LAS VEGAS — Tyson Fury has been the toast of the town for the better part of the last month, charming all he meets with his quick wit, gregarious nature and ability to tell a story.
He’s at home in front of the cameras, with a microphone in his hands and with someone willing to listen to what he has to say.
The only place where he’s more comfortable is inside of a boxing ring. It’s all he wanted to do and the only job he’s known since the first time he pulled on a pair of gloves more than two decades ago.
He well may be the finest heavyweight in the world, but his biggest challenge on Saturday when he meets Tom Schwarz in the main event of a card at the MGM Grand Garden is to give the bout the same focus he’s given the promotion.
He’s sold the show so well that it’s nearing a sellout. Promoter Bob Arum said all but about 700 of the 11,000 or so tickets that were put on sale have been scarfed up as Fury attempts to establish himself as a prominent figure in the fight game in the U.S.
Fury is the lineal champion, and a massive 40-1 favorite against Schwarz, an unbeaten 25-year-old with no notable victories who is perhaps best known for winning a wild disqualification victory over Senad Gashi.
At 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds, Schwarz looks the part and isn’t overmatched against the 6-9 Fury.
Fury is arguably the best boxing big man since countryman Lennox Lewis, and is coming off a split draw with WBC champion Deontay Wilder in which he dramatically got off the canvas following a vicious 12th-round knockdown.
There are few comparisons between Schwarz and Wilder, other than both have two arms and two legs. Wilder brings an unorthodox attack with fast hands and game-changing power. Schwarz is very traditional and uses the 1-2 to great effect, but he keeps his left hand low and lacks Wilder’s elite hand speed.
That low left is going to be an issue, because the one thing that Fury is better at than talking is pumping his jab. Fury likes to take the jab up and down and can hook off it, a rarity among men so large.
He doesn’t look like the most fluid athlete until you see him for a while. He’s got quick feet and the ability to pivot and move his body far better than one might expect.
He’s kept many an opponent at bay by keeping them at the end of the jab, where they were well out of their own punching range, and Schwarz has nothing in his game that suggests he’s going to be able to find that middle range that would be the only place he could be effective.
Schwarz can’t afford to smother Fury, because then he’d take away his own ability to get his punches off. But he has to get past that jab and fight at a distance where he can work and Fury is more limited because his long arms are tied up.
Schwarz’s best hope is to mount a body assault on Fury. He has a nice hook to the body that he’ll need to land repeatedly on Fury. If he can hook to the body, he can come back with an uppercut and prevent Fury from tying him up.
Schwarz should also try to keep a quick pace and make Fury work. It has been unusually hot in Las Vegas and the impact could take its toll on Fury if Schwarz can make him work and slow him down.
There is a lot at stake for Fury, who is expected to fight a lucrative rematch with Wilder next year.
While it’s not his first fight in the U.S., it’s his first under the nine-figure contract he signed with Top Rank in Operation Conquer America. His belief is that he’ll make himself much more valuable if he can build a fanbase in the U.S. He’s already a massive star along the lines of ex-champion Anthony Joshua in his native United Kingdom.
It’s unlikely Schwarz will catch Fury looking ahead. And given that Schwarz is slow and an inviting target, Fury should be able to pepper him with a jab and slow him considerably after about four or five rounds.
In about the fifth, look for Fury to mix in his own right hand and stop Schwarz somewhere around the seventh.
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