By Jake Donovan
Proactive measures were taken to keep Tyson Fury's place secure on the February 15 bill at the Copper Box Arena in London. The hulking Brit remains on the show but now has a new opponent, as American journeyman Joey Abell steps in to replace an ailing Gonzalo Omar Basile, it was announced Wednesday.
"Abell is big and he can punch; just what I want on my comeback,” said Fury (21-0, 15KO), who has been chomping at the bit to return to the ring, having not fought since his off-the-canvas knockout of Steve Cunningham last April. The bout served as his stateside debut and was supposed to serve as a launching pad for global domination.
Instead, the 6'9" heavyweight has watched bouts fall through while passing on other opportunities before landing on the Copper Box show. His placement on the card includes a temporary deal in place to work with Frank Warren and BoxNation TV in addition to his current promotional contract with Mick Hennessy, with the show geared towards setting up a future rematch with Dereck Chisora.
Abell (29-7, 28KO) is based out of midwestern United States, and is the stereotypical fighter from that region. Five of his seven losses have come by way of knockout, including a five-round drubbing at the hands of top-rated heavyweight Kubrat Pulev last December in Germany.
The American accepted assignment almost immediately after it was learned that Basile (61-8, 27KO) was forced to withdraw from the show after the Argentine came down with a lung infection earlier this week.
As far as Fury is concerned, the change is a welcomed upgrade.
“One thing I do respect about him is his power,” Fury notes, though speaking strictly to Abell's record and not necessarily who he's actually beaten. "He’s got a great knockout record and in the heavyweights it only takes one shot to turn things around. He’ll have confidence in seeing that I was floored by Cunningham and he’ll want to have a good go, he likes to get things done early with a lot of knockouts coming in the first few rounds.
“Who knows? He could land one on me. This is his big chance to make a name and upset the future of the heavyweight division.”
Barring the unexpected, a win by Fury will lead to a desired rematch with the evening's headliner, provided he gets past his own American challenge.
Chisora headlines on the show versus American fringe contender Kevin Johnson, as he seeks his fifth straight win. His loss to Fury in 2011 was the first of his career, and at his career heaviest weight.
There was never much demand for a rematch, as Chisora found other opportunities. However, that stretch also included all of his remaining career losses, coming in back-to-back-to-back contests that also included despicable antics resulting in a fine and suspension. Also included in the lot was the lone stoppage loss of his career, when David Haye drilled him in five rounds in a London-stage bout that required outside sanctioning when the BBBoC refused to reinstate Chisora's license.
“[E]ven though Abell is a late substitute there’s no way he’ll knock me off course for my summer rendezvous with Mr. Chisora who’s got his own Yank to deal with in Johnson,” Fury said. “I’ll do my job and if he’s does his then we’re all set for a summer settler.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox