A lot has been made in the past week of Tyson Fury’s return to Trump-style communication, that is, harassing people on Twitter without using factual statements. He used this strategy before with Klitschko, and it worked. He got his shot at the title, and the big lazy manic-depressive actually pulled it off somehow. He won.
Hey, it shocked me too–but now people who claim to know boxing are making a big deal about Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder avoiding Fury. They treat a potential rematch between Klitschko and Fury as a foregone conclusion, that Klitschko will lose. I’m pretty puzzled as to why anyone would feel that way. Have you not been following heavyweights for the last 11-14 years? Because that’s how long the Klitschko name has adorned the top of the division. Sure, it was a lackluster era for the heavies, but the same was said about Floyd Mayweather before he started fighting Cottos and Pacquiaos. While the first fight between Fury and Klitschko was one-sided, the sheer absurdity of the circumstances (Fury sang “Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” after his victory) made it clear that a rematch would be worth seeing. Joshua-Klitschko will undoubtedly be less exciting to watch than that fever dream was, but it brings gravity and competition back to the division.
We have to keep in mind that Wladimir Klitschko turned 41 a few weeks ago while Tyson Fury is still only 28. The older Klitschko gets, the less he’ll be able to compete with any young, large, skilled opponent, and the more likely it becomes that his successor will be just another pudgy Russian or technical Slavic fighter whose name will fade as quickly as it appeared (we’re looking at you, Ibragimov). Remember Nikolay Valuev? Do you remember how big he was? A 7-foot tall 330-pound monster with enough chest hair to weave a bathroom mat. He lost to David Haye (a man with a 100 pound weight disadvantage) 8 years ago. Haye went on to fight Klistchko just 6 years ago, and was humiliated, unable to compete on any level. In other words: just because you’re the biggest, or have the biggest mouth, doesn’t mean you’re competitive.
Fury is slightly less bound by his lumbering physique than Valuev, but no more talented. It should come as a shock to everyone if he manages another win over Klitschko, and an even greater shock if he gets a match and can even compete with the other two, younger, more talented, more physically impressive champions. Joshua probably isn’t as skilled as Wilder, but both are so far beyond Fury physically that skill won’t be as much of a factor, if they ever meet him in the ring. It’s certainly impressive that Fury managed a win over a Klitschko, at any age, and he did it while suffering from mental illness. I’m not saying Fury got lucky, but there’s a reason no one expected the fight to go the way it did. Just as it was for Lennox Lewis-Oliver McCall II, the rematch is a clean slate for the more talented, and more physically and mentally fit fighter.
That being said, Joshua and Wilder are no small potatoes themselves. I would expect either of them to handle everyone in the heavyweight division easily, except each other and Klitschko. There are others on the periphery; Luis Ortiz comes to mind, but then so do the allegations of doping and use of banned substances. As far as I’m concerned, however well it was concealed, there’s as much likelihood that Fury was using PEDs leading up to Klitschko as there is that Marquez did leading up to the last fight with Pacquiao. As far as Helenius and Price, the behemoths seemed to have a better shelf life than Fury, but have faded out of the picture so completely that it’s not worth speculating about the reasons why.
When Klitschko and Joshua meet this Saturday, expect a real test of Klistchko’s viability and his skill. If he can get past Joshua or even put up a convincing fight, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him solidly defeat Fury in a rematch at some point in the future. If not, and they never meet, it’s very likely that Wilder and Joshua, in that order, will lead the division head and shoulders (no pun intended) above everyone else.