It was a boxing news conference that ended with 87-year-old Bob Arum singing, “Bye-bye, Miss American Pie,” alongside 6-foot-9 Tyson Fury, who looked like the world’s biggest conductor as he urged a roomful of reporters to join the chorus.
The heavyweight division is making a lot of noise these days.
Maybe some music, too.
But it’s hard to say exactly what this heavyweight version will sound like -- look like -- after the final note has been played. A remake of glory days? More of the same old blues? Or an enduring revival?
The play list includes those possibilities and probably many more still unwritten. Fury’s TKO stoppage of unknown German challenger Tom Schwarz on Saturday night within two rounds for the advertised lineal heavyweight title didn’t provide any definitive answers. It was more of an introduction, a showcase of Fury’s seemingly inexhaustible charisma. Yes, he again showed he knows his way around the ring. Yes, he can fight. In Schwarz, however, there wasn’t enough opposition to determine if he will be the division’s dominant force.
In the 1940s, it was Joe Louis.
In the ’70s, it was Muhammad Ali.
Then it was Wladimir Klitschko.
The division has often been at its best with a defining face. Maybe that face will be Fury’s. He looked to be in better shape at the MGM Grand’s Garden Arena than he did in a controversial draw with Deontay Wilder in December at Staples Center.
His impossibly long jab and agile feet established a rhythm in the first round. In the second, his versatility, including a subtle shift to south paw, finished the job, leaving Schwarz with a bloodied nose and nowhere to go. The German corner threw in the towel just as referee Kenny Bayless ended it with six seconds left in the round. He finished the fight in a fashion that was both effective and timely. He left himself with more than enough time to finish the show. Turns out, he’s as versatile a singer as he is a puncher.
He grabbed the microphone and sang “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.” It’s an Aerosmith song. But Fury made it sound like Elvis Presley. This is Vegas, after all. By the time it was all over with the final note at the post-fight news conference, Fury had sung a lot more than he fought. It was fun, which was the idea in his first fight in a deal with ESPN and Arum’s Top Rank reported to be worth $100 million.
Arum wanted to introduce Fury’s showmanship to the American market before pursuing a Wilder rematch. It’s that showmanship, perhaps, that can attract the so-called cross-over crowd. If the investment in Fury pays off the way Arum hopes it will, he predicts the rematch will generate more pay-per-view buys than the record 4.6 million for welterweight Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s victory over Manny Pacquiao in 2015.
“Why not?’’ Arum said. “Why not? Mayweather-Pacquiao were little guys. For as long as I’ve been in this business, guys are always talking about the next big heavyweight fight.
“It’s a massive fight. It belongs in Las Vegas because the casinos bring in the biggest punters and therefore the prices are sky high. A gate that might do 2 million pounds at the O2 in London or do maybe $3 million in New York would do $30 million here in Las Vegas.
Arum has never been shy about overstatement. It’s clear, however, there’s a potential pile of money big enough to sing about. The rematch is projected for early next year.
“It’s the biggest fight in world boxing, barring none,” Fury said. “Wilder, Fury, the rematch. It’s the biggest fight we’re going to see in the next few years. I don’t see anybody else coming up who can be as big. You’ve got two undefeated heavyweight champions, the lineal champion and the WBC champion, fighting in their prime. It doesn’t get any bigger.”
But a couple of things are expected to happen before Wilder and Fury finally agree on a 2020 date for a sequel to the draw that saw Fury get up like a man climbing out of coffin after he was dropped flat by a scary combo from Wilder.
Fury said he is scheduled for another fight, either Sept. 21 or Oct. 5. Kubrat Pulev (27-1, 14 KOs), a Top Rank fighter, is a possibility. Pulev’s lone loss is to Klitschko in 2014. He has a world-class resume. At 38, however, age could be a factor.
For Wilder, there’s a rematch with Luis Ortiz, projected to be in early September. Wilder scored a 10th-round stoppage of Ortiz in March 2018. But Ortiz had Wilder in trouble in the seventh. Ortiz is dangerous enough to worry Arum.
But Fury isn’t worried. There have always been questions about Ortiz’s age. He’s a Cuban, who is listed as being 40 on his boxing license.
“More like 147,’’ Fury said. “I’m not worried.’’
Instead, Fury said, Wilder should be worried about the rematch.
“This fight is going to happen, he said. “There was three horses in the heavyweight division. Then there was two.”
Fury’s suggestion was that, in the end, there will only be him. Still, that might depend on what happens in another projected rematch. Andy Ruiz Jr.’s astonishing upset of U.K. heavyweight Anthony Joshua turned the division upside down on June 1.
Joshua was portrayed as history’s next great. But the pedestrian Ruiz dropped him four times. It was like watching somebody knock a statue off its pedestal. U.K. promoter Eddie Hearn exercised the rematch clause in Joshua’s contract. The sequel is projected for later this year – November or December – probably in London or Cardiff, Wales. With a big victory, Joshua might be back in the mix.
There’s also a wild card. Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk is jumping from cruiserweight to heavyweight. A consensus champion at 200 pounds, he was powerful – almost scary – at going 16-0, 12 KOs. Usyk, the 2018 Fighter of the Year, was scheduled to make his heavyweight debut against Carlos Takam on May 25. But it was canceled because Usyk sustained a biceps injury. It now looks as if Usyk-Takam will be rescheduled for September.