LAS VEGAS — This wasn’t so much a sporting event as it was a Tyson Fury-scripted variety show. He donned Uncle Sam garb, replete with the top hat, and made like Apollo Creed in “Rocky 4,” for his ring walk to begin the defense of his lineal heavyweight title Saturday at the MGM Grand against Tom Schwarz.
In two rounds, he showed the complete package and blew Schwarz out, stopping him at 2:54 of the second with a fusillade of punches in the corner.
He sang Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” in the ring after the fight to his wife, Paris, who has had to endure so much as Fury battled mental health problems and contemplated suicide.
He wore a white floral suit with no shirt to the postfight news conference and noted dryly, “If you can’t fight wearing a suit like this, you’re going to be in trouble.”
And when the news conference finished, Fury once again sang “American Pie,” getting 87-year-old promoter Bob Arum in on the act.
Arum was so pleased with what Fury did in his Las Vegas debut that he predicted a fight with Deontay Wilder had the potential to surpass the record 4.6 million pay-per-view sales that Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao did in 2015.
He said a split pay-per-view with ESPN and Fox coming right after the Super Bowl would be able to maximize revenues and told Yahoo Sports it wouldn’t shock him if it sold more than five million.
Those are big numbers considering Fury only sold 9,012 seats at the MGM Grand, but that was a small problem in an otherwise fabulous night.
Before the fight, Fury’s only prediction was fun. “I could knock him out. I could go the distance. I’m not really sure. I can’t say exactly what will happen, but I will guarantee you this: You will be entertained.”
He was right on that. Schwarz was probably the only one who didn’t get a kick out of what down went on Saturday.
Fury promised he’ll fight Wilder early next year, but plans to take a fight on either Sept. 21 or Oct. 5 in New York first. Wilder has a bout lined up with Luis Ortiz, and assuming both men win, they’ll meet on pay-per-view next year.
“Deontay Wilder is coming; this fight is going to happen,” Fury said. “There were three horses in the heavyweight division, but then there were two. … The biggest fight in world boxing, bar none, is Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury.”
He said he didn’t consider Andy Ruiz Jr., who defeated Anthony Joshua in a massive upset on June 1, on that level, but said if Ruiz wins the rematch with Joshua that he’s open to fighting him.
“I can’t see why all these fights can’t be made,” Fury said.
He’s going to become extraordinarily popular if he stays healthy and performs like he did on Saturday. The biggest boxing matches transcend the sport and also appeal to people who don’t follow the sport that closely. They just want to be part of a massive show, and Fury is bringing those people in with his story about coming back from a near-suicide; his wit and charm and his you-never-know-what-could-happen news conference style.
Arum may want to start charging admission to the news conferences if Fury keeps that up.
Sports are meant to be fun and a diversion from everyday life, and Fury provides that.
Arum, who is already comparing him to the legendary Muhammad Ali, was so giddy by Fury’s performance that he delved into one of his favorite subjects: Blasting President Trump.
Arum had brought Mikaela Mayer, who had won on the undercard, to the stage before Fury arrived, and the conversation shifted to whether women should fight three-minute rounds instead of two. Arum said he supported the efforts, but wouldn’t get out and lobby commissions to change it.
“For the next year-and-a-half, I’m going to be busy going around doing what I can to get this idiot out of the White House,” Arum said.
Fury has expressed controversial opinions in the past and has made homophobic and anti-semitic remarks. But he’s steering well clear of that type of comment these days. He’s got a good thing going and doesn’t need to do much other than perform in the ring and crack a few jokes afterward.
He’s got plenty to talk about, with a vastly improved division to give him plenty of rivals.
And though Wilder had a very difficult fight with Ortiz last year, he’s not sweating their rematch.
“No, it doesn’t concern me because Luis Oritz is 147 years old,” Fury said. “Wilder should knock him out quickly.”
But he noted if Wilder lost, he’d adapt.
“When one door closes, another opens,” he said.
There are going to be plenty of doors opening for Fury. He’s a fun guy who can fight. He has everything required to become a major story. All it will take is a little luck and more of the same.
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