There’s no way to exhaust the showmanship in Tyson Fury.
There’s not a mask he won’t wear, a lyric he can’t sing, a line he won’t utter or a role he can’t play.
Then again, there’s not much else for him to do while he waits for the one rematch that has captivated the heavyweight division since his dramatic draw with Deontay Wilder in December at Staples Center.
Waiting for Wilder is the theme, the inevitable talking point, of just about everything Fury has done since he bypassed an immediate rematch and signed a rich deal with Top Rank and ESPN.
Wilder hasn’t been in Las Vegas this week, but his name has dominated talk and thoughts about Fury’s fight Saturday night against unknown Swede Otto Wallin at T-Mobile Arena on an ESPN+ card (8 p.m. PDT).
“Otto Wallin is a tall blond, just the way I like them,” said Fury (28-0-1, 20 KOs). “We’ll see what he brings.”
It was a wisecrack that sums up Wallin’s role in the buildup to Fury-Wilder II. The Swede is an afterthought, which might not be fair to him. Then again, it wasn’t fair to Tom Schwarz either. Don’t remember Schwarz? Neither does anybody else. Schwarz, an unknown German, came and went like a sparring partner in Fury’s Vegas debut in June.
Schwarz was finished within two rounds, giving Fury plenty of time to sing and dance his way into the sort of American celebrity who sells tickets.
Predictably, Top Rank and Fury’s corner are weary of Wallin (20-0, 13 KOs) being portrayed as just another steppingstone toward a Wilder rematch. Fury trainer Ben Davison is quick to point out that heavyweights are unpredictable. Proof, he says, was delivered by Andy Ruiz Jr., who stunned then-heavyweight colossus Anthony Joshua with a seventh-round stoppage in New York in June.
“A step-in,” Davison said of Ruiz, who agreed to the fight when Jarrell Miller tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug. “That’s what he was, a step-in. I’m not saying that’s what he is, but that’s what he was, a step-in. He was looked at as a step-in.
“And you know what happened, so don’t overlook anything or anybody in the heavyweight division.”
Yet, the very nature of Fury’s $100-million deal with ESPN and Top Rank leads to talk of Wilder and only Wilder. Promoter Bob Arum’s plan was to market Fury to the American fans, who knew of him only as an interesting UK fighter. Fury has done his part. In recognition of Mexico’s Independence Day on Sept. 16, Fury has worn the lucha libre mask. He wore one for Friday’s weigh-in, stepping onto the scale in a red, green and white mask. Fury was at 254.4 pounds, Wallin at 236.
Fury served tacos at a Mexican restaurant in Vegas this week. He took questions in Spanish at news conferences. He is a tireless promoter, yet there is a sense only his vocal chords are at risk injury against Wallin.
Meanwhile, there’s a real risk in what Wilder faces Nov. 23 in a rematch with Luis Ortiz, a proven contender who lost a 10th-round TKO to Wilder in March 2018.
The rematch will have to wait on that one too.