The heavyweight division has seen a much needed resurgence as of late. There is a great mix of younger fighters, still building their craft and legacy (Anthony Joshua, Joseph Parker, Jarrell Miller etc.) and fighters nearing the end of their career looking to cement their place in Boxing history (Alexander Povetkin, Kubrat Pulev, Luis Ortiz). One thing has been missing from the division for the last two years, the man who beat the man, Tyson Fury (25-0 18KO). It’s been a bumpy ride, but the 29 year-old, undefeated Fury has been issued a boxing license and has announced his ring return for June 9th. An opponent hasn’t been announced yet, so let’s take a look at (what I believe is) a solid game plan to shake the rust off and efficiently build into a spot to challenge for one of the World Titles currently held by Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder.
Based on Fury’s notoriety and ability to stir a crowd following, it wouldn’t take long to drive interest in a bout between him and either of the current Champions (Wilder/Joshua). Driving interest in the fight isn’t the same as having a chance to win the fight. I’m a big fan of Fury, and I believe a peak version is favored against any fighter in the division, but a Fury who hasn’t fought in over two years has very little chance in executing the subtle nuances required for elite level competition, particularly with his style. If you ask the “Gypsy King” himself, he’d probably tell you to being them both on tomorrow night, but realistically I see Fury needing two or three fights to get back into form.
The first fight should be against strong but beatable competition, and justifiably so. Two years is a long time to be out of the spotlight, and jumping back into it against a high-caliber opponent would be a high risk and potentially foolish move. Somebody with a solid record, world class experience and enough of a tank to stick in for some rounds would fit the bill. A few fighters come to mind in this situation. Eric Molina (26-5 19KO) and Chazz Witherspoon (37-3 28KO) are the type of opponents I would be looking at here. They are the type of fighters that will expose you if you aren’t up to par. If the old Tyson Fury is still here, then he should be able to navigate these challenges. If his skills have deteriorated, then they will become apparent here.
After shaking the rust off and correcting areas that need improvement, it’s time to not only get back on the Top-10 rankings list, but generate a bit of a buzz going in the division. This requires an opponent that is more dangerous and has more name recognition. The fighters I’m thinking about here are Dominic Breazeale (19-1 17KO) or Andy Ruiz Jr. (30-1 20KO). Both of these fighters have fallen short before when fighting for a Championship, but have shown high level skills. Either would pose a challenge to any world caliber boxer, but the Tyson Fury of past should be able to weather the storm and get through them.
We all know the politics in boxing, and a prime Fury is a threat to anybody in the division, so logic says that he will need to reach a mandatory position to be able to challenge for the belts. This will be a dangerous, but necessary step in order to get the belts back to the Gypsy King. This is the fight where you could expect to see a Joseph Parker (24-1 18KO), Luis Otiz (28-1 24KO), Dillian Whyte (23-1 17KO) or Jarrell Miller (20-0-1 18KO). A win here would put Fury in the undeniable position to try to reclaim his titles.
I hope Fury is sincere with his intentions to return to the ring. He was a fantastic source of entertainment outside the ring, and a Rubric’s Cube inside the ring. I also appreciate all of the motivational work he does (through videos and social media) for the mentally ill and those battling with addiction. Regardless of who’s at the top of the division, adding Tyson Fury in the mix only spices thing up. What’s your opinion of the former Champion? Do you think he’s the real deal, or over-rated prospect? Let me know in the comments below, via email PugilistsParadise@columnist.com or on Twitter @TheGreatToddMan.