ESSEN, Germany (Reuters) - Tyson Fury invoked the spirit of Muhammad Ali and Buster Douglas as he declared on Friday that he could pull off one of heavyweight boxing’s great sensations by ending Wladimir Klitschko’s seemingly eternal reign as world champion.
In tomorrow’s bout at Duesseldorf’s football stadium, Fury, the British challenger named after Mike Tyson, will be a long-odds outsider to defeat the Ukrainian who has ruled the impoverished global heavyweight scene for a decade.
Unbeaten in 11 years and making a 19th title defense in his second reign as champion, the German-based Klitschko is a heavy favorite to silence the mouthy Fury, who talks a good fight but cannot persuade the bookmakers.
Indeed, they reckon that if the 27-year-old Briton with an Irish Traveller heritage, can defeat the man 12 years his senior it will be a shock to rank up there with Douglas’s victory over Fury’s namesake Tyson 25 years ago.
Which is just as he wants it, apparently. “I relish the underdog tag,” he told Sky Sports at Friday’s weigh-in in Essen, after scaling 17st 8lb, a pound heavier than the champion.
“I‘m a 4-1 underdog but Cassius Clay (later to become Muhammad Ali) was a big underdog against Sonny Liston and he knocked him out. And so was Leon Spinks against the great Muhammad Ali and he won as well,” Fury said.
“Underdogs win. Mike Tyson-Buster Douglas, Wladimir Klitschko-Tyson Fury -- the same.”
Fury believes he is Klitschko’s “worst nightmare” and has spent the build-up in Duesseldorf trying to bury himself under the Ukrainian’s thick skin like a weevil.
He has tried everything. Playing the joker, making outrageous comments about Klitschko being a “devil worshipper”, serenading him from the ring and, at the weigh-in, refusing -- initially, at least -- to shake hands.
“He’s a very flexible fighter. Sometimes he fights southpaw, sometimes regular, sometimes he makes funny faces during the fight. Or he talks. So I‘m prepared for anything,” Klitschko sighed, making Fury sound like a big clown rather than a 6ft 9in, unbeaten combatant.
Whether Fury’s tactics have worked is very much open to doubt against a man who, even if his detractors feel he is a mechanical, one-dimensional guardian of a mediocre era for heavyweights, always seems to know how to dismantle ordinary opponents.
“Dr Steelhammer”, as Klitschko is known, does not find Fury funny.
Writing by Ian Chadband; editing by Toby Davis