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What If Clay Quit Against Liston 50 Years Ago Today?

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On February 25th 1964, undisputed heavyweight champion Charles “Sonny” Liston boasted a 35-1 (28) record. Liston was 218 pounds of tempered steel packaged into a large boned frame that stood a little over 6’1″. For the previous five years, three of those before he knocked out former champ Floyd Patterson in September of 1962 to win the title, Liston was a human wrecking machine. Yes, he was the baddest man on the planet.

In the early sixties it wasn’t uncommon to hear it said by many boxing aficionados that Sonny was the most formidable heavyweight champion in history and perhaps even greater than Joe Louis.  From 1958-1963 Liston won 20 consecutive fights and only two fighters, Bert Whitehurst (who was out on his feet and saved by the final bell) and Eddie Machen went the distance with him. Both fighters received ovations for lasting the limit with Sonny, but that’s about the best that can be said on their behalf because they never really were in the fight nor did they present much of a threat to Liston over the course of the 22 rounds they spent in the ring with him.

It was understood at the time that Liston was taking apart all of the top contenders that Cus D’Amato, heavyweight champ Floyd Patterson’s manager/trainer, refused to let Floyd defend the title against. Contenders such as Mike DeJohn, Cleveland Williams (who Liston stopped twice) Zora Folley and Eddie Machen.

Liston, 31, was seen as the future of the heavyweight division. He was a fundamentally sound boxer who possessed the best left jab in heavyweight history at the time, something that probably still holds true today with only the likes of Muhammad Ali, Larry Holmes and Lennox Lewis having a case to be made for theirs in the post Liston era. Sonny was a natural at boxing and carried dynamite in both hands. He was strong as an ox and had a great chin. One doesn’t need more than a few fingers to count the times Liston was hurt or shook over his 54 fight professional career.

Enter Cassius Clay 19-0 (15), who would challenge Liston for the title on the night of February 25th 1964 at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

At the time Clay, who would change his name to Cassius X three days later and then to Muhammad Ali shortly after that, was not thought to be the greatest by anyone other than himself. He was an Olympic light heavyweight gold medalist with hand and food speed never seen before in a heavyweight. That aside, he was still between a 7 or 8 to 1 underdog against Liston. In his previous bout before challenging Liston, he was dropped and almost stopped by Henry Cooper in London, England. This was the same Henry Cooper whose managerial team wouldn’t even let him campaign for a fight with Liston because they knew it would end quickly and painfully, and not because Sonny would be hurting himself.

As history would see it, Clay was too fast and swift of foot for Liston that night. Everyone knew Sonny didn’t think much of Clay as a fighter prior to their fight and was certain that because of his foot speed, Clay might last a round longer than Patterson managed to do in two fights with him. In other words, Liston was planning on working about five minutes versus Clay at the most, something he figured he could do in his sleep, and often joked about during his training leading up to the fight. When they met in the ring Clay didn’t back down from Liston and by the middle of the first round his confidence was escalating. Sonny and Cassius traded rounds and after four rounds, despite Liston being cut and a little swollen around the eyes, the fight was even.

In between the fourth and fifth rounds, Liston’s corner-man Joe Pollino tended to Sonny’s eyes. The solution used on Liston’s cuts somehow got into Clay’s eyes during the fifth round. By the middle of the round Liston was knocking Clay all over the ring without much resistance from Cassius, who was blinking and squinting profusely.  Sonny used a lot of himself up trying to get Clay out during the fifth round, but due to Clay’s good legs and unknown at the time physical strength and durability, Clay survived the round.

However, Clay must not have felt that he was out of danger and was imploring his trainer Angelo Dundee to cut off his gloves before the start of the sixth round so he could show the world that Liston was cheating. Remember, years later as Muhammad Ali he would admit that Liston was the only fighter he ever faced who really scared him. So it’s not out of the question with Liston having his best round of the fight that the young Clay’s confidence was waning. In the corner Clay and Dundee were going back and forth as Dundee was imploring Clay that with the title being on the line, nobody was cutting the boxing gloves off of him. Luckily for Clay, Dundee kept the ref occupied and Barney Felix never got to ask Clay if he wanted to continue or not.

Dundee managed to push Clay out for the sixth round and it changed the course of both boxing and heavyweight history. Clay’s eyes cleared during the round and he began peppering a tired Liston, whose confidence and will were slowly being sapped from him. As fate would have it, Liston wouldn’t come out for the seventh round, claiming he dislocated his left shoulder while throwing his vaunted left hook at Clay as he was moving away from him. With Liston sitting on his stool, Cassius Clay became the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world at age 22.

As Muhammad Ali, the former Cassius Clay would win the title two more times. In the interim, Ali was drafted to by the army to fight in the Vietnam war and was exiled from boxing for nearly three and a half years due to his refusal to do so. As a contender and champion Muhammad Ali fought a who’s-who list of outstanding/hall of fame heavyweights and also stopped two all-time greats, in George Foreman and Joe Frazier, to win and retain the undisputed heavyweight title in 1974 and 1975.

Ali was much more than an athlete or fight, he also stimulated talk and debate on segregation, race, religion, politics, human rights and a plethora of other topics. He was a true pioneer and paved the way for the Sugar Ray Leonards, Mike Tysons, Oscar De La Hoyas and Michael Jordans of the world. Without Muhammad Ali before them, they wouldn’t have become superstars who accumulated fortunes as both sports and cultural icons.

Yet if the result of the Liston-Clay fight ended with Liston as the winner,  the legend and legacy of Muhammad Ali would’ve died before it ever was born in the Miami Beach Convention Center 50 years ago today.

What if referee Barney Felix sees the confusion in Clay’s corner before the bell rings for the sixth round and asks Cassius if he wants to continue, and Clay, blinded and panicking, indicates that he can’t? The fight is stopped and as expected Liston retains the title. The fact that Clay wanted the gloves cut off to show that Liston was cheating and that the mob/establishment was against him because he was a known member of the Nation of Islam, wouldn’t have held a drop of water or changed the public’s perception of him a bit. With Liston being seen as such a prohibitive favorite and Clay as a quitter, it’s unlikely there would’ve been a rematch. Most would’ve would figured that Sonny would get in shape the next time and massacre the loudmouth and heartless Clay. Of course Clay/Ali would’ve wound up becoming champion–he was clearly the best heavyweight of the emerging era– but his aura would be gone. Liston probably would’ve kept the title for a few more years and Ali would probably beat the guy who eventually beat the declining Liston. But he’d have represented something completely different: he would have just been another fighter. But the magic wouldn’t be there since he would have suffered an early kayo where he quit. To have been undefeated and seemingly untouchable before his exile is what in the first stage of his career defined him. And he would have always had that stigma of having quit when trying for the heavyweight title.

In real life, Ali had to take some beatings and come back to gain mainstream respect as a fighter. If he’d quit in the Liston fight, it would have been just the opposite. To regain his respect, he would’ve had to have been pretty much untouchable for the rest of his career. Yes, when it comes to Muhammad Ali, the heavyweight division could be riddled with a ton of what ifs if Muhammad didn’t answer the bell every time he fought.

What if Ali had his way and his first fight with Sonny Liston ended with him sitting on his stool instead of the opposite? The twists and turns that heavyweight history may have taken are endless. Who knows, maybe Joe Frazier never wins the title because Liston is the defending champion and Sonny would be a terrible matchup for Joe. Maybe the once beaten Ali and Frazier meet around 1967/68 in an elimination bout and their historic rivalry never comes to fruition. It’s great to venture into the ‘what if’ possibilities and they’re endless if you change a result here or there regarding Ali’s fighting career.

So let’s finish with what we know. Ali did fight the sixth round with Liston and resumed command of the fight. He captured the title and beat Liston in a rematch via a controversial first round knockout, in a fight that saw Liston on his feet fighting Ali when referee “Jersey” Joe Walcott stopped the fight. Thus Ali eliminated Liston for Joe Frazier and then himself was exiled from boxing three years later and paved the way for Frazier to flower and emerge as the best heavyweight in the world by the late sixties and early seventies.

Interesting if you think about it – if Ali loses the first fight against Liston, his legacy dies and boxing is cheated out of a generation of great heavyweight fights and Muhammad Ali may not be, as he is today, regarded as the greatest overall heavyweight champion in boxing history. In real life, Ali defeats Liston and his legacy is hatched. And as a result of Ali ridding Liston from Frazier’s path along with his exile, the seed of Frazier’s legacy is planted.

Is it really possible that had Cassius Clay refused to come out for the sixth round against Sonny Liston 50 years ago today, the Ali-Frazier rivalry and both of their legacies also would’ve been buried alive before they were even born?

Yes, it’s very plausible that’s how things may have unfolded.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 284: Tyson Fury, Oleksandr Usyk, and Much More

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 284: Tyson Fury, Oleksandr Usyk, and Much More

Argue all you want about the appeal of other sports, only boxing grabs fans on all levels and stratum.

It’s the oldest sport that has an international swag that only the World Cup can rival once every four years. Boxing has it every year.

Heavyweights take the forefront in Saudi Arabia while lightweights battle in Southern California. It’s an all-day affair pitting champions from all parts of the world.

Tyson Fury (34-0-1, 24 KOs), the WBC and lineal heavyweight champion, finally meets Oleksandr Usyk (21-0, 15 KOs) who holds the IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight titles on Saturday, May 18, at Riyadh. DAZN ppv, ESPN ppv, and PPV.Com will stream the massive fight card at 9 a.m. PT/ 12 p.m. ET.

It’s a rare opportunity to decide who truly is the “baddest man on the planet.” Ever since the emergence of the alphabet titles, few know the name of the heavyweight champion. Not since Mike Tyson ruled the prize ring could fans tell you the name of the champ.

Some people still think Tyson is the heavyweight champ.

Now we have England’s “Gypsy King” Fury ready to prove that he indeed is the biggest and baddest of all the heavyweights in the world. He’s got his dad head-butting people to prove it.

“I predict that somebody’s ‘0’ has got to go. And it’s going to be that team over there, unfortunately for them,” said Tyson Fury who at six-feet, nine-inches tall towers over most opponents.

Facing Fury is Usyk, the Ukrainian fighter who twice defeated Anthony Joshua for several versions of the heavyweight championship.

Though several inches shorter and much lighter in weight, Usyk has displayed mobility and agility that allows him to dart in and out of danger. Will this tactic work against Fury?

“I have a plan. It’s a better plan. And it’s a great plan,” said Usyk. “I will have the opportunity to become undisputed for a second time.”

Of course, size doesn’t always matter when it comes to heavyweights. History has taught us the bigger man doesn’t always win. From Jack Dempsey whipping Jess Willard to Joe Frazier beating Buster Mathis, size doesn’t dictate the winner when it comes to heavyweights.

Top Rank’s Bob Arum summed up the importance of this heavyweight clash.

“After this fight, there is one ‘Baddest Man on the Planet,’ the undisputed heavyweight champion. That means everything in the sport of boxing. That means everything for fans who love boxing,” said Arum.

Two other world titles fights are also planned.

IBF super featherweight titlist Joe Cordina (17-0, 9 KOs) defends against Anthony Cacace (21-1, 7 KOs).

Cordina was seen in Santa Monica, California sparring various super featherweights in preparation for this match. His last match against Texan Edwin Vazquez was a squeaker but you can never tell what the Welsh fighter will do.

Who can forget his two-round demolition of Japan’s Kenichi Ogawa?

Cruiserweights also battle. IBF titlist Jai Opetaia (24-0, 19 KOs) of Australia defends against Latvia’s Mairis Briedis (28-2, 20 KOs). This is a rematch. They fought two years ago with Opetaia winning by decision in Australia. Can Opetaia do it again in neutral territory?

PPV.Com

Headlining the PPV.COM announcing crew for the Fury-Usyk card will be Dan Canobbio, Chris Algieri and Kevin Iole. They will be commentating and also discussing the fight via text on social media.

It’s been almost a year since this this style of reporting was adopted. Fans like the opportunity to discuss the fight with the experts.

San Diego Fights

Three-division world champion Emanuel Navarrete (38-1-1, 31 KOs) attempts to become a four-division world champion when he meets Ukraine’s Denys Berinchyk (18-0, 9 KOs) for the vacant WBO lightweight title on Saturday, May 18, at Pechanga Arena in San Diego, Calif. ESPN will televise.

The Mexican fighter known as “El Vaquero” seeks to become the sixth Mexican fighter with four division world titles and join the prestigious elite. Among those accomplishing the feat are Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, Juan Manuel Marquez, Erik Morales, Jorge Arce and Leo Santa Cruz.

Navarrete barely survived his last fight with a majority draw against Robson Conceicao last November in Las Vegas. Perhaps the extra five pounds will help?

On the co-main event welterweight contender Giovani Santillan (32-0, 17 KOs) of San Diego returns home to face Georgia’s Brian Norman (25-0, 19 KOs) for the interim WBO welterweight title.

Santillan, 32, is coming off a big knockout win over Alexis Rocha last year. The southpaw has always stepped up when bigger and better competition confronts him. Can he do it again?

Norman, 23, is a hard-hitting welterweight who fought 16 times in his first two years. Many of those fights took place in Mexico. It’s a big test for him.

East L.A. Fights

Super featherweights Dariial Kuchmenov (7-0) and Daniel Lugo (5-2) meet Saturday May 18, at Salesian High School in East Los Angeles. The Elite Boxing USA promotions card begins at 6 p.m. The card features several other bouts including female fighter Mayra Ruiz.

For tickets go to www.tix.com/ticket-sales/eliteboxing/7

18th & Grand Exhibit

The final day to visit the “18th & Grand” exhibit takes place on Sunday May 19, at La Plaza De Cultura Y Artes located at 501 N. Main Street in downtown Los Angeles 90012. The exhibit is free.

Inside you will find photos and art of the Olympic Auditorium that was the center of boxing, wrestling, roller derby, and rock concerts for decades.

For boxing fans, its where the sport showcased the likes of Henry Armstrong, Baby Arizmendi, Art Aragon, Jerry Quarry, Mando Ramos, Scrap Iron Johnson, Art Hafey, and many others.

The exhibit is free of charge.

Jake Paul vs Mike Tyson

Tickets went on sale this week for the return of Iron Mike Tyson who will face Jake Paul in a heavyweight match commissioned as an actual fight.

Most Valuable Promotions will stage Tyson versus Paul along with the rematch between Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano on July 20, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Netflix will stream the card live.

A number of other bouts are planned for the mega event.

Paul’s first actual boxing match took place when Tyson fought Roy Jones Jr. in Los Angeles several years ago.

“I started Jake off and I’m gonna finish him,” promised Tyson when they fight.

Paul said he respects Tyson like family.

“I love you like a father loves his son, but I must discipline you. You’re going down, man,” said Paul.

Fights to Watch

Sat. PPV.COM 9 a.m. Tyson Fury (34-0-1) vs Oleksandr Usyk (21-0).

Sat. ESPN, 7:30 p.m. Emanuel Navarrete (38-1-1) vs Denys Berinchyk (18-0).

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At Long Last: Marvelous Marvin Hagler to Finally Get His Statue in the ‘City of Champions’

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At Long Last: Marvelous Marvin Hagler to Finally Get His Statue in the ‘City of Champions’

Not much good news comes out of Brockton, Massachusetts these days but I’ve got some.

Former undisputed middleweight champion Marvelous Marvin Hagler will be posthumously honored in the city he helped keep on the boxing map with a life-sized bronze statue produced by Brodin Studios in Kimball, Minnesota. The statue of Hagler, “in an action stance” will be unveiled on June 13th at a small space near to where the old Petronelli Gym was once located.

According to Hagler’s widow Kay, the space is now called the Marvelous Marvin Hagler Park.

That date, June 13, 2024 will be on the 43-year anniversary of Hagler’s 1981 rematch with Vito Antuofermo at the Boston Garden. As the new champion, Hagler was making the second defense of the world title he won in 1980 from Alan Minter. Hagler’s first shot at the title came in 1979 against Antuofermo in Las Vegas and was ruled a draw. The rematch was a mismatch.

The unveiling, scheduled for Thursday June 13 at 11 am, will also fall on the 31-year anniversary of Hagler’s 1993 induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, NY. Will thousands show up to celebrate like they did when another Brockton boxer was remembered?

Back in 2012, when a 22-foot-tall Rocky Marciano statue was put up by the WBC, many asked why Hagler didn’t also have a statue in Brockton and would he ever get one? The answer is yes.

Somebody finally did something for Hagler. Before he died in 2023, longtime Marciano family friend Charlie Tartaglia told me the reason he put up a bronze plaque for Hagler at Massasoit College with his own money was because as he put it, “Nobody ever did nothin’ for Hagler.”

Brockton state representative Gerry Cassidy secured the $150,000 needed from the state to build and maintain the long overdue statue in tribute to Hagler who died in 2021 at the age of 66.

Hagler’s new sculpture will be on display approximately two miles away from Rocky’s. It won’t be as tall as Marciano’s towering memorial but that’s fine, Rocky was a heavyweight while Marvin was a middleweight.

“This testament to a true hometown sports and community icon will be a permanent monument to one of the greatest champions from our ‘City of Champions,’” said Brockton Mayor Robert F. Sullivan in a public statement announcing the marvelous news.

The legendary physique of Hagler in his prime is befitting of a likeness commemorating it. Somebody on Facebook wrote, “I guarantee his jaw and muscles were stronger than his statue is going to be.” Another Facebooker wrote, “A fitting tribute to a boxing great gone too soon.”

Hagler reigned as middleweight champion of the world from 1980 to 1987 and during this time he carved out a reputation as one of the greatest middleweight champions in the history of boxing. Hagler was a member of the “Four Kings” which also included Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns and Roberto Duran. Hagler beat Duran and Hearns but lost to Leonard.

One of the reasons it took so long for Hagler to be honored in this way is that despite his greatness in the boxing ring, Hagler had another reputation in Brockton and that was as somebody with the capacity for violence against women, most notably his ex-wife Bertha.

Domestic incidents between the pair were common and in her complaint against Hagler, Bertha alleged that she lived in fear of Marvin; that he put his hands on her and threw a large rock at her car. Regardless of all this, Brocktonians are happy and excited to see Hagler and his surviving family finally get what’s coming to him even if it will come three years after Hagler passed away.

Still, not everyone in the City of Champions is so pleased with the planned placement of the new statue. As mentioned, the Hagler memorial will be located a couple miles away from Marciano’s.

“Hagler’s statue belongs at Brockton High School,” says Mark Casieri, owner and caretaker of Rocky Marciano’s childhood home located at 168 Dover Street. Casieri knows a thing or two about Brockton boxing. “It belongs there alongside Rocky’s statue so that the youth coming up through the school system are able to know the sports heroes that came out of Brockton.”

Brockton High School has been in the news recently but for all the wrong reasons. Violence and debauchery at the high school has gotten so bad that politicians considered bringing in military units of the National Guard to quell the unprecedented unrest. It’s ironic but Brockton has become like Newark, NJ, the city that Hagler’s mother moved him away from to protect him.

As a young middleweight just starting out as a professional fighter, Hagler fought nine of his early bouts at the Brockton High School gym including his pro debut against Terry Ryan in 1973.

For the record, I reached out to Brodin Studios for some information about the statue (its official height and weight? What fight is the action stance from?) but they are playing it very close to the chest, saying only what an honor it was to build it for Hagler and the entire Brockton community.

The Marvelous One is finally getting his statue in the City of Champions. Better late than never.

Photo insert: Marvin Marvin and Vito Antuofermo (undated; circa 2010)

*** Boxing Writer Jeffrey Freeman grew up in the City of Champions, Brockton, Massachusetts from 1973 to 1987, during the Marvelous career of Marvin Hagler. JFree then lived in Lowell, Mass during the best years of Irish Micky Ward’s illustrious career. A former member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a Bernie Award Winner in the Category of Feature Story Under 1500 Words, Freeman Covers Boxing for the Sweet Science in New England.

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Fury vs. Usyk: Who Wins and Why? – The Official TSS Prediction Page

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The heavyweight division, it has been said, is the engine that drives the sport of boxing. By this measure, Saturday’s match in Saudi Arabia between Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk is the most important fight in decades.

Whenever a very big fight comes down the pike – assuming the odds are not too lopsided – we call upon our fine community of wordsmiths to get their thoughts. The participants in the poll are listed alphabetically.

Simply put size matters. Usyk has never fought anyone that weighed more than 225 pounds and given Fury’s recent history it seems safe to assume he should tip the scales north of 260. Eleven years ago, Fury fought another former cruiserweight champion in Steve Cunningham. Cunningham’s speed gave Fury problems early and Fury was even knocked down. But Fury used his size and weight to lean on Cunningham draining him of all his energy. Eventually a badly fatigued Cunningham was knocked out by Fury. I see something happening when Fury faces Usyk. Usyk has success early and maybe even scores a knockdown or two. But Fury leans on Usyk and uses that weight advantage to slowly wear down the smaller man. FURY TKO 10. – MATT ANDRZEJEWSKI

After a lackluster and controversial split decision win over Francis Ngannou, Fury looks fit as a fiddle and should handle the six-inch shorter Usyk by keeping his distance and landing more than enough big blows. In a fight filled with drama and excitement, it’s FURY by unanimous decision. – RICK ASSAD

Fury’s jab and straight right vs. Usyk’s straight left and right hook (think Cotto vs. Pacquiao), whichever two-punch combination is more effective will decide who controls the range and pace. I believe Usyk’s straight left along with his southpaw stance and movement will give Fury trouble, but Usyk doesn’t attack like other smaller heavyweights to the body (i.e. Tyson/Frazier). Like Lomachenko, he uses his footwork to get inside, which will give him enough moments to make a focused and in-shape Fury take it to another level. Fury also isn’t a big body puncher, but he will use his size to lean on Usyk after he lands clean shots to wear Usyk down and gain control of the fight. FURY by decision. – LUIS CORTES III

Oleksandr Usyk is a good little man but he’s in way over his head against a well-trained Tyson Fury who looks to be treating this fight with the respect it deserves. Usyk will puzzle Fury for a few rounds but once Tyson makes his adjustments, he will bring his superior size and power to bear on the smaller fighter, wearing him out to the body and grinding him down late. I pick FURY by TKO in the championship rounds. Usyk will be on his feet when the fight is stopped but nobody will be crying foul about it. – JEFFREY FREEMAN

FURY by stoppage late. He’ll be in condition this time (unlike the Ngannou debacle). And an in-shape Fury boxes well enough and is too big and strong for Usyk to deal with. – THOMAS HAUSER

There’s always a chance that a fight will be stopped on cuts. Of the two, the Gypsy King would seem to be more prone to this unfortunate happenstance. He overcame a terrible gash over his right eye to upend Swedish southpaw Otto Wallin and it was a cut over his right eye during a sparring session – a cut that reportedly required extensive stitching — that pushed back this fight from its originally scheduled date of Feb. 17. Since this fight has a rematch clause, the ring physician may feel less pressure to allow the fight to continue against his better judgment if it boils down to this. Regardless, USYK has lost fewer rounds as a pro and it’s easy to envision the Ukrainian banking enough rounds to stave off a late rally by Fury to cop the decision. – ARNE LANG

A lot of ink has been shed on the cut Tyson Fury suffered in sparring causing a postponement of this fight to this coming Saturday; it’s Tyson Fury’s elbows that interest me though. Fury fought in terrible pain in his third contest against Deontay Wilder in 2021, taking cortisone injections in both elbows prior to this fight. Wilder actually outjabbed Fury early and Fury threw three or fewer jabs in seven of the eleven rounds. Since, he has been inactive (only three fights since his late 2021 defeat of Wilder), unimpressive (especially against novice Francis Ngannou last year) and irrelevant (the world needed Chisora III like it needs more inflation). In short, this fight, which once seemed so clear cut to me, will now be decided by intangibles. Fury looks sleek, I’m interested to see his weight. Over 265lbs and he’s struggling to get the jab working and will be here to maul a fleet-footed Usyk. Under and he thinks his elbows are right and he will look to control the smaller man with his range.  Based on the videos team Fury have been releasing, I’ll go for Fury to dominate until his stamina starts to slide at which point, Usyk will take over – I think that will be late enough for Fury to get home with a decision win.  But nothing would surprise me now. – MATT McGRAIN

Since his high profile wins over Deontay Wilder, madhatter Tyson Fury has carried himself like a dilettante (admittedly, not the first time he has been guilty of that charge in his erratic career) and the effects showed last year against Francis Ngannou, a boxing newbie who nearly (and risibly) secured a place in prizefighting lore next to Buster Douglas. Fury will find his usual advantages—size, footwork, counter punching—negated by Oleksandr Usyk, who, despite being a converted cruiserweight, has proven he can not only outthink his opponents but outwork them as well. USYK via Split Decision – SEAN NAM

FURY uses size alone for a UD 12, with little drama barring a cut. Unless the distractions of Fury’s celebrity lifestyle have eroded his mauling focus (the wake-up call against Ngannou probably remedied that), I can’t see how Usyk can win this though he’s proved me wrong before. Fury’s mobility makes it very doubtful Usyk will be able to get in and out unscathed to score like he did against Joshua or Dubois, and even more unlikely he can outgun Fury toe to toe. Still, Usyk has perfected his southpaw style into a puzzle nobody has solved yet so Fury might have some early problems. — PHIL WOOLEVER

Editor’s Note: It’s a fair guess that Fury vs. Usyk will be the most heavily bet fight of all time, surpassing Mayweather-Pacquiao. As a rule, fights in the “pick-‘em” range attract the most action. At mid-week, although the action was tilting toward Fury, “11/10 and take your pick” was still readily available. In fact, at some houses, the action is so well-balanced that the operator reduced his vigorish (i.e., the house commission assuming balanced action), going from a 20-cent to a 10-cent line, confident that he could not lose.

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