When it comes to Boxing’s Heavyweight division, it is not always easy to frame a fight as one fighter attempting to upset another because the Heavyweight division as much as any division in the sport is associated with the notion that “Anything Can Happen At Any Given Time” as this observer has often said over the many years I have covered combat sports. There are times however, when such a description is still appropriate, particularly in the case of a fighter who has long been regarded as either a long-reigning world champion and/or one of the cornerstones of the division.
In the case of undefeated WBC Heavyweight world champion Tyson Fury, he has had two separate reigns as a Heavyweight world champion that has stretched over several years. Coming off of his second knockout win over Deontay Wilder in a trilogy in which Fury became a two-time world champion in winning two of the three bouts, there may not be much left for the champion to accomplish beyond the ever-elusive goal of becoming undisputed Heavyweight champion of the world. Before Fury can set his sights on that goal however, he must first fulfill an obligation that all world champions throughout the sport must do annually. Defend his title against a mandatory challenger. Fury will do just that as he will make the second defense of his WBC crown against number one WBC Heavyweight contender Dillian Whyte on Saturday, April 23rd at Wembley Stadium in London, England.
The fight, which can be seen here in the United States on ESPN+ Pay-Per-View has a storyline that is not unlike the one that proceeded Fury’s first world title win against then unified IBF/WBA/WBO/IBO Heavyweight world champion Wladimir Klitschko in 2015. Can the challenger upset a fighter viewed as a division cornerstone? In the case of Klitschko-Fury now several years ago, it was a scenario of Fury being able to dethrone a longtime world champion that was on the verge of a potentially historic reign in terms of consecutive title defenses. As most knowledgeable Boxing fans know, Fury would relinquish the then unified crown shortly after defeating Klitschko due to struggles with his mental health. While Fury was never defeated and subsequently went on to regain a portion of the World Heavyweight championship in his second of three bouts with Deontay Wilder, this is a slightly different scenario in that Dillian Whyte is not looking to dethrone a champion that has had a long reign over the division, but rather a two-time world champion that has in one way or another, been a focal point of the division for several years.
It is perhaps that standing in the division in addition to Fury's two stoppage victories over Wilder that will make him a significant favorite going into this fight. There are however, a few things to consider as this fight approaches. Firstly, and perhaps the most obvious, what kind of condition will the champion be in come fight night. It is important to remember that the three fights Fury went through with Deontay Wilder were grueling battles and even though Fury emerged from those bouts still unbeaten, he did take significant punishment and was dropped four times over the course of those three bouts. It goes without saying that each time a fighter competes they leave something behind. For fighters that go through series of fights against a single opponent, an argument could indeed be made that they are not quite the same fighters coming out of a series as they were going in. It is therefore logical to wonder what those three bouts with Deontay Wilder may have taken out of Fury as a fighter.
As for Dillian Whyte, the longtime Heavyweight contender has waited a several years as a mandatory challenger to get his opportunity to fight for the WBC world championship. Whyte’s status was briefly interrupted when he suffered a one punch fifth round knockout loss to former world title challenger and longtime contender Alexander Povetkin August 2020. Whyte avenged that loss by scoring a knockout of Povetkin in their rematch in March of last year. Although both of those fights took place in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic, some may question whether Whyte answered whatever critics that might be in the rematch with Povetkin. This is due to Povetkin, who had dealt with a severe bout with the COVID-19 virus appearing to be clearly compromised in the rematch in terms of his equilibrium and an inability to keep his balance both when throwing punches as well as not having punch resistance. While it is not exactly justified in this observer’s view for one to discredit Whyte’s victory in the rematch simply due to the fact that all a fighter can do is face the opposition that is placed before them and keeping in mind that there is still much that is unknown in regard to the long-term effects of the COVID-19 virus, there are probably some that will still question whether Whyte should be in this fight with Fury off of a victory over a clearly compromised opponent.
The bottom line is with the victory, Whyte did reclaim his number one ranking in the WBC’s Heavyweight ratings, so regardless of the circumstances of the victory, he has nevertheless earned this opportunity. Although some may view Whyte as the underdog going into this fight, it is crucial in my eyes that he find a way to make the champion uncomfortable from the outset. Tyson Fury is a fighter that uses his 6’9 frame to great effectiveness as a fighter who is quite awkward and very elusive. Such a style has proven difficult for most fighters to combat up to this point, but perhaps one way to do it would be to force Fury into a fight early that will not allow him to get into a rhythm where he can box his way through the fight and seemingly look to win rounds. Whyte must remember that Fury is coming off of a grueling fight in his third bout with Deontay Wilder last October and there has not been much time for Fury to recuperate from that type of battle both physically and mentally.
By the same token, the challenger must also approach the champion with caution and be tactical in trying to force Fury into a fight. Whyte must remember that in his first fight against Alexander Povetkin, he was winning the fight and saw the fight ended by a single uppercut to the head that he did not see coming. While that was the definition of a one punch knockout, he must keep in mind that Tyson Fury is a solid counter puncher that can land uppercuts with both hands and if he becomes overly aggressive, it could provide the champion with openings that he can take advantage of.
As for the champion, his strategy appears to be a simple one. Look to out box Whyte and use his elusiveness to try to minimize any punishment that might come his way. This is of course, easier said than done and indeed “Anything Can Happen” especially when two big Heavyweights get into a ring to do battle. With an estimated crowd of 94,000 spectators expected at the legendary Wembley Stadium the bout between Fury and Whyte will benefit from what is known as the “Big Fight Atmosphere.” Whether that translates to a memorable battle inside the ring remains to be seen.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
Fury vs. White takes place on Saturday, April 23rd at Wembley Stadium in London, England. The fight can be seen in the United States on ESPN+ Pay-Per-View for $79.99 beginning at 2PM ET/11AM PT. ESPN+ is available through the ESPN app on mobile, tablet, and connected streaming devices/platforms/Smart TVs. To order on ESPN+ download the ESPN app or visit www.ESPNPlus.com/PPV. Check your local listings internationally.
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