In what’s set to be boxing theatre at its finest, 94,000 fans will be on hand for Tyson Fury’s homecoming as he defends the WBC heavyweight championship against interim titleholder Dillian Whyte in what could be the final fight of his illustrious career at Wembley Stadium in London on Saturday night, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.
Tyson Fury (1.16) v Dillian Whyte (4.75) (WBC World Heavyweight Championship)
Card starts at 7 PM Saturday SA time
He’s a larger than life superstar. A showman. A towering tactician and a transcendent figure respected and revered worldwide for the demons he’s slain outside of the ring and greatness inside of it.
However, there’s nowhere Fury’s more beloved than in his native England and after a four-year tour de force in the United States, “The Gypsy King” will finally do battle on home soil again.
He returns having extended his remarkable undefeated record to 31 wins with one draw. He returns as the WBC and lineal heavyweight champion of the world and steps back in the ring six months after capping off his epic trilogy with Deontay Wilder with an 11th-round knockout victory in Las Vegas.
He returns a better and more dangerous version than the Fury who beat Sefer Seferi in Manchester in 2018, his last fight on English soil, and returns for an all-British battle…a showdown the 33-year-old says might be his sweet science swansong.
In Whyte, he faces a tough and dangerous challenge. The 11-year veteran has an impressive record of 28-2 with 19 knockouts. His 30th and most recent bout saw him stop Alexander Povetkin in the fourth last March to regain the WBC interim title and set up this blockbuster meeting with Fury.
His “Body Snatcher” moniker highlights his biggest strength – his punishing work to the body, which is the best form of attack against Fury, who has the best head movement and footwork in the heavyweight division despite standing six-foot-nine.
At six-foot-four, Whyte has no option but to walk into the fire and has it all to do to successfully get on the inside with Fury having a massive seven-inch reach advantage. Against an undefeated maestro of movement, that in itself is a near-impossible mission.
Whyte is good. Fury, however, is not only great but the greatest of his generation. His technical precision, fight IQ and extraordinary elusiveness for a giant make him one-of-a-kind and have seen him defeat superiorly skilled and more lethal fighters than Whyte, the best examples being snapping the great Wladimir Klitschko’s 22-fight unbeaten streak in Germany in 2015 and the wins over Wilder.
Add the type of steely resolve that saw him turn his life around to become a beacon of hope for those battling mental health issues and rise off the canvas like the Undertaker after getting hit by Wilder’s best shot in their first fight and you have a fighter with near-superhuman skill and heart.
Complacency will the biggest concern for the Fury camp. Following the high of triumphing in the trilogy for the ages, how motivated is Fury to face a mandatory challenger, especially since he seemingly has one foot out of the ring?
It’s inconceivable that Whyte will outbox the master tactician over 12 rounds. However, it is heavyweight boxing and if Fury’s too lackadaisical defensively and too much of a showman going forward, there is a possibility that the 34-year-old could catch him and shatter his undefeated streak.
Time and time again, though, Fury’s shown that no matter what’s going on in his private life (and that covers a lot of ground), once he steps inside the ring, he’s as switched on as can be. His journey from the brink of suicide back to the pinnacle of boxing has taught him to appreciate every moment, he says, so I don’t see the retirement issue distracting him on the night.
Instead, I expect him to put on an entertaining clinic. His back-to-back knockouts of Wilder, which took his KO tally to 22, are proof that he’s more dangerous than ever since switching to the Kronk style under SugarHill Steward and he should stop the game but outmatched Whyte inside the first half of the fight.