Manchester’s undefeated top-10 heavyweight contender Tyson Fury has his first fight in ten months tonight when he takes on Joey Abell at the Copper Box.
Britain’s controversial No. 1 heavyweight Fury returns to the ring for the first time since last April when he takes on late substitute American journeyman Abell on the Derek Chisora vs. Kevin Johnson bill at the Copper Box Arena in London.
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WBC No.8 Fury had been initially scheduled to take on Argentinian Gonzalo Omar Basile, but the 39-year-old withdrew a week ago with a lung infection. It may have been a blessing in disguise; Basile had been knocked out three times in his last five fights, and in truth Abell looks a far more “live” opponent than the Argentinian did.
The 25-year-old 6’9” Fury (21-0, 15 KOs) was twice scheduled to fight former world cruiserweight and WBA heavyweight champion David Haye last year in a promotion that would most likely have been the biggest in British boxing history, only for Haye to twice pull out of the fight, the first due to a cut sustained in sparring just one week before, and the second with what he claimed at the time to be a career ending shoulder injury that needed immediate surgery.
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Haye has since gone on record stating that he is looking forward to returning to action in 2014 and regaining the world heavyweight title, much to the fury of Fury!
So devastated was Fury over the cancellation of what would have been by far the biggest fight of his career after months of haggling and preparation that he initially threatened to quit boxing altogether. He has since reneged on that idea, and is now plotting a path to a world title shot in 2014. There is a tentative agreement between himself and Derek Chisora for a rematch in the summer if both men come through their bouts on Saturday night.
After an unconvincing start to the pro ranks following his ABA success in 2008, Fury has literally learned his trade in the ring while all the while shaping his initially pudgy yet massive frame into the more toned and athletic specimen we see when he takes to the ring today.
If one looks back at Fury’s career thus far, it was undoubtedly his two titanic tussles with British title challenger John McDermott that molded him. Fury won the first in 2009 via a controversial decision, and was trailing in the second the following year when he dug deep to stop McDermott in the 9th round. It was that never-say-die spirit that would stand Fury in good stead through several tricky situations later in his career.
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He was a big underdog when he fought then undefeated and world ranked Derek Chisora the first time in 2011, yet a combination of Chisora massively underestimating Fury’s abilities and coming in overweight led to the Manchester giant boxing his way to a comfortable unanimous decision.
Fury looked fully focused against Chisora, but less so in subsequent fights against lesser opponents: he was rocked by a big right hand in the second round from trial horse Nicolai Firtha, and knocked down by the raw and crude Neven Pajkic, but recovered to stop both of them in a pair of bouts in late 2011.
But however bad he may have looked in those fights, Fury looked superb in almost shutting out Chisora’s opponent this Saturday night - former world title challenger Kevin Johnson - in a WBC eliminator in 2012, handing Johnson only his second legitimate career loss.
In his most recent fight in April of last year, Fury was knocked down in the second round by former IBF cruiserweight champion Steve “USS” Cunningham, but fired back to stop Cunningham using a mixture of power punches and roughhouse tactics in the seventh round.
If Fury reverts to type – i.e. dropping his concentration level against lesser opposition - we can expect to see him only 50% focused on the job at hand against Abell, but does the 32-year-old American have the tools to trouble even a half-focused Fury?
Abell (29-7, 28 KOs) is a wild swinging but game southpaw who likes to forgo the jab to launch looping lefts and rights in the direction of his opponent’s head. A pro since 2005, despite his lack of genuine technique, Abell does have good power, as his record of 28 KOs from 29 victories would suggest, although his list of victims reads like a “Who’s-He?” rather than a “Whose-Who” of boxing.
In his last fight , Abell put up a brave performance against the man who is arguably the second best heavyweight in the world behind Wladimir Klitschko, the 6’5” undefeated Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev. Although outclassed from the opening bell, Abell to his credit never stopped coming forwards. He suffered the first of four knockdowns late in round three from a body shot.
In the fourth round he was floored three additional times from body shots, but even then had the temerity to floor the onrushing Pulev with a glancing right hand. The Bulgarian tried his best to demonstrate to the referee that it was not a legitimate knocked down, and even stood in the center the ring on one leg grinning, but was nevertheless given a standing count. After the round, Abell’s corner wisely chose to pull their guy out, before he suffered permanent internal injury.
Five of Abell’s seven losses have come inside the distance. In 2011, he was knocked out in one round by current WBC no.2 Chris Arreola. In 2012 he was stopped in the ninth round by the talented but erratic Fres Oquendo, ranked 8th by the WBA. Clearly, he is a gunslinger of a fighter, capable of blowing away lower level opposition but likely to get shot down himself whenever he moves up in class.
Abell has decent lateral movement and good footwork and balance for a big man, and was able to move in and catch Pulev with surprising ease early in their fight. Unlike Tyson Fury who has a ramrod of a left jab, the Bulgarian tends to paw amateurishly with his left, and Abell was able to slip it often and get close to unload. The one concern is that Fury does not have the best footwork, and if Abell can time his jab and slip inside, Fury could get caught flat-footed and caught – period.
Abell proved against Pulev that he should not be dismissed because of the mediocrity of the victims on his record. Fury must focus on this fight, concentrate on dominating with his jab, and when he has softened his opponent up, finish things off with his powerful straight right. Against Pulev, Abell clearly had a vulnerability to his midsection, and Fury should test the American early on with some clubbing body shots of his own.
Tyson Fury is 1/6 to win this fight by KO, TKO or disqualification. Joey Abell is 16/1.
Best bet - Tyson Fury to win by TKO in round seven.