Fury-Klitschko II: Better Burgers to Flip?

By Jeff Weston on July 18, 2016
Fury-Klitschko II: Better Burgers to Flip?
Can a boxer’s career wind down so ignominiously? Can the feared become the fearful?

There cannot be another Wild West without the bullets. There cannot be an ineffectual and inept repeat performance…

The more you know a man, the softer you are on him. Tyson Fury — Bolton associations aside — does grow on you, he does draw you in, engage one’s curiosity. In him is the suffering animal, the occasionally and startlingly honest dual-personality.

Winning, he says, is ephemeral, short-lived. After the smoke of a fight, it is still him. His demons are still there. The temporary high and cerebral blast of victory does not sort him out. It does not reframe who he is.

Tyson Fury is simply on a trip — some would say a gypsy adventure. The caravan door is ajar and there is singing, play-acting, brawling, the smiles and sadness of life. The boxing ring to him is a false square of virtue. Inside it arbitrary decisions prompt his arms and legs into action. One night he might be effective. The next he might wing it — put his success down to God.

Angels. Angles. They are both Fury’s calling cards. That is why he is good, they say. Opponents lose their bearings, they become disoriented. No one expects a heavyweight to have such guile. One audacious line referred to Fury as a “heavyweight Mayweather”; his angles defensive but bewildering all the same.

November 2015’s blowout — not the beano type — confirmed two things: Fury has composure and Klitschko has fear. Klitschko was laid bare in that fight, made to look too human — his jab impotent, hanging in the wind. The low hands of Fury unsettled him. He felt all the more foolish for not taking advantage of such a reckless guard.

Hats off to Fury. Yet it was not a good fight. It was, in fact, an extremely subdued fight — the punches last time out like Milk Duds falling from their box. Neither boxer was pulverised. Neither boxer “shook up the world.” We were surprised — yes. But not astounded. Surprised that Wladimir lost with so little resistance.

“I chose to lose,” he has said in the intervening months. For a man whose father died in all likelihood as a result of cleaning up Chernobyl, such words sound incredibly rakish. Klitschko, in interviews, has regrettably come across like a smiling PR man — the very essence of the robotic human he claims not to be. He is clearly uncomfortable in Fury’s ‘wind it up and go’ world, but even on his own it is as if the first fight has taken the last vestiges of who he is.

Klitschko’s trainer, Johnathon Banks in a rather excited pitch back in January, stated: “This is my Thrilla in Manila — my Rumble in the Jungle.” Fury-Klitschko II — new date all but confirmed of 29th October 2016 — will be many things but it is unlikely to imbue the onslaught of Ali-Frazier III (1975) or the intensity of Ali-Foreman (1974). The month is the same — October — but the pedigree questionable.

There won’t be any of the unnatural exhaustion that comes with fighting in the Philippines or Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo). Fury-Klitschko II comes from the moderate autumn climate of Manchester, England thank god. But what evidence have we to suggest it will be a rip-roaring affair, a gallant encounter? That “great 12th round”? That tangled foray which upped the tempo ever-so-slightly from the nothingness of the first 33 minutes?

Klitschko’s proud record hasn’t disintegrated because of that impecunious circus act (the taming of an invisible lion) back in November, but it has suffered. Fans know that with Wladimir it has always been caution first. He is not a stuntman. He is not a front-foot assassin. He is methodical — all arms, reaching out, gauging the power of the Venus flytrap opponent before him.

Against Fury, something went horribly wrong though. His usual panache was reduced to cinder. In the ring with him was perhaps “sloppiness” as Klitschko later described Fury, but sloppiness has rights also. It isn’t just black box algorithms and smoothness that win out. Ugliness is entitled to its day. And if Fury is ugly, if his tactics are deemed unworthy of this professional sport, then tough. Wladimir just has to suck it up.

Behind the Englishman’s words and apparent insouciance lie a canny trainer. Peter Fury doesn’t like bad language. He is respectful, referring to Klitschko as “an elite champion.” He has “worked tirelessly [with his nephew] over the years perfecting tactics.” In him one senses a necessary guiding light in contrast to Tyson’s craggy bravado. When he says “I want Tyson to wipe through the division…I want him to go down as a great heavyweight” you know he recognizes that the real work has just begun.

This is laudable. It is grounded. By his own admittance, he can’t control what Tyson says — nor would he want to. But at least the girders are in place. The previously mocked Frankenstein’s monster — loved and loathed in equal measure — is beginning to make a little headway.

There are plenty that see this second fight as relatively straightforward now. None more so than fellow ‘gypsy warrior’ Billy Joe Saunders: “Tyson will meet [Klitschko] in the middle of the ring and take him out — clean and cold!” The shift to Fury’s corner from neutrals in the game was noted in June’s Boxing Monthly — what was 16-15 in favor of Wladimir for Fight One getting doused by a hose still struggling to understand the tentative, trembling Klitschko before us.

Only the rich boxing names of Tommy Gilmour and Barry Hearn have stayed loyal to Klitschko for this fight in a 29-2 voting avalanche for Fury. Maybe that hints at an inner fickleness on the part of Adam Booth, Carl Frampton, Liam Smith, Barry McGuigan and Brendan Ingle to name just a few, but there is also the possibility that they recognize aging when they see it.

“Klitschko seemed to age massively during those 36 minutes in Dusseldorf. I couldn’t believe he was such a different, lesser animal to the one who smashed [Kubrat] Pulev and schooled Bryant Jennings. But these things can happen in boxing when you’re 39. He appears to have gone over the top of the mountain. He’s had his day.”

Banks disputes this (even with Klitschko since turning 40). Such a change would be noticeable in the gym when training, he claims. Hearn also sees it another way: “I’m on Klitschko again! Reason being, he can’t possibly be as bad as he was over in Germany when he threw about five punches the entire fight. It’s possible that he’s finished, but it’s equally possible, as I believe, that he just had a bad day at the office. While I’ve the utmost respect for both, Wladimir has far more ability, and if he boxes to the standard of which he’s capable, he’s an easy winner.”

Can a boxer’s career wind down so ignominiously, however? Can the feared become the fearful? If we were talking about James Toney after he met Roy Jones Jr. in 1994 then one could understand it. And thirty years before that there was the small matter of Liston-Clay (“The champion, seemingly oblivious to the remarks calculated to make him angry, calmly attempts to neutralize the challenger’s screaming by a simple raising of two fingers…indicating to the press the number of rounds he intends to allow Clay [Ali] to function in a standing position.”)

But Klitschko-Fury? Was Klitschko universally feared before stepping in to the Esprit Arena eight months ago? The flat answer is ‘No’ yet despite the lack of menace and mouth Klitschko has orchestrated a modest reign of terror. He has been a dutiful champion. His demolition of Pulev whilst ungainly at times (holding and pushing) displayed to the public Dr. Steelhammer’s devastating left hook which, if utilized again, could fell Fury in a moment.

Is he the same fighter though? Or has something crucial and critical drained from him? Now his cover has been blown to a degree one can’t help but picture Klitschko in a bar brawl. Would he know what to do or would he sit neatly on his stool and take the taunting? “Let your hands go. Let your hands go, Wlad,” his friends would cry. If only to save them. Their dignity. Their reputation.

This is perhaps what Wladimir has to imagine in October. There cannot be another Wild West without the bullets. There cannot be an ineffectual and inept repeat performance. If Klitschko pictures himself on a date instead of inside a ring, then he has to know that not talking is like not hitting. And mute engagement brings only one thing: failure.

Don’t drive home without kissing her, Wlad! Don’t drive home without landing a few on those chops and that lipsticked mouth! You’ve gotta roll the dice. You’ve gotta dance and see it out properly. If you don’t, there will be no spoils — only self-reproach. And the maddening sense that you let the lumbering chal get to you again.

“If Wladimir doesn’t let his hands go in the rematch, then he’s going to wind up getting clowned by Fury a second time,” the tireless sportswriter Scott Gilfoid commented back in June. “Clowned” is a good piece of imagery. It does not flatter Fury, but it certainly counsels Klitschko on the task at hand. If it’s a war and he loses, fine. But if it’s a bore-fest, a teensy-weensy picayune with white-painted faces, then for Klitschko it is over. No Joshua. No Ortiz. And no Wilder. He would be encouraged to leave the arena in Floyd Patterson false whiskers and moustache.

What of Fury though? What can we expect from the 6’9” switch-hitter? “He’s flying at the minute. He can hit, and his speed, timing, distance and coordination are fantastic. And now he’ll have a new confidence that’ll make him even better. This time, Fury’s got every chance of stopping him,” Ingle asserts.

Peter Fury is more circumspect: “[Fight One] was his first step on the top of the mountain. He has a long way to go. He has to defend and be a great champion — like all the other past great champions. It’s too early to tell. You don’t know what tomorrow brings. This is a very serious fight with Klitschko. It’s by no means a foregone conclusion. This is a genuine 50-50 fight as far as I can see, but I do believe Tyson will come through it because he is a special kind of character and very underrated box-fighter.”

Stronger statements do exist from Uncle Peter (“When you get in front of Tyson Fury in that ring he’s your worst nightmare in the world because he is rangy, he is tall and he is quick…I said years ago to his dad: ‘Look at his legs — he’s like a racehorse.’”) but it is the solemn and restrained ordinary lines which make you think that behind Tyson Fury is indeed a sobering influence. And talk of “character” does hit the mark — not via the bombast and bluster of the Gypsy King, but through his physical constitution; something in the lineal heavyweight champion is unfazed, steady and unshakeable.

Boxing purists will always question this and return to the comprehensible topic of natural talent. They’re not expecting a pre-1952 Sugar Ray Robinson in terms of craft and dedication (“I was in training 10 months, 11 months of every year…say go to sleep about eight thirty, nine o’clock, you run five miles a day, you…do the boxing exercises…bags, ropes, skipping, all these calisthenics”) but they at least want a little artistry.

The Fury archive, so far, isn’t easy on the eyes in this respect. And what they see or hear outside the ring means squat. “Without me, boxing becomes boring again; back to the old days of [Klitschko]. I put on a show. This is show business for me. Everybody comes…to see my antics,” goes the Fury patter. What about substance though?

“Tyson Fury has to be the man because he’s the man that beat the man that beat the man,” Lennox Lewis reassures us. There can be no disputing this. But in what manner? lovers of pugilism cry. Has the fine crockery of boxing been replaced by paper plates? Has big beast engagement been substituted for a perplexing shift of limbs?

What do we want from Fury as he matures? A Bowe jab? An Ali shuffle? The devastation of Foreman? The closest we get to a little roughhouse action with Fury in recent times is in his slow pounding of Dereck Chisora (Nov 2014). Not a great fight, but a technical one; the straight rights when in southpaw stance, the deft feints, the little rotation of the shoulder — all appreciated much more in the cold light of day as opposed to during the immediacy of the fight.

Aren’t there better burgers to flip though, as we think of Fury-Klitschko II, as we examine the boxing calendar? Crawford-Postol (23 July). Santa Cruz-Frampton (30 July). Golovkin-Brook (10 Sept). Canelo-Smith (17 Sept). Joshua-Parker (Nov-Dec). Kovalev-Ward (19 Nov). Even Haye-Briggs (30 Dec). Why stay up for what could be a second shocker (the unacceptable type)?

Because we need to know if Klitschko really is mentally weak. We need to know if Fury can get up off the canvas — as he has always done before — should Dr. Steelhammer connect. We need to know, most importantly, whether the fighter we all wrote off is here to stay — gods, luck and aptitude by his side.

Follow Jeff Weston on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jeffweston1970

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Wladimir Klitschko vs Tyson Fury-Full Sound HD


Discuss this in our forums

Related Articles


This is a place to express and/or debate your boxing views. It is not a place to offend anyone. If we feel comments are offensive, the post will be deleted and continuing offenders will be blocked from the site. Please keep it clean and civil! We want to have fun. We want some salty language and good-natured exchanges. But let's keep our punches above the belt...
  1. Old Yank 08:52am, 07/24/2016

    Now that’s a writer!

  2. bikermike 11:16am, 07/23/2016

    great read !!

    Vladimir has the winning style of a glacier…..large ...powerful…overwhelming…and ...SLOW !!!!

    If he does this again…..he will lose…provided Fury didn;‘t leave his best ...on some nice lady on the elevator ride up

    Klitschko has two choices…..
    -DO THE SAME…or

    -GIVE IT YOUR HATEFUL BEST FOR SIX ROUNDS…..and knock him ouut

  3. ken 11:30pm, 07/21/2016

    I thought that in the Fury fight Wladimir became a bit of a victim of his own success.
    He had developed into possibly the best manager of distance that the heavyweight division has seen - and this was what Fury used to his advantage.
    Wladimir’s style had become so refined in shutting down opponents attempting to come in on him he now had no answers when Fury made Wlad come to him by negating his jab.
    Can he regain some aggression & come forward offence that he had in his younger days? And is he still under-estimating Fury?

    Fury is a surprisingly smart operator, and I suspect he will actually be better in making adjustments than Wlad at this stage of his career.

    I am picking Fury by decision - but hope that Wlad manages to rekindle enough fire to make it a good fight & not tarnish his legacy.
    Pump out that jab, use it to the body, fire the right & look to leave it all in the ring…

  4. Pieter 06:45pm, 07/21/2016

    Wlad was exposed, his success was tied to his size, confronted with someone of comparable size, he froze, no jab and lean to wear his oponent out, a fraud, take his size away from his ten year rein and I think we have a competitive contender, somtimes with a belt, somtimes without, and probably more entertaining and popular as a result, and a healthy.heavyweight division to boot

  5. Eric 08:05am, 07/18/2016

    Kind of surreal listening to Wlad & Fury in the “Face To Face” vid. One guy talking Pikey and the other sounding like Dracula.

  6. Eric 06:05am, 07/18/2016

    Excellent article!! Tyson Fury might not be the second coming of Joe Louis, but he certainly is refreshing. Nothing against Wlad though, IMO, he’s definitely a top 5-6 all time as far as heavyweights go, same with big brother Vitali. I admire Fury more for the way he carries himself outside of the ring than in it. Wlad, while King Kong inside a boxing ring, appears to be just another mindless drone outside of it. Wlad’s manhood and spirit, like so many others, has been crushed by the soft tyranny called political correctness. Sorry Wlad, nothing personal, but I’m going with Fury on this one.

Leave a comment