Klitschko / Fury: Skill and Power vs. Zig-Zags and The Almighty

By Jeff Weston on November 23, 2015
Klitschko / Fury: Skill and Power vs. Zig-Zags and The Almighty
Talk of Tyson Fury unseating Wladimir Klitschko is misguided at best, certifiable at worst.

Klitschko is a fine architect, calmly deconstructing faces, subtly carving through the resolve of the man opposite…

The boxing fraternity loses its mind at times. Four-to-one underdogs suddenly become credible challengers. What should be wise words from people on the inside morph into dopey algae.

Tyson Fury, first and foremost, has the printing men to thank for his time in the limelight; his brief, blessed tenure. The boards and posters look OK: Collision Course — Wladimir Klitschko vs. Tyson Fury. You can almost get drawn in — begin to believe that astute tactics will win out and that these master fighters will offer a veritable feast.

Except, letdowns come thick and fast in this business. Faces and hype are like medicine men of old.

Jack Johnson vs. James Jeffries (1910). Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling II (1938). Sonny Liston vs. Floyd Patterson (1962). All promised a war of sorts, fireworks, a battle supreme, but left bits of potato chip on the living room floor, sour expressions and, collectively, half a century of one-sided folly.

Tyson Fury isn’t as rotten as he was. Some of his sentences do actually make sense — charm the listener in part: “To be the heavyweight champion is the greatest prize in sport…The way to beat a perfectionist is through unpredictability.”

The trouble is he can’t possibly execute such a plan. Unpredictability is many things — caprice, impulse, whim, uncertainty, a random primordial surge — but when unharnessed it amounts to floundering, jumping around in an imprecise fashion.

Fury, the 6’9” breeze block, the southpaw switcher, has the words of Emanuel Steward tingling in his ear: “I said to Wladimir in training, I said you see that guy, he is going to be the next super dominant heavyweight after you, he said yeah?! I said yeah. I’ve had Lennox on a nine year run, I’m gonna have you looks like nine years and that’s gonna be my next super heavyweight.” He also has the depression that pulled him down in 2011 — enough, in other words, to inspire the cavalry of blood inside him. But if you don’t have the tools, pretty soon you are scrambling around for advice and enlightenment, hoping for serendipity.

When he steps in the ring with Klitschko on Saturday, November 28, at the ESPRIT Arena in Düsseldorf there will be no miniature overhead bombs or tiny windmills coming his way (as with Steve Cunningham) but instead simple, plain punishment — probing rights from the Ukrainian, nose-breaking jabs and the type of left hook that viciously clubbed Kubrat Pulev (“separating Pulev from his own will”).

If Fury believes he has been in with the equivalent of a Klitschko during his career to date then he is in for a shock. Dr Steelhammer — despite the three defeats in 1998, 2003 and 2004 — is formidable. He is a physical specimen to behold. When Fury was queuing up for his paunch, Wlad was in a different line entirely swinging dumbbells from his little finger.

There are ways in. It would be foolish to think of Klitschko as impenetrable. But earning the right to such a door is beyond most. The negative clamor that followed his last fight against Bryant Jennings was from fans and analysts not fully compos mentis or able to see the bigger picture. “Keep working,” was the bombast or padding from Jennings’ corner, but did he really threaten? Do rabbit punches to the ribs and ducking low constitute that these days?

Klitschko is a reluctant trader — at least until the final 30 seconds of each round. He is cautious and circumspect. He does not dive in or submerge himself in a fight unless there is a real need to do so. Let’s not forget those other Cs which are central to his boxing wares though. To quote Brendan Ingle, “There’s no substitute for class and cleverness.”

Even when listening to his now trainer of three years, Johnathon Banks, it is noticeable that Wlad does not nod or readily acknowledge what has been said. He just processes what he needs to do with that large PhD brain and gets off his stool with a chess mentality.

There have been problems — particularly with the 225-226-pound brigade (Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster) — but who slowly wears down opponents in the manner of Klitschko? Who has a long jab and rocket-like right hand like Klitschko? (Both burrowing their way through tight, gloved defenses.)

Talk of Fury unseating Klitschko is misguided at best, certifiable at worst. Where is the evidence? Soft fights since February 2014 against Joey Abell, Dereck Chisora and lastly, Christian Hammer? Charitable words from the now sadly departed ‘Manny’ Steward? Even Manny got it wrong at times. He also predicted that Liverpool’s David Price would be heavyweight champion. Unfortunately, not every boxer with a bit of Kronk inside them (directly or indirectly) can be a champ.

“Tyson Fury hasn’t faced a real heavyweight, and I’m more than sure that I need just one single punch to his body or his head, and that will show him the reality,” Wlad commented in October’s Boxing Monthly. “I actually prefer to fight the guys who are undefeated because they don’t know the other side, they don’t know where it’s going to get difficult. How are they going to react? The fear of the unknown, that’s what makes Tyson Fury actually a little paranoid and a little nervous. The way he acts, it shows that he’s insecure inside.”

Indeed. And while the prospect of overturning Joe Louis’ title reign of 11 years and 8 months (25 consecutive defenses) remains unimaginable, Klitschko would certainly step down with pride were he to equal Larry Holmes’ 20 defenses (and middleweight Bernard Hopkins’) by taking out Fury and one more opponent. That would be a whole new school, a whole new legacy.

Admiring Wladimir Klitschko is admittedly a slow burn. He is not a gung-ho performer. Neither is he a maniacal fruit cake. The steady bursts serenade you. There are few over-the-top missiles or uppercuts. Risk is kept to a minimum. But what a fine architect because of it: calmly deconstructing faces, subtly carving through the resolve of the man opposite.

Fury calls this “boring”. And in a fit of oxymoronic poetry refers to himself as “Tyson Fury — entertainer.” The Wilmslow man mistakes outside-the-ring regalement with inside-the-ring harshness, however. For now, counting down to the fight, he is a strange kind of equal to Klitschko. They sit on the same chairs. They court the same press. They share the same posters. Fury is making the most of his Andy Warhol fifteen minutes of fame.

Once inside the ring, stripped down to boots and shorts, and aware of the red/orange-attired ‘astronauts,’ ‘F1 pit men’ and ‘Guantanamo Bay’ jumpsuits in Klitschko’s corner, Fury might start to feel a little different. If not, the distinctive red shorts of the Ukrainian will posit nineteen years of know-how, nineteen years of greeting onrushing bulls and fantasists with slick armory.

Even Klitschko’s cutman, one observes, works the petroleum jelly better than his rivals. Rubbing it between his fingers before applying it, Jacob “Stitch” Duran understands the contours of the face, the need for blows to slip across the surface of the skin. After round six of the Jennings fight, there was no kerfuffle from Team Klitschko. Examining the corner was like looking in on a seminar, a hushed library meeting — everyone focused and just Banks speaking, offering guidance courtesy of his slow, Detroit drawl.     

Uncle Peter (Fury), in the other corner, is no mug but there is only so much he can do with the piece of clay that is his nephew. Tyson Fury has arguably improved. His movement and footwork have risen above the nadir of his early fights. He now jabs while in the correct stance. But punching power? Flair? “I hope there are going to be no excuses,” Klitschko told Boxing News. “He’s trying to improve his punching power and either you have it or you don’t. You can’t learn suddenly.”

Fury is apparently steeped in faith and awkwardness though — power and flair of a different kind. “I have a personal relationship with the Almighty…Whatever is conventional, I am the opposite. If you want to walk in a straight line, I am going to walk in zig-zags. If you want to throw a one-two, I’ll throw a two-one. I don’t want to be an ordinary person. Because if you are ordinary, you do ordinary things.”

This recent verbiage from the “Gypsy King” recorded by the Mail’s chief sports writer, Oliver Holt suggests — as many have indicated — that a strange fusion of bluster and personal doctrine have gripped Fury. He has always had mouth and bravado, but this latest set of dogma dangerously separates Fury from the mammoth task ahead. And such a blueprint cannot possibly transfer itself into the ring.

“A man who does evil things and worships an evil one, how can he win over a man who wants to do good things and preach good stuff?...God will not let him defeat me, not at all.” It is not too clear which bastion of greatness is central to Fury’s character particularly given his non-scripture like belligerence, but a re-enactment of Cassius Clay’s rushing to the edge of the ring in 1964 after victory over mob fighter Sonny Liston (“Eat your words!” he exclaimed to the press) is unlikely.

Clay (Muhammad Ali) was genuinely funny: “After I beat him I’m going to donate him to the zoo,” he said of Liston before their first fight. Wit and sharpness oozed from every pore. The creation of Clay/Ali — as fighter and man — was clearly uncomfortable for much of the press at the time. Fury, by contrast, emanates from a poorly-written script that got wet in the rain. His discourse is a blancmange which hasn’t set right. He is a pseudo-pioneer, a bunkum fraud up to this point.

Will he shake up the world? A mass of voices seems to think so: Clinton Woods; Carl Froch; Robin Reid; Derry Mathews; Enzo Maccarinelli; Anthony Crolla; Joe Gallagher; Terry Flanagan; Scott Welch; Billy Joe Saunders; Mickey Vann; Lee Selby; Jimmy Tibbs; Steve Collins; Richie Woodhall. The talk is of Fury being young, big, strong, tall, powerful, skilful and confident. Also, smart, intelligent, hungry, in the best shape of his life, unorthodox, great hand speed, a talker and taunter, “the fastest heavyweight around,” full of heart, strategic and with “the tools to beat anybody.”

Couple this with Klitschko aging, holding his hands low at times, being a little ponderous and not the enforcer that people crave, and you perhaps have an unforeseen jolt in the thesis. And don’t forget the gloves: “Wlad let the cat out of the bag completely today,” Fury commented a few weeks back. “I got my fight gloves through. Pure shite, they’re the biggest gloves in boxing, a non-puncher’s glove. Every other fight he’s had, he has Grant gloves. With me, he’s taken the easier option by picking gloves that you can barely close your fists in.

“If he’s this great puncher going against a non-puncher, then why go for defensive gloves? I know he’s mentally weak. I can tell you the type of mentality a person has got just by looking at them for two minutes.”

Fury, to his credit, analyses most things and is occasionally incisive in what he says. The problem is that scrappers and bit part poets are no match for phenomenal skill and boxing guile. Words only have a certain shelf life when not backed up through implementation. The theory that Fury can win this fight is from the safety of the gym because his pedigree to date in public rings suggests he is not ready for such a challenge.

Back in November 2012 — just over a fortnight after Manny’s death — it was odd to witness the undefeated (and doped up) Mariusz Wach having his hair scrunched up between rounds as if preparing for the catwalk. Wach was the taller man just like Fury will be three years on and yet Klitschko picked him off in sublime fashion, outpointing him comfortably, unloading his jab with ease.

The knockdown never came but then drugs and hypnosis similarly kid the brain. We know that Fury will be clean. He is well aware of the putrescent damage that pills, powders and liquids do to the body long-term. God, at least, has steered him sensibly in some areas. But is he a sleek heavyweight? Should he even be in the same ring as Klitschko? Is he perhaps another Alex Leapai (pre-fight seductiveness included) destined to be outclassed? And what will it take between rounds to get him going?

In stark terms, this is Frankie Dettori saddled up against Frankie Howerd; one with a titanic record in his chosen sport, the other told he has been entered for the Epsom Derby after a few donkey rides on Blackpool beach (ironically the Las Vegas of England). If Fury stayed quiet once in a while such metaphors would not be required. Instead, he has chosen to cover himself in vulgar tinsel.

Seeing him jogging on the front at Morecambe (Lancashire) with a small crowd around him, one is briefly reminded of Ali running a mile and a half with Norman Mailer whilst preparing for his heavyweight showdown with George Foreman in 1974. Briefly. Before the facile and fatuous lines return and sting one’s mind.

“You’re in pretty good shape, Norm,” Ali said half a mile in. This is the thing. Ali, despite his rumbustious soundings, could be engaging, gentle, honest and vulnerable. The “big man” in him took the odd break. If Fury wants to be Ali so badly (at least in his head) or compare himself to such a genius, he needs to understand this and ease off the gas marked ‘Balderdash.’

“Ali served as a guide, pointing to holes in the ground, sudden dips, and slippery spots where hoses had watered the grass too long…Wherever possible, Ali ran on the turf.”

Fury, alas, continues to stamp on the concrete. The bias and support shown by Froch, Crolla, Saunders and Collins going into this fight is laudable. Unfortunately, the lens is smudged for many — even great fighters. If Froch is “bored with the Klitschkos [sic]…They’ve dominated for too long” then he needs to tout a plausible alternative. Anthony Joshua might be that and his fight with Dillian Whyte on 12th December at the O2 promises to offer more of an insight as to the state of the heavyweight scene.

But Fury? Where is this great archive of bouts which prompts Saunders to drool, “People will be surprised how comfortable Tyson beats him…he’ll dance round him all night”? Fury’s physical rendezvous have lacked fluidity, entertainment and that spellbinding morsel which transforms fights. When he says he is not ordinary what he means is that he dreams of the big lights. When he issues sclerotic statements, it is a sign that he is still checking a number of ideological boxes behind the scenes.

Stunned amazement will greet Fury if he pulls it off in Germany. Fanfare and brouhaha will lift the roof. But if he turns up as Peter Parker or Clark Kent or Bruce Wayne — as is expected — then the usual roll of film will have the audience reaching for the pretzels.

“I will take care of business,” Klitschko says, simply and without embellishment. And you have no reason to disbelieve him. For Fury, solace will come in the form of German-stretched canvas, Rod Stewart and $5.5 million. Flat on his back, he might even lose God and find himself.

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Wladimir Klitschko vs Tyson Fury - Promo

Wladimir Klitschko vs Tyson Fury | PROMO [HD]

Klitschko vs Fury PPV Trailer

Wladimir Klitschko vs Tyson Fury HD Promo

Klitschko / Fury Promo *November 28th 2015*

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  1. Koolz 12:24pm, 11/25/2015

    Wlad you moron or brainwashed or who knows(on Ukraine) your last fight was horrible your weak on the inside and you panic and throw your arms up for defense.  If you want to win you will need to be Wlad who faced Pulev. 

    Fury just get in there and box, use angles, use your jab, faint, get on the inside and hit with body shots.  Don’t stand and trade.  Use the jab to make Wlad move then get him with body shots. 

    Wlad likes to grab and hold grab and hold…Use that to get him to have a point deducted.

    Where’s Haye!

  2. Darrell 07:34pm, 11/24/2015

    Wlad, I know it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever read this but please punish and knock out that gypsy.

  3. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 07:51pm, 11/23/2015

    Those chopping rights that he lands on guys like Joey Abell aren’t going to work on Wlad….aside from this “power” punch he does lots of slapping. Joey in on short notice was landing and wanted to keep going at the end. He couldn’t get 6’0” Cruiserweight Zack Page out of there who was 21-32-2 at the time and he plans to KO Wlad. That “0” on the record is pure magic, it made Floyd a multi-multi-millionaire and it sure has his ass pumped up but Wlad has probably beaten more undefeated fighters than anyone in Heavyweight history.

  4. Don from Prov 12:14pm, 11/23/2015

    The one time I saw Fury fight was against Cunningham—

    Though he has likely improved, didn’t look promising

  5. The Tache 09:33am, 11/23/2015

    If Klitschko hits Fury half as hard as the writer has, then he is in for a short night’s work. Not that I found much to disagree with though.

  6. Clarence George 06:45am, 11/23/2015

    I agree with the Man from Bodie, though perhaps with somewhat less vehemence.  Fury is among the worst I’ve ever seen.  If Klitschko weren’t so tiresomely cautious, he’d put him away no later than the third.  As it is, it’ll probably take him till around the eighth.

  7. Aldo Ray 05:04am, 11/23/2015

    This is a mismatch of the highest order.  How Fury got in this position to be taken seriously by some people is inexplicable. He brings nothing to this equation. I am rarely critical of fighters or the sport itself, but this is disgraceful. I’m surprised it is not on PPV.  How can one care about boxing with crap like this being foisted upon us.

  8. Mike Casey 05:00am, 11/23/2015

    Casting personal feelings aside (Fury makes me switch channels every time he appears on my screen), I think he might just have got into Wlad’s head. The big necessity, as Jeff Weston points out, is translating big words into substance on the night. If he can do that, he can win the championship. But I’d rather watch a re-run of Frazier-Ali from 1971. In fact I’d rather watch the Patterson-Johansson trilogy too - even though I know the results.