Tyson Fury’s victory at the weekend is meaningful in a multitude of ways. Perhaps most importantly, his cool dismantling of Francesco Pianetta over ten, comfortable rounds finally reintroduced the ‘Gypsy King’ to competitive boxing in a way that his contest against Sefer Seferi would never and could never have done. As much as promoter Frank Warren wanted to bill this as Fury’s long awaited return, the antics in the build up that continued long into the fight itself confirmed everyone’s suspicions that this was nothing more than a circus exhibition. Pianeta, a former two-time European champion and world title challenger, at least carried a pedigree worthy of respect, even if his current run of form was suspect.
He was handily dealt with. Fury, switching stances and throwing shots from unseen angles, cruised to a shut-out points win at Windsor Park in Belfast, hardly taking a single punch in retaliation. Pianeta, bamboozled from the opening bell, was quickly stripped of his ambition as body shots and jabs zipped through and around his guard. Unable to cut off the ring or negotiate Fury’s considerable reach, the Italian looked out of ideas from the third session, allowing Fury to enjoy some target practice and shake off some ring rust in the process. An unspectacular but good performance, and we can all rest assured that the Mancunian, although a little way off his potential best, is now finally back as a contender.
Beating Pianeta meant more to Fury than simply putting the rest of the heavyweight world on notice, however. It was, apparently, the final obstacle in the negotiations between him and undefeated world champion Deontay Wilder, who was sat ringside at Windsor Park to watch the action. The victory was the platform for the announcement of a showdown between the pair at the end of the year – reportedly, the contracts have been signed, the venue is all but agreed upon, the date is close to being finalised and both camps have been negotiating well over the recent few weeks, and the ‘big reveal’ immediately followed Fury’s hand being raised at the weekend.
Losing to someone of Pianeta’s standing would have dramatically upset the applecart. Fury’s stock and confidence would have taken another critical blow, the fight would lose significant credibility, and men like Dillian Whyte and Dominic Breazeale, who have long been demanding their own a shot at Wilder’s WBC belt, would renew their demands with increased robustness. Indeed, one can scarcely imagine the scandal should Fury have lost to Pianeta and then found himself in a world title bout.
However, Fury didn’t lose, and a fight that could have been two years away is now suddenly right on our doorstep. And it’s refreshing. Not only is it nice to see promoters do business with relative ease, but it serves as a reminder that box office sensation and world champion Anthony Joshua doesn’t call all the shots, and his promoter Eddie Hearn doesn’t hold all the cards, in a heavyweight boxing landscape that is otherwise so clearly dominated by them.
A Wilder-Fury match up is still an interesting affair, even though it won’t be a Joshua-sized occasion or a Joshua-sized payday for either man. Fury is the greater unknown quantity; he has natural talent to burn but he will still be feeling the effects of such a long lay off. His footwork is the envy of most active heavyweights, but his best win against Wladimir Klitschko is his only one at a truly elite level, and it happened nearly 3 years ago. Before then, wins over Christian Hammer and Dereck Chisora established him as a good heavyweight, but were some way off the Klitschko performance in Germany, and the two contests following his return have yet to provide definitive proof that this night wasn’t a one-off.
Wilder is a stark contrast to this. The American’s career-best win against awkward southpaw Luis Ortiz was crude and unrefined, but Wilder has the sort of power that makes moot points out of things like form and poise. Suddenly out of a lumbering, spidery stance comes a thunderbolt back hand cross that has flattened every man he has shared the ring with, Ortiz included. It was by no means a conclusive performance against the Cuban – the cards were close, and some had the challenger in front – but the finish was undeniably decisive as a right hand scrambled his senses and ultimately sent him to the canvas for the count.
Whether he can find that punch against Tyson Fury is the question. He is second to Fury in nearly every other department, but the dynamite in his fists will be enough to make Fury cautious and the contest interesting. If Wilder can connect cleanly, he will be behind on the cards when he does. But he will only need to do it once.
Words like ‘undisputed’ and ‘lineal’ have been thrown around recently in an attempt to legitimise this fight. For the winner, those words will cease to matter. Indeed, all words, from all other heavyweights, will be of no importance once the contest has been settled. There will be no denying that whoever emerges victorious between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury simply must be next in line to face Anthony Joshua in yet another super-fight in the heavyweight division. Some fans will throw internet rocks at one another as each occasion approaches, but really, we should all just be grateful to be following the sport at such a fascinating time.