Tyson Fury must dance to impress and finish emphatically on Saturday night against unbeaten Otto Wallin in his extended Stateside dress rehearsal for the rematch early next year against World Boxing Council champion Deontay Wilder.
Fury must avert being another of boxing’s tales of the unexpected at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, in a contest being billed as a fight for the “Lineal Heavyweight Championship”, which has angered both American world-title holders, Wilder, and Andy Ruiz Jnr, who holds the International Boxing Federation, World Boxing Association and World Boxing Organisation belts.
Yet Ben Davison, the former amateur boxer and semi-professional footballer who has been instrumental in transforming Fury’s fortunes in the ring in the past two years as his trainer, told Telegraph Sport on Friday that Fury was “worthy of being entitled the lineal champion” and that his 6ft 9in, 18st heavyweight charge was under strict instruction to show “clinical boxing, and lucid technique to outbox and then break up” Wallin.
In other words, demonstrate the very best qualities the Lancastrian has at his disposal, and send a message to Wilder ahead of their potential meeting in six months, back in Sin City, for the biggest showdown in boxing.
Davison is adamant, moreover, that Fury merits the “lineal” tag. “The most legitimate man you could’ve beaten in any era to become the lineal heavyweight champion of the world was Wladimir Klitschko,” Davison said. “Wladimir was only short of the great Joe Louis in terms of the longest-reigning heavyweight title-holder and that is who Tyson beat in 2015, the most dominant heavyweight of the modern era.
“He then came back and within six months fought the No 1 [Wilder] and 90 per cent of the boxing world believe he won that fight. He is, until someone beats him, the lineal heavyweight champion of the world.”
Wallin, 28, is ranked No 4 by the WBA and No 11 by the IBF. He will be a game opponent, inspired by his late father Carl, his trainer and a boxer himself, who died suddenly from a heart attack four months ago.
Wallin refuses to see the enigmatic, elusive skills of Fury as getting in his way and, instead, has settled his mind on this as simply “a fight, an opportunity you can’t say no to”.
“I wanted the fight,” he added. “I feel like I belong at this level and I’m ready to prove it. It’s a dream to have your name in lights in Las Vegas. The opportunity is life-changing. And if I win, I will have achieved a huge goal in my life.”
Wallin, a 6ft 6in southpaw, who lost twice to Anthony Joshua in the amateur ranks, has an unbeaten 21-fight career which began in 2013, with 13 knockouts. He has plied his trade in the US for some time, and has sparred with some of the best in the world. Fury ought to be too savvy to be caught by the Swede, but this is heavyweight boxing and so much can go wrong with one precise punch, yet the bookmakers have it right by creating 11-1 odds on Wallin creating an upset.
Davison explained that his man needed “to be smart, calculated. It is a big risk but there is big reward”.
Fury will switch between stances, and may well out-jab Wallin early from the left-lead southpaw position. “He’s an awkward southpaw. Tall and he’ll take a bit of breaking down, but I’m sure I can do it,” Fury told Telegraph Sport last night from his mansion on the outskirts of Las Vegas.
I fully expect Fury to begin cautiously, out-jab and size up his opponent for two to three rounds, before unleashing body and head-shot combinations to win inside seven rounds.
There is too much riding on next year’s encounter with Wilder for Fury to lose focus.
“You’ve got to take them all seriously, I never underestimate any of them,” Fury said on Friday. “They’re all men with gloves on who can do as much damage as the next one, especially heavyweights.”
That attitude should mean Fury retains his unbeaten record on Saturday night, and claims a new army of aficionados, not least from Mexico.