the stoppage win where many may have folded. It’s not that he’s unable to mount a comeback because he has shown he is, but against much inferior opposition compared to a man who hasn’t lost in 11 years and holds the IBF, WBO, IBO and The Ring world titles. It’s likely a grab and hold tactic would work as well on a much savvier Klitschko should Fury need to find a few extra seconds if he’s hurt. These knockdowns give a cause for concern. Fury will be adamant it’s not an issue and that the “boring old man” doesn’t have the stoppage in him, but he’ll have to be very wary.
The Christian Hammer victory
Germany-based Romanian Christian Hammer was riding a ten-fight win streak coming into their fight and was considered a test. He was the European champion, though it must be said he wasn’t elite world class. In fact, none of Fury’s opponent have been as yet. However, that’s not to say that there weren’t positives to take from the bout.
Whilst rarely showing that kind of concussive one shot KO power, Fury did give a solid showing with good shot selection, and a solid jab once again. It was mature and enough to make him the mandatory challenger, but it wasn’t enough to make you think he’s a major worry for Wladimir. Whilst the punches are tighter, straighter and more accurate than they once were, they were weren’t as tight or as straight as the champ’s. And without the speed or power to make a difference in one shot, it leads you to think that Fury will struggle to mount the kind of offence to topple him from the throne.
This is heavyweight boxing of course and stranger things have happened. Fury will just need to be sharper and beat Wlad to the punch if he is going to have a chance on the outside, which is the only place he really has a chance. Maybe the success of his jab has been a reliable indicator of his chances, or maybe it’s been on sluggish opposition to make it look better than it was. It’ll come out in the wash when he meets Klitschko in Germany. Of that we can have little doubt.
Arguably Fury’s best battle in the lead-up to this fight is the verbal one he has waged against Klitschko. If nothing else, he sounds confident and assured. He cites a “rapid decline” at 39, while his tender years of 26 mean that “old men give way to young lions like me”. In typical Klitschko fashion, he was assured and calm in reply. Let’s see if that will be the case in the ring.