LAS VEGAS — Tyson Fury just completed a lengthy interview, and promoter Bob Arum is pacing around like a proud papa. Arum’s Top Rank signed Fury, the lineal heavyweight champion, to a co-promotional agreement in February, and it’s days before his debut with the company.
He’ll fight Germany’s Tom Schwarz in the main event of a card at the MGM Grand Garden Arena that will be streamed live by ESPN+.
The burden of promoting the show falls almost exclusively on Fury. After a public workout near the MGM Grand sportsbook on Tuesday, Schwarz meets with reporters. After two questions, his interpreter breaks up the interview and says Schwarz has to use the bathroom. Reporters catch a departing Schwarz near a restaurant and convince him to answer a couple of more questions, before the interpreter cuts it off again, this time for good.
If tickets are going to be sold, if people are going to watch, it’s going to be because of Fury.
Arum, in brief remarks to the public who gathered to watch the workouts, compared Fury to former heavyweight champion George Foreman during Foreman’s second run.
Later, in a conversation with Yahoo Sports, Arum said Fury is the type of guy the division has needed.
“Isn’t he great?” Arum asked. “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen anyone like him. We felt that when the American public got to know him, they’d fall in love with him. How could they not? This guy is special. Give me one more fight with him and you won’t believe how big he’ll get.”
The heavyweight division is at its most interesting point since the 1990s. Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis and Riddick Bowe, Hall of Famers all, were the key players. But there was depth in that division, with Foreman, Ray Mercer, Tommy Morrison, Herbie Hide, Frank Bruno, Buster Douglas, Bruce Seldon, Shannon Briggs and others competing.
Until Anthony Joshua lost to Andy Ruiz Jr. on June 1 in New York in what is easily one of the biggest upsets in the division since Douglas defeated Tyson in 1990, most of the talk centered upon a fight between Deontay Wilder and Joshua.
Ruiz’s victory over Joshua and Fury’s decision to take a pair of interim fights in order to build his name among American fans have created even more uncertainty about the future.
Despite a lot of the chaos, things are coming into focus.
We know for sure that later this year, Wilder will rematch Luis Ortiz and Joshua will rematch Ruiz.
Fury is also likely to get that second introductory bout in the early fall.
“It’s a good idea to have me have a couple of fights to get the U.S. public to know me a bit better,” Fury told Yahoo Sports. “When we [Fury and Wilder] fight again, it will be even bigger. That’s it. Bigger is always better. A hundred percent, [the rematch would have been] a lot bigger if we had done it [immediately]. But it will be even bigger more if I have a few more fights and get introduced properly to the U.S. public.”
So if Fury, a 40-1 favorite, gets past Schwarz on Saturday, he’ll take on a similar-type opponent in the fall, with the rematch vs. Wilder coming in the spring.
Wilder already announced he’d agreed to the rematch with Fury. Fury hasn’t signed and he hasn’t said anything because he doesn’t want to be perceived as looking past Schwarz. But barring a shocking defeat in one of these next two fights — or a Wilder loss to Ortiz — Wilder-Fury 2 will happen in the first quarter or so of 2020.
That’s the easy part of all of this.
The tricky part is trying to determine what happens next, and much of that will hinge on Joshua.
If Joshua defeats Ruiz, particularly decisively, he’ll be back on track to fight the Wilder-Fury winner sometime in the last spring to mid-summer timeframe.
But if Ruiz were to defeat Joshua again in emphatic fashion, there’s a chance Joshua’s career will be over. He’s making massive money per fight, more than $20 million an outing, but back-to-back losses to Ruiz would cost him a significant pay cut. Given how much he’s already made and will stand to make in the Ruiz fight, he may walk away rather than try to work his way back up.
If Joshua wins, though, it opens all sorts of possibilities. Ruiz will be a factor in all of this even with a loss in the rematch, though how he loses will be a factor. He’s not going to be a pushover for Joshua, though, and it’s going to take an inspired effort for Joshua to turn it around.
But if Wilder-Fury 2 happens around March, it would make sense to see the winner against Joshua in June 2020. That would leave the loser to potentially fight Ruiz in what would be an intriguing match between former champions.
Fury is by far the best boxer out of the group and Wilder is the biggest puncher, so my bet is on one of those two being the last man standing at the end of next year.
Fury has no doubt he’ll be the one to emerge as the best of a suddenly very intriguing division.
“I’m very focused on what I do and it’s not a play thing to me,” Fury said. “I love the job I do, and I get paid for it, which makes it even better. I train really hard. I dedicate me life to this sport. My whole life, I never wanted to do or be anything else. So when they get in that ring and try to discredit me, make me look small in front of the world and try to beat me up in front of the world, it ain’t a very good place to be in, especially when you’re facing a man whose got every single trick in the book. I can box. I can move. I can trade. I can counter. I can go orthodox or southpaw. I can move forward or I can go backwards.
“So I don’t worry about anything these guys can do. They can do maybe two of those things I’ve just said. But I do everything; there is nothing I can’t do in a boxing ring. I feel like a dolphin in the sea while I’m in that boxing ring. That is my home. That’s the best place I can ever be at this time, is in that ring fighting. I don’t think any of them are a threat to me. If I could come back and beat Deontay Wilder [it was actually a split draw] on a three-year out of the ring on drugs and drink, then who’s a threat? Do you think I fear Deontay Wilder’s right hand? No. Do I fear any of these guys? No. None of them’s threats. They’re all bare bums in the shower. Bum city. None of them’s any good compared to me. I’m the best heavyweight of my generation, by far.”
Those are big words, but he’ll soon get the chance to back them in the only place that matters.
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