Despite his promoter Mick Hennessy’s bold pronouncements, on Saturday’s evidence, British heavyweight Tyson Fury has an awful long way to go before he can even consider attempting to dethrone the Klitschko brothers.
Manchester born Fury’s (17-0, 12 KOs) homecoming almost turned sour when he was dropped by his unheralded Canadian opponent Neven Pajkic (16-1, 5 KOs) in an exciting and action-packed three rounds at the city’s EventCity venue on 12 November.
However, at times the bout resembled more of a bar fight than an illustration of the sweet science, with both men swinging wildly and displaying clumsier footwork than even the most inept Strictly Come Dancing contestant.
Admittedly this made for an enthralling scrap that kept the partisan Manchester crowd and the millions watching at home on terrestrial television on the edge of their seats, but it also showed up some glaring deficiencies in Fury’s technique and ring craft, and made a mockery of his promoter’s claims that Fury would be ready for the Klitchkos in 18 months time.
Despite his perfect record, Pajkic had no notable wins and with only five stoppages from 16 paid contests, wasn’t expected to trouble the 6ft 9in Fury.
But Pajkic, who was giving up two stone and six inches in height to the towering Briton, looked anything but feather-fisted when he sent Fury crashing to the canvas with a huge overhand right in the second round.
Fury – looking out of shape yet again – showed tremendous heart to survive the round and recover his composure, but he was getting tagged far too often with looping shots he should have seen coming a mile away.
For reasons beyond understanding, Fury barely used his jab and significant height and reach advantages to keep his opponent at arms length, preferring to stand and trade in a gung-ho style that while entertaining to watch, will quickly see him come unstuck against better opponents in the heavyweight division.
Fury eventually rallied in the third round, sapping Pajkic’s energy with some fine work to the body before dropping him twice with some big right hands. Referee Phil Edwards’ had seen enough and stepped in to halt the action towards the end of the third session, much to the Canadian’s chagrin.
Much like Fury’s last fight on Channel 5 against Nicolai Firtha, this was an entertaining and hotly contested battle that showed up the 23-year-old’s technical frailties and gung-ho style and was ultimately soured by a premature stoppage.
Hennessy seemed unperturbed by his fighters troubles with the game but limited Canadian champion: “He’s got a lot of work to do, but by the time he gets there in 16 to 18 months’ time he’ll be a different fighter,” he said.
Step up in class
At this stage of his career, even the proposed showdown with the unbeaten Russian Alexander Povetkin – who holds a portion of the heavyweight title after Wladimir Klitschko was absurdly promoted to ‘super’ champion by the WBA following his points victory over David Haye – looks like a huge step up in class for the British and Commonwealth champion.
Povetkin (22-0, 15 KOs), who is trained by ESPN analyst Teddy Atlas, is a former Olympic gold medallist who has turned down several fights with Wladimir Klitschko in favour of more modest opposition as he worked his way towards a title opportunity.
The 31-year-old has hardly set the division alight since turning pro in 2005 and against their one common opponent, journeyman Nicolai Firtha (20-9-1, 8 KOs), Fury arguably did a better job, stopping the tough Ohio native in the fifth round after being rocked in the third session by a big overhand right. Povetkin, meanwhile, cruised to a comfortable but uninspiring unanimous decision over the same foe.
That said, Povetkin is still an experienced campaigner with some decent scalps on his record, of which Eddie Chambers and former world champion Ruslan Chagaev are perhaps the most notable.
Hennessy has booked New York’s famous Madison Square Garden for 17 March and will reportedly offer Povetkin first refusal for the high-profile bout on St Patricks’ Day. But Povetkin’s promoter Kalle Sauerland says Hennessy will have to make the Russian a big offer to secure Fury his ‘world title’ shot.
While it’s certainly admirable that Hennessy is stepping up the level of competition for Fury, and that the fighter himself is willing to take on who ever his promoter puts in front of him, a seasoned professional like Povetkin could be a step too far for the young Briton at this stage of his career.
Fury still has so much to learn and if he is to prosper at world level, there are glaring deficiencies that need to be addressed – and quickly. For such a big man, he uses the jab only sparingly and has a tendency to get drawn into toe-to-toe slugfests which, as Pajkic demonstrated, is a dangerous game to play when you are up against the concussive punchers of the heavyweight division. Even Hennessy conceded: “He’s just got to stop getting drawn into a gun fight and start being smart. Once he does that he’s the best heavyweight on the planet.”
His defence is also a cause for concern, and if he is make the step up to world level, Fury badly needs a top class trainer like Manny Steward in his corner who can iron out the technical and tactical imperfections that continue to blight his promising career.
Despite his impressive record, Fury has a one-dimensional style, moving back and forward in straight lines and throwing wild shots that leave him wide open to counter punches. Better opponents such as Robert Helenius or his mandatory challenger for the British title, David Price, would surely capitalise on such lapses in concentration.
The Klitschkos certainly have nothing to worry about just yet, but that’s not to say that Fury cannot operate at world level in the future. At just 23, he has achieved a great deal in his career, with his hard-fought win over fellow Briton Dereck Chisora (15-1, 9 KOs) to secure the British and Commonwealth titles the obvious highlight thus far. Fury has the size, reach and strength to challenge the Ukrainian siblings supremacy in the division but he remains a work in progess. He needs to prove he is the best domestically by avenging his amateur defeat to Price before he can even contemplate ending the Klitchkos’ long reign.