You know the overused movie plot where the boring, super-uptight guy meets the wild, crazy girl who finally shows him how to let loose and have fun? That’s what Saturday’s heavyweight title fight on HBO between Wladimir Klitschko and Tyson Fury has going for it. Except in this case, the boring dude is the reigning heavyweight champ who hasn’t been in a competitive fight in years, and the wild girl is a 6’9″ hairy beast man who appears to be completely unhinged. And unlike most of those movies, the plot device will work for this fight. Fun isn’t always crazy, but crazy is usually fun.
There are fighters whose styles are complete contradictions of their personalities. Floyd Mayweather was brash and flashy outside the ring but defensive and cautious with the gloves on. Klitschko fights exactly the way you’d expect him to — reserved, quiet, and careful. Despite possessing obscene power and more talent in one fist than most of his opponents combined, he remains stoic, measured and deliberate during fights. He dominates other fighters, but he’s more than content to go the distance if necessary. He also doesn’t appear concerned in the slightest if he stinks the joint out. To him, a win’s a win. You get the feeling that instead of celebrating after a fight, he sits down for a game of chess with some hot tea and lemon while Kenny G plays softly in the background.
There have been a few rare instances where another side of “Dr Steelhammer” has emerged and he has replaced his calm demeanor with something far more menacing. His battle with Kubrat Pulev last November was a wild fight that actually ended up being — gasp — pleasant to watch. Pulev’s strategy involved throwing about 375 rabbit punches, and since referee Tony Weeks decided to take the night off, Klitschko took matters into his own hands. He got angry and beat the living hell out of Pulev. After dump trucking him with a left hook, Klitschko exhorted his opponent to rise up so that he could inflict more damage. Pulev wisely decided against it.
David Haye was able to get under Klitschko’s skin before their fight in 2011 by talking enough trash to last a few lifetimes. Klitschko vowed vengeance for Haye’s behavior. In the end, the fight was a hideous mess. Both men were just scared enough of the other guy that neither tried to question the inevitability of a wide Klitschko decision. The champ tried desperately not to be hit, and the challenger fell down whenever the champ so much as leered angrily at him.
Tyson Fury is either a wild showman or a completely deluded psychotic, or perhaps a bit of both. Either way, he’s in the right sport. And he has certainly tried to bother Klitschko with his own brand of pre-fight shenanigans, including spewing barely-coherent insults and every boxer’s favorite psych-out attempt — showing up to a press conference as Batman. But he doesn’t seem to be getting to Klitschko the way Haye did. Maybe it’s because he’s been here so many times before, seen every type of fighter one can see, and heard all of the smack talk already. In any case, Klitschko isn’t showing any cracks in the armor. I think the reason is simply because Klitschko doesn’t view Fury as a legitimate threat. He’s not alone
Fury is undefeated. He’s also enormous, one of the few fighters Klitschko has ever had to look up at. And with that, he can certainly pack a punch. But he’s very raw and technically inferior to Klitschko in every way. And there are some serious question marks regarding the old beard — he was dropped and hurt by Steve Cunningham, a guy not exactly known as a vicious puncher. Klitschko was concerned about Haye’s punching power, and the hostility he showed before their fight betrayed a bit of trepidation. This time around, I don’t see it. I see a man with a humored, if slightly bemused look on his face, who knows full well that he’s going to bash the living shit out of his opponent.
Haye talked a big game, but everything he did seemed manufactured. He chirped his way into the fight, and then fought with the timidity of a guy who knew he shouldn’t have been there. Fury doesn’t seem to have that kind of self-awareness. That’s why he’ll likely go in with both fists blazing — he genuinely believes he belongs there. And with this wild, massive brawler swinging away at him like the town drunk in another bar scrap, Klitschko will be forced into a fight. On the rare occasions when Klitschko has been goaded into firing away, he’s been fantastic to watch. This time, he’ll find his man impossible to miss, and he’ll then tee off on him. Fury will live up to his name, right up until the champion deposits him onto the canvas. But at least he’ll have gone down swinging, and not plodding his way through one more Klitschko snoozer.
Something tells me Fury will wear that like a badge of honor.
Some Random Notes From This Past Weekend’s Pay-Per-View Show:
- If the statement Guillermo Rigondeaux needed to make Saturday night was “I am still more unpleasant to watch than Don Rickles in a Speedo,” mission accomplished.
- Francisco Vargas is a man. Takashi Miura is no slouch either. Their spectacular fight Saturday night exhilarated a crowd that had just been collectively doused with an ocean of Ambien. Miura was out on his feet in round 2, but roared back and drilled Vargas with a straight left hand in round 4. He hurt Vargas again at the end of round 8. But Vargas, right eye badly damaged and seemingly on the verge of a knockout loss, exploded out of the corner to start round 9 like Teddy Atlas had just told him to go put out some goddamn fires. He bashed Miura around the ring until referee Tony Weeks finally shut him down. Let’s hope we see a rematch, ASAP.
- Miguel Cotto has looked so good lately that I had forgotten what an insufferable baby he is when taking an L. He earned $15 million, tried hard to avoid a fight, and then stormed out of the ring after the correct decision was announced. If Cotto’s trainer Freddie Roach truly believes his guy won, he’d better go back and look at the tape. This wasn’t close. This was, as Adrien Broner once so eloquently described his fight with feather-fisted Paulie Malignaggi, “shadow boxing.”
- Canelo Alvarez did what he needed to do against Cotto — he landed the far more effective blows and stood his ground. And he said all the right things after the fight, including announcing himself ready for Gennady Golovkin. I’m highly skeptical of that fight coming off even remotely soon, mainly because I don’t think Canelo will ever be ready for Golovkin. But at 25, Canelo is an integral part of boxing’s future.
- Jay Nady is an abysmal referee. That didn’t change Saturday, when he tried to dick Ronny Rios out of a win over Jayson Velez by repeatedly calling him for borderline low blows and then taking a point from him for landing a clean punch. Nady’s problem isn’t that he’s under-assertive like fellow referee Laurence Cole, who often looks puzzled as to exactly what it is he’s supposed to be doing there, it’s that he’s over-assertive and usually very wrong. HBO scorekeeper Harold Lederman mentioned that he might have been showboating, but it’s not showboating, it’s plain ineptitude.
- Jay Z’s promotional build up was as bland as the fighter they were supposed to be promoting, but boy he sure looked happy to be in the dressing room after his guy lost!
- Beyonce on the other hand, couldn’t have looked more uncomfortably out of place. Maybe she’ll sing next time. Speaking of singing…
- This was my face during Yandel’s musical performance.
(Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images)