We are drawn to the giants. Throughout the history of humankind, the pituitarily and radioactively enhanced in our midst – from Goliath to Godzilla, from Voltron to Valuev – have never failed to stretch our capacity for wonder. The mountains who walk among us thunder into our collective consciousness, establishing intractable dominion and, to our delight, eclipse the whole of our economy-size mundanity. André René Roussimoff, a nation — hell, a world — turns its lonely eyes to you. Our compulsion knows no borders, no language barriers. We are awed by inches and pounds (or, if you favour, stones), overwhelmed by strength and power. Measurables, baby. We are all size queens.
We are transfixed by shitshows. If at first glance it doesn’t appear to be sprung from the mind of a syphilis-addled and krank-tweaking P.T. Barnum, it isn’t fit for our consumption. Train wrecks and dumpster fires, assorted bachelor and housewife programming (but I repeat myself!), and social media in all its oozing forms are the public displays of dysfunction that feed our schadenfreude. Remember the time we dipped a C-grade Gordon Gekko in Cheez Whiz, rolled it into a dusty corner of the neighborhood cat lady’s home and elected it president? So fun. Enjoy viral embarrassment? Cue the applause. Abject failure? Pull up a chair. When bad breaks, we do not avert our gaze. We binge-watch.
And so, on Saturday night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Showtime Pay-Per-View — the global epicenter for both sprawling excess and cinematic spectacle — we’ll watch as unbeaten heavyweights Deontay Wilder (40-0, 39 KO) and Tyson Fury (27-0, 19 KO) lumber into frame.
The carnival barkers will call it roughly like this: Wilder, the 6-foot-7, Bambi-legged bomb-thrower from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, is, at age 33, at the peak of his apocalyptic power. He has crumpled every man he has faced as a professional — including, most recently, respectable contender Luis Ortiz and quasi-respectable fringe-dweller Bermane Stiverne. Meanwhile, Fury, at 6-foot-9 and — I swear to god, folks, undoubtedly in the Best Shape of His Life — is one of the few heavyweights alive capable, in every sense, of standing up to Wilder. Not so much crafty as stingy, Fury, the 30-year-old “Gypsy King” from Manchester, U.K., has survived all manner of partners — including a finest-hour decision over now-retired lineal champion Wladimir Klitschko.
Now let’s talk turkeys. For all his menace, Wilder has yet to prove that his particular brand of weaponized-tether-ball-on-water-skis brawling has efficacy against a competent boxer — particularly a stink-out artist on Fury’s acrid level. Wilder’s jab is little more than urban legend. Balance? Footwork? You’ve come to the wrong dojo, my friend. But combining reach and kinetic potential with aggressive, batshit unpredictability is a weirdly potent blend. Think drunken, flamethrower-armed toddler: Even if you handle the situation perfectly, there’s at least an outside chance you’ll be reduced to a pile of ash.
Will that influence Fury’s strategy or gumption in the ring? If he knows what’s good for him, absolutely. And that’s part of what makes this fight so difficult to call. For all the talk of Fury’s settled mind and new physique — he reportedly has dumped the equivalent weight of a teenage boy — his life since toppling Klitschko three years ago has been a TMZ ticker. In the months after becoming lineal champion, Fury’s weight ballooned, his Twitter timeline went sideways and his grapple with depression, drugs and alcohol cannibalized his career. And because a decade full of Sefer Seferi and Francesco Pianeta comeback fights can’t properly prepare a man for Wilder, it’s unclear whether Fury still has the old fastball – or in his case, eephus. Wild weight fluctuations and wilder nights in the pub tend not to agree with the bodies of athletes near the end of their physical primes. If Fury lacks the power to end Saturday’s fight early (likely), the issue becomes whether he has the fitness and reflexes to survive, and score effectively, over 12 rounds against Wilder’s unhinged guillotine of a right hand.
The answer: How the hell should I know? The savages will root for Wilder to stumble into moments when he finds Fury’s melon placed on a tee. The lads will hope their man can muck up the barney, slap on the darbies and take the piss out of the Yank, leaving him knackered and, with any luck, arse over tit. (Or something like that.) Me? I’m just hoping like hell for a decent heavyweight championship fight.
But I won’t deny the small part of me that’s watching — and I’m talking Jack-Nicholson-nodding-in-Anger-Management-GIF-watch — because I … cannot … help … myself. And why fight it? Honestly, how often do you get to see a couple T-Rexes interpret hand-to-hand combat as Kama Sutra performative art? We’re hard-wired for this stuff. Lizard brain’s gonna lizard brain, y’know? Take your seats, Neanderthals. Enjoy the show.
(Photo by Andrew Couldridge for Reuters)