By Frank Warren
There’s an oft trotted out adage which claims that ‘As goes the heavyweight division, so goes the sport of boxing.’
Well, after close to a decade of the sometimes boring Klitschko dominance – in which sports fans struggled to distinguish between Ukrainian brothers Vitali and Wladimir and the sport lacked a dominant champion because they refused to square off against each other – hopefully the sport’s blue riband class is set to re-ignite in 2014.
Vitali’s decision to abdicate the WBC throne and commit to a future in Ukrainian politics, plus the emergence of a cosmopolitan crop of undefeated prospects should inject much needed oxygen into our sport.
Last Monday I was delighted to announce the long anticipated rematch between Tyson Fury and Dereck Chisora, easily the two best heavyweights on these isles.
The pair’s collision for the European and vacant British titles at the Phones 4u Arena in Manchester on July 26th will double as a final eliminator for the WBO title currently in the custody of Brother Wladimir.
Dubbed ‘The Fight for the Right’, Fury-Chisora is a civil war with World Title implications and will be transmitted in the US. Whoever triumphs will emerge as a very genuine threat to the younger Klitschko who turns 38 this Tuesday and procrastinates with a defence against Samoa’s ridiculously under qualified Alex Leapai in Germany next month.
While Klitschko enters that ‘gimme’ as a 20-1 on favourite, the bookmakers have Chisora- Fury much tighter.
Tyson, fighting in his home town this summer, won their initial spat at Wembley Arena in 2011 by margins of five rounds (twice) and seven rounds and has been installed a 7-4 on. In that previous encounter, the Manchester traveller turned up primed for battle and executed on the night.
However, without wishing to diminish from his glory, ‘Del Boy’ was riddled with external troubles and entered the ring sporting several stones of surplus ‘timber’. On his worst day, he still completed the full 12 round trip and wobbled Fury on more than one occasion.
Today both are significantly more formidable beasts, having matured physically and mentally and acquired more experience.
Fury, unbeaten in 22 and bristling with self-belief, declared at Monday’s press conference that he’ll turn up with a fresh haircut, a tan and whitened teeth! However, by fight night, he’ll have started just once in 17 months after David Haye twice left him stranded at the altar in 2013 and he’ll need to guard against complacency.
Though Chisora’s 24 fight CV lists four defeats, the north Londoner has operated in far stiffer company, sharing the canvas with genuine world grade operators such as Robert Helenius, Vitali Klitschko, David Haye and Kevin Johnson – often travelling into their yard.
He’s been a revelation since returning from his ban last April, capturing the European and two InterContinental titles. He is presently ranked higher than Fury by all four sanctioning organisations and, trust me, he’s itching to redeem himself.
Del has confronted infinitely more credible competition than Alabama’s Deontay Wilder the 28 year old US kayo specialist who has eliminated all 31 pro victims inside four rounds.
The 2008 Olympic bronze medallist was up to his old tricks again in Puerto Rico last weekend when, in what was billed as his hardest exam thus far, he poleaxed Philadelphia’s Malik Scott in just 96 seconds.
Scott, beaten only by Chisora in 38 prior starts, was the 18th victim on Wilder’s slate to capitulate in the opening frame!
Usually a looping overhand right is the ‘Bronze Bomber’s’ weapon of choice but, on this occasion, a clubbing left hook to the temple caused the carnage.
Wilder’s imposing stats even eclipse those of an emerging Mike Tyson and, at 6ft 7in tall and a frighteningly chiselled 16 stone, his aura of menace magnifies with each passing demolition.
Question marks remain regarding his stamina once he is inevitably extended into the second half of a fight, plus how he will respond once his own whiskers are clipped. Nevertheless, his Colgate smile, trigger tongue and combustible fists are starting to generate huge excitement on both sides of the water.
Next up, he’ll make a mandatory challenge to whoever prevails between Canada’s Bermane Stiverne and California’s Chris Arreola who meet on May 10th to determine Vitali’s successor.
However, none of that trinity would present a more credible threat to Klitschko’s hegemony than the man who has his arm raised in victory in Manchester this summer.
Tickets have been flying out and, given the gargantuan egos of the principals, this promises to be an explosive event all round. The winner gets to tackle Klitschko, the loser still represents a viable test for Wilder.
Suddenly, things are looking very, very lively.
The disturbing trend of fighters failing to make weight for championship matches continues.
Three weeks back, Mexico’s Orlando Salido conceded his WBO featherweight title after flunking the scales for his high profile defence against ex amateur legend Vasyl Lomachenko.
Last weekend in Liverpool, Rocky Fielding missed the cut by a massive six pounds ahead of his Commonwealth super-middle spat against Ghana’s Charles Adamu.
During the days when there were just the eight traditional weight classes, a stone separated most of the divisions. Yet the old timers were far too proud and professional to arrive for work overweight.
Forcing opponents to subject their bodies to the trauma of strimming down, whilst making little effort to do likewise, provides one fighter with an unfair and potentially dangerous advantage. It’s tantamount to cheating.
It shows the scant regard some modern fighters place upon the multitude of titles that presently exist. Whilst both Salido and Fielding were stripped of their belts, far more stringent penalties are required to prevent anarchy.
The domestic super-bantamweight division is heating up nicely with the top three fighters all holding undefeated records and some big fights that can be down the line.
Tonight, British Champion Kid Galahad, the latest star from the famed Ingle gym in Sheffield, goes for the European title at Ponds Forge Leisure Centre; Belfast’s Carl Frampton will get a shot at the WBC World title if he beats Hugo Cazares next month on BoxNation, while Scott Quigg also defends his WBA crown in April.
Add to the mix Lewis Pettitt, a terrific all-action fighter from Erith, who goes for the Vacant WBA Intercontinental at the Copper Box Arena on April 12 and he’s closing in fast on the trio.
Plus there’s Liverpool warrior Jazza Dickins who lost to Galahad last September, but has bounced back with a good win recently at Aintree and he’s hovering just behind.
American heavyweight Eddie Chambers is settling into the gypsy way of life with Team Fury.
He’s swapped the mean streets of Philadelphia for a countryside setting on a holiday site owned by Tyson Fury’s uncle and trainer Peter and is living in a touring caravan.
The Former World Title Challenger, who next fights on the Copper Box Arena show on April 12, has even adjusted his diet and is catching and cooking rabbits on a camp fire!
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