This past November in Germany there was a changing of the guard in the heavyweight division. Tyson Fury dethroned the longtime champion of the division Wladimir Klitschko. The fight itself was an ugly affair that was filled with inactivity and lack of clean punches landed. It did highlight that Klitschko may have for years been dominating the division based on his physical attributes and not any mental attributes. Fury was able to keep Klitschko at bay with feints, movement and a jab.
Fury may have gotten in the head of Klitschko in the press conferences before the bout. The most telling moment of the pre-fight promotion was the face-off that the two fighters had with former cruiserweight champion Johnny Nelson. Klitschko commented that Fury can watch as many copies of his knockout losses to Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster, but it wouldn’t make a difference. Fury countered that he wouldn’t be watching those bouts, because Klitschko was a different fighter and those bouts wouldn’t show him how to defeat the current version of Klitschko. Klitschko seemed a bit taken aback by this comment by Fury and may have realized that Fury would be an opponent that would not try to come in and knock him out, but one that would have the ability to outsmart him.
Klitschko like many champions in the past may have been distracted or simply unprepared for the bout. The similarities to the other biggest heavyweight upset of this century are striking.
In April of 2001 in South Africa, Lennox Lewis defended his heavyweight title against longtime contender Hasim Rahman. Rahman was a huge underdog before the bout and was not given much of a chance by most observers. Rahman however was prepared for a heavyweight title bout while Lewis seemed distracted and uninterested through much of the lead up for the bout. Lewis had famously filmed a movie through some of his training camp and his lack of preparation showed as he was famously knocked out in the fifth round by a huge overhand right by Rahman. HBO commentator Larry Merchant famously commented “Lewis drowned in Ocean’s 11”.
Lewis got a rematch in November of 2001 and got his revenge on Rahman by knocking him out with a vicious 1-2 combination to lay Rahman flat on his back. A focused, embarrassed and determined Lewis made all the difference against Rahman. Lennox Lewis had been through this situation before back in the 90’s with Oliver McCall and knew that in South Africa he really beat himself more than Rahman beat him. The question is now can Wladimir Klitschko do the same with Tyson Fury?
The similarities between Lewis’ loss to Rahman and Klitschko’s loss to Fury fall into that line of two fighters who looked under-prepared to face someone who was hungrier than they were. While Klitschko has avenged one loss in his career to Lamon Brewster, the manner in which he lost to Fury is telling. Unlike Lewis, Klitschko was prepared to face Fury as he had a long training camp and looked in great shape. Lewis against Rahman the first time around, didn’t look in good shape. Lewis knew that against Rahman it was simply a matter of doing what he always did by staying focused and having a good training camp. For Klitschko he had all the preparations in the same manner, but this time he had someone in the ring with him who wouldn’t allow him to do what he normally does. Klitschko’s jab was nonexistent and his excessive holding was futile against Fury.
Lewis’ loss to Rahman and Klitschko’s loss to Fury as far as what happened in the ring are as far away as London is from South Africa. In the rematch between Klitschko and Fury, Klitschko will have to do more than what he has done in the past to get the victory. Fury will be ready to say the least.