Sometimes a boxer is good enough compared to the era he fights in that there are really only a couple options that can even get anyone at half-mast, in the current context. One of those options is fighting an opponent who is, juxtaposed against other opponents, highly deserving and/or someone who presents a Spock-eyebrow raising “maybe.” The other option is to move up into a new weight division or two.
Wladimir Klitschko (above right), the seemingly undefeatable heavyweight champion of the world, doesn’t have the second option. You can’t move up in weight any higher than “unlimited.” And that makes his agreement this week to face Tyson Fury (above left) in October as good as it gets.
We’re going to hear a certain amount of reasonable “Fury doesn’t have a chance against Klitschko” talk between now and when Klitschko-Fury happens, and we already have heard some of it. To each their own, as far as what makes anyone dismiss a given fight. Stylistically, this particular writer has enjoyed about every 10th Klitschko fight, so methodical is his style and so repetitious is the nature of his victories. Jab jab jab jab jab right hand is about it on offense, and hold hold hold hold random foul is about it on defense. It works really fucking well and you can’t argue with the results, although you’d have to be a purist of the most patient variety to enjoy watching it on any visceral level.
But Klitschko still does boffo U.S. TV ratings/audience numbers, and he does even more ridiculous figures in Germany, which means however little damn you give about how “entertaining” he isn’t, there are probably a great many more people who give a considerable damn about watching him no matter what, and that means Klitschko is a fact of the boxing fan’s life.
And if he’s a fact of life (already established: he is), then the dissidents among us might as well root for him facing an opponent who presents a theoretical challenge over someone who doesn’t. That’s Fury.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, Fury is crude. Yeah, Fury talked his way into this fight as much as he deserved it based on the boxing merits. But let’s not short sell those boxing merits. There’s only one higher-ranked heavyweight, Alexander Povetkin, and Klitschko already beat his ass in the ugliest fashion imaginable. And Fury, by virtue of matching Klitschko’s incredible NBA shooting guard/small forward size, starts off in a better place than that Povetkin. That means he achieves both the other criteria for a conceivably worthwhile Klitschko fight — deserving compared to the rest of the field, and someone who can give Klitschko the tiniest taste of “maybe” because of his style and physical attributes.
If Fury can hit Klitschko — and because of his size he’s got a better chance than most — he hits hard enough to hurt him. If Fury can box well enough to make hitting Klitschko more likely — and Fury has demonstrated improved craft, slowly, over time, enough to make some of us forget about him punching himself that one time — then he increases his chances of hurting Klitschko, who long ago struggled with his chin and doesn’t get hit all that often anymore. If Klitschko is slowing down a little at age 39 — and we’ve seen him get tagged and/or struggle with his offense more than usual against Kubrat Pulev and Bryant Jennings, who, to be fair, had styles of their own that made them good opponents, retrospectively — then Fury is primed to take advantage.
You have to dock Fury some optimistic assessment based on his tendency to get rocked against even light-punching foes, so Klitschko should be the significant favorite. But Klitschko vs Fury is about as good as it gets under the circumstances. For once, “as good as it gets under the circumstances” in this case isn’t about some promoter-vs-promoter or manager-vs-promoter feud, so it’s not something you have to discount because of politics. It is as good as it gets for the right reasons — Klitschko is a terrific champion, and Fury is the most credible challenger, and Fury can’t do anything more than be that. Watch, or don’t watch, based on your preferences for what enthralls you about a boxing match. Just don’t dismiss entirely.