By Jake Collins / @MelancholyFolly
I was sceptical about seeing Tyson Fury return to the ring. I was even more sceptical about him training seriously, gearing toward his peak shape and fighting three times this year. So if you’d have suggested he’d have not only done that but would be fighting for a world title before the year is out, then I’d have scanned your carrier bag for used cans of Special Brew. But astonishingly that’s exactly where we’re at. Did Fury look great? Far from it. But I did think he looked better than I expected and certainly wasn’t as poor as some suggested. He still needs to lose another stone or so in my opinion but the progress is remarkable. Even compared to the Seferi bout the change is evident. Is that enough to compete at the top level? Not yet, no.
Pianeta was – at a time – more or less a European level fighter. He’s way past that now (as evidenced by being stopped by Safety Pin Johnson) and that cannot be overlooked. Sure, Fury won very easily. The difference between Pianeta and Wilder though cannot be stressed enough – and I say that as someone who has been a vocal Wilder detractor. At times Fury’s hands did look quick. Not as quick as we’ve seen at his best at all and his reactions were sometimes useful sometimes not. He switched effectively as we’ve seen him do in the past, plus even this less than stellar variety of Fury was still able to move better than plenty of current Heavyweights. He still needs MORE however. To jump straight into a title fight is either dangerously arrogant or pure recklessness. I know, he proved us all wrong in the past but this isn’t the same situation. I would personally like him to have had another couple of fights prior to the Wilder fight. Against someone not faded and someone at least close to contender level. Fury hasn’t really been ‘hit’ in years and boy, if there’s one thing you can’t accuse Wilder of lacking it’s his power. However, given his vitriol towards these ‘bums’ it is perhaps right that Fury took the first opportunity to fight one of them. A situation which has left Hearn a little red faced you assume (having declined to sign Fury as he wanted a lot of money to fight cans and then saying Wilder-Breazeale was all but done).
Despite Fury not being the fighter he was, I’ve seen Wilder struggle with fighters lesser than this incarnation. I thought Szpilka was winning their fight until Wilder absolutely annihilated him with a single shot. Szpilka, it should be noted, is not very good. Washington also had some success with his jab and Ortiz was winning on my card too, until Wilder’s power flipped the script. Ortiz is absolutely a top five boxer at the weight though, so I’m not going to hold that against Wilder at all. Wilder has improved with time but he has always looked beatable. He has a tendency to be a little clumsy at times and that chin is often exposed. I picked Ortiz to beat him; he’s an excellent counter-puncher who I thought would put Wilder away. He almost did. Wilder showed a grit that I didn’t now he had to survive Ortiz’s onslaught. Some savvy too as that was the most Wilder has been hurt in a fight and instead of trying to fire back like an Amir Khan does, he wisely held and put his weight onto Ortiz. There isn’t enough evidence there to suggest that Fury is at Ortiz’s level or even close to it – yet. He is similar to Wilder in the sense that he’s a very unorthodox fighter but he is – or has been – much harder to catch clean when he is switched on. The constant feinting, switching and lateral movement means that in terms of style he is a tricky night out for anyone. Whether he has the same stamina, punch resistance and reactions at world level still remains to be seen. Yes, he went ten rounds comfortably but he wasn’t made to work assiduously.
Fury loves fighting with his hands down and it enables him to land shots from range that the other guy doesn’t see coming. His head movement and footwork generally preventing him from being caught (although when he does switch off – like the Cunningham fight – he can be caught square on real bad). Wilder will know this and potentially being down on the cards won’t be an issue for him; every time it has happened he’s been able to take it out of the judges’ hands. With his hands by his side, that chin of Fury’s will be a dancing and enticing bullseye for The Bronze Bomber. He isn’t like Wlad, he doesn’t need to be perfectly planted and comfortable to throw that canon of a right hand. Just based off of the last couple of years of both of their lives, you have to lean toward Wilder. We know where he is at and we know where Fury was at over the weekend. He has to be able to raise it from that and you suspect that he is able to do so, but how high can he raise it? That can only really be speculated. It’s such an intriguing fight, it really is. The buildup will be spectacular and it’s a huge fight in itself. True, Fury isn’t often in ‘great’ fights but Wilder is generally lots of fun to watch. Given that this isn’t a peak Fury he’s going to have to really, really dig deep in this fight if he is to have a chance. The tactics in the Wlad fight were spot on and if he can neutralise Wilder’s right hand for 12 rounds, then he has a shot. These are huge ‘ifs’ though. He can look at the success Ortiz and Szpilka had as southpaws and perhaps he’ll approach the fight from that stance and frustrate the champion. There’s also every chance that Fury just gets ironed out quickly and that this is a cash grab (boxing makes you very cynical). I am very excited to find out what happens.by