The long-awaited heavyweight rematch between Tyson Fury and Wladimir Klitschko has been set for July 9th at the Manchester Arena in Fury's hometown of Manchester, England. As most fans already know, the "Gypsy King" wrested the championship via unanimous decision in an underwhelming fight late last year, ending an 11-year unbeaten streak for the former champ across the ring. Fury, who has proven his capacity for words, is of course confident going into the rematch.
"I'm thrilled to get this fight on July 9 at the Manchester Arena. I'm the best heavyweight in the world, and the rest are imposters to my titles," Fury said. "I am coming for all of them once I've dealt with Klitschko a second time.
"The only man that could beat Klitschko is me. What I've got can't be taught. You've either got it or you haven't. How you beat robots is to do unorthodox things. I'm expecting a totally different fight [in the rematch]. He's going to have to come over here and fight this time. It's going to be a slugfest."
If their first encounter is of any indication, the rematch will be anything but a slugfest. The far greater likelihood is that it will play out uneventful the second time around, as Klitschko is a notoriously slow starter and an all-around cautious fighter, and Fury, despite his verbosity, has neither shown the aptitude of an elite boxer, nor hold a resume to suggest one. Aside from dethroning the champ last November, his best win was against Dereck Chisora, who while a sturdy contender, is far from championship material. Instead, much of Fury's fan appeal has been created from his media appearances, from sexist and homophobic comments to later apologizing for those sexist and homophobic comments to making WWE-like outbursts in the ring against the other belt holders in the division. So while he may not be the most skilled heavyweight inside the ring, he certainly is the most entertaining one outside of it.
This brings us to the next point. In terms of sheer physicality and boxing ability, Klitschko is by far the more qualified candidate to reign as the heavyweight champion of the world. If championships were awarded based purely on athletic performance (which in some ways they should be), then it would be hopeful that he emerges victorious in their upcoming encounter. But Klitschko also has one of the dullest attitudes in the history of the sport. For international audiences, boxing is spearheaded by its big men, and the last decade in which Klitschko ruled the fistic trade probably garnered the least amount of global attention. Fury, while critically under-skilled compared to his predecessor, has brought a much-needed revival to the sport through his attitude alone. For the sake of its own survival, the "Gypsy King" winning this July would probably be better for boxing. There are certainly a number of fights he could take after the rematch.
In perhaps an odd twist of sanctioning body politics, Fury singularly holds only one of the three belts he won from Klitschko last year. Since then, the WBA has co-crowned Lucas Browne as the "World" version of their heavyweight championship, and the IBF stripped and has since awarded its stake to heavyweight prospect Anthony Joshua when he beat out former holder Charles Martin last weekend. That leaves the WBO distinction (which out of the four official stakes actually holds the least amount of credibility), but anyone who knows anything about boxing knows that Klitschko was the last legitimate heavyweight champion, so by common sense logic, Fury is therefore the most legitimate belt holder out there. He also appears willing to prove that claim against the other titlists in the division. Since Joshua's victory last weekend, Fury has had plenty of choice words for young champion, even a suggestion to fight both Klitschko and Joshua on the same night.
"What we do is, we go to the Manchester Arena, charge treble for the tickets, treble for the pay-preview, I'll fight Klitschko first, beat him, then I'll fight AJ and beat him on the same night," he said in an interview. "Two fights, same night. That's my proposal."
Unless professional boxing reverts itself to the old school UFC days, this is obviously not going to happen. But it is at least entertaining to see a champion with that much cocky self-belief, and viewers are now more eager to tune in. The current heavyweight division is an absolute mess, but it's preferable to how it's been run previously. On July 9th, I say let the heavyweight circus continue.