Finally, you got your answer. If you were unable to sleep, unable to eat, unable to function in your day-to-day life because of an all-consuming need to know what spectacle might transpire when Tyson Fury swapped leather with Tom Schwarz, Saturday brought relief. And if you couldn’t care less about another farcical mismatch, if you found Fury’s vow to embody his name laughable considering his opponent, there was some relief for you, too. Because Schwarz crumpled under the first hard punches he took, and Fury’s inaugural fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas was over in two rounds.
There is little to say about the action. That Schwarz was ranked number two by the WBO is baffling only until you remember who the sanctioning body’s favorite promoter is. You hadn’t heard of Schwarz, 24-1 (16), before he was sacrificed to Fury and he’ll return to Germany, never to be heard from again. Fury danced on the hapless heavyweight like a six-foot-nine Josh Baskin pounding out a melody on the (LM)FAO Schwarz keys. A pair of hooks to the body were all Schwarz could land, and only because Fury, enamored with his own slickness, occasionally swapped a sound defense for a flashy one.
But did you see his ring attire?
Yes, Fury, who fancies himself an entertainer and relishes the surge of power that comes with controlling a room, strode to the ring in an Apollo-Creed-inspired patriotic get-up, one that was more costume than outfit considering the man wearing it hails from Manchester. Creed wore that garish explosion of stars and stripes into his exhibition match with Ivan Drago, and it was difficult to think of Fury–Schwarz as a fight of any greater import.
He was defending his lineal heavyweight title, though?
And for the fourth time (!), a wry joke Jimmy Lennon Jr. slipped into Fury’s fighter introduction because the “Gypsy King,” alas, is short on gold. Beyond the fact that his invisible hardware hardly added to the bout’s significance, the obsession with lineal titles feels desperate. Fury may be the lineal heavyweight champion, but that distinction draws its significance—and its utility—from the absence of belts around his waist. One might counter, saying that Fury became the heavyweight champion of the world when he dethroned Wladimir Klitschko in 2015, and still would be were he not stripped of his titles for failing to defend them. While both points are valid, one wonders whether anyone would’ve rated Fury’s victory over Klitschko as highly had only the lineal title been on the line. Besides, fetishizing a title once worn by Buster Douglas and Shannon Briggs is odd behavior. The lineal champion need not be the best fighter in the division, and it’s hard to see why being able to trace the belt’s history back to John L. Sullivan somehow legitimizes it more. Hanging over these tortured and tortuous conversations about lineality is this: the champion makes the title. Being a champion brings responsibilities, and Fury, who came unhinged under the weight of them, failed to act as a champion once he became one.
Fury, 28-0-1 (20), would tell you that his lack of belts is unjust, and not only because he was stripped of them. In his only title fight since returning to the ring, Fury fought Deontay Wilder to a disputed draw. Many thought Fury did enough to win. But while he controlled much of the inaction that December night, he couldn’t stay off the canvas and thus couldn’t lift Wilder’s title.
Wilder–Fury doesn’t warrant a second viewing but given its dramatic ending and disputed outcome is worthy of a rematch. It proved Fury’s mettle in a way his clowning Klitschko never could. Throughout his comeback Fury spoke forcefully of his desire to return to the top. His challenge of Wilder, the ease with which the fight was made, so atypical of boxing in general and the current heavyweight division in particular, and the grit Fury showed that night did much to repair his image. Talent is not redemptive (to use a religious word for a religious man) but resolve, what Fury might call “spirit” can be, and he showed plenty in the twelfth round against Wilder.
With Andy Ruiz’s recent unmanning of Anthony Joshua, the path to the heavyweight crown has altered (and elongated, what with Joshua pursuing revenge). But that doesn’t finish the business between Wilder and Fury. Asked about Wilder, however, Fury first took the opportunity to praise Top Rank Promotions, which signed him to a multiyear contract in February, and whose deal with ESPN guarantees Fury a presence on American television that could translate into greater negotiating leverage when it comes time to hammer out the details of a Wilder rematch. Fury said he plans to return in the fall before focusing on Wilder next year, which means likely waiting a year for what should have been—if the fight was as good as we were encouraged to believe—an immediate rematch.
To preserve that rematch, Wilder, who savaged Dominic Breazeale in May, will stiffen Luis Ortiz again. Neither fight holds any appeal, nor could they considering what getting Joshua’d would do to—in Fury’s words—“the biggest fight in world boxing.” And while Schwarz may have been a signing bonus of sorts, is Fury’s competition likely to improve markedly with the Wilder rematch supposedly looming? Who else might Top Rank hoist up the WBO rankings?
It doesn’t matter. Until Joshua proves himself again, Wilder is the only heavyweight in the world who can beat Fury. “I already beat him once, so I’ll beat him again.” Fair enough, Fury. But what then, have we been waiting for?