IF you happen to have an interest in the heavyweight division circa 2019, a great deal of patience and understanding is required to maintain it.
There are two champions, or three, according to Tyson Fury, and the emphasis, rather than on whittling the number down to one, seems to be on keeping these men apart, winning and earning, and teasing resolution but not delivering it.
Fury, the so-called lineal heavyweight champion, should really be fighting Deontay Wilder this year, but won’t. He won’t be fighting Wilder despite the fact they have a score to settle, following their dramatic draw in December, and despite the fact all alternative options, for both, pale in comparison to Wilder vs. Fury II.
Wilder just knocked out Dominic Breazeale inside a round, which proved the mismatch everyone expected, and Fury boxes unknown German Tom Schwarz on June 15. These, however, are anything but tune-up fights or highlight-reel additions to help sell the rematch. Instead, they are fights indicative of what is to come in the next six to twelve months.
Settle in and buckle up. We could be in for a whole year of this kind of action.
“Deontay Wilder cannot run from Tyson Fury forever. The fight has to happen,” Fury told ESPN.
“This rematch has got to happen, but it won’t be in May, June, July or August.
“This fight, I’m being told, is likely to happen in March or April next year.”
To make matters worse, Fury concedes the two nearly agreed on a deal to rematch earlier this year – for a fight proposed for May – only for talks to collapse and for them to then both go their separate ways.
“We were very close to a rematch. We had contracts, they had contracts, we were trying to agree terms,” he said. “All of a sudden I had a massive deal from ESPN and they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. That would’ve been in May, I believe.
“Deontay Wilder apparently signed a three-fight deal before I signed an ESPN deal.
“He signed a deal to fight Dominic Breazeale, Luis Ortiz and Adam Kownacki, so this was all done even before I put pen to paper.
“I’ve got a few fights on ESPN, and hopefully I’ll stick with ESPN throughout my career.
“If the fighters are willing to fight then why should the networks get in the way? Fighters use that as an excuse. Anthony Joshua uses that a lot as an excuse. But I believe if the fighters really want to fight each other they will, as I proved. I was on BT Sport and came over to United States and boxed on Showtime.”
Surely, for as long as confusion reigns and the heavyweight titles are fractured, no good can come from a champion signing three-fight deals comprising fights against also-rans and peripheral contenders. It bolsters their bank balance by adding a layer of protection, no doubt, but, equally, where’s the sense in three top heavyweights avoiding each other to partake in fights of little interest to anyone but their promoters and accountants?
It’s not something to celebrate. Far from it. You only get one shot at this and, with so much uncertainty, and so much smoke still to clear, it would be a crying shame if Fury, Wilder and Anthony Joshua fail to capitalise on the kind of momentum their weight-class hasn’t experienced for some time.
It’s not only the gloves bare-knuckle boxing has done away with in order to try and appeal to a new breed of bloodthirsty fight fan. It’s also the class, the respect and the purpose.
Paulie Malignaggi, a former world boxing champion, is set to fight Artem Lobov, a former mixed martial artist, on June 22, sans gloves, in what is the culmination of an ugly feud that has this week plummeted to new lows.
Keen to promote the unsightly spectacle, Malignaggi threatened to spit and urinate on Lobov and both men then had to be restrained from starting the fight early during an ill-tempered press conference on Monday.
In the darkest recesses of society, some will get a kick out of the drama, look forward to this fight and even pay for the privilege of watching it. But it’s in the dark, in the shadows, this sort of thing should probably remain.
“I might spit on you when I finish you,” Malignaggi, an otherwise excellent boxing commentator, said. “Actually, I might take my d*** out and p*** on you. I’ll p*** in your toothless mouth.”
Lobov, who possesses teeth and who later aimed a kick at Malignaggi, said: “I feel I have the upper hand in this fight. With age, it’s easier to get knocked out. He’s never hurt anybody in the ring, so it’s going to be a bad matchup for him.
“I see me stopping him. He doesn’t want it anymore. In order to be a fighter and really compete, you have to have the fire. His fire is long gone.
“My strategy is to come in there and shove my fist down his throat. It’s personal now with the way he’s been talking and acting. I’m going to put him away.
“Paulie likes to hide behind the jab and feint. He never lets his hands go. He just hides and tries to make it to the end of the fight.
“I’m going to let it all go in that ring on June 22. I’m going to be the ‘Russian Hammer’ from the start until the finish. I want to meet him in the ring and put him away like true warriors do.
“I never wrap my hands. Not when I spar, not when I hit the bag or anything. It’s made them tougher. They may not look pretty, but they do a lot of damage.
“It’s game over for Paulie. I heard he’s known as the ‘Magic Man’, but I just hope he doesn’t disappear before the fight.”
The two first came into contact when Malignaggi was brought in as one of Conor McGregor’s sparring partners ahead of the Irishman’s woeful boxing match against Floyd Mayweather in 2017. Back then, Lobov, a team member and fellow sparring partner of McGregor, greeted Malignaggi with respect and fondness, according to Malignaggi at least.
The relationship soured, however, when pantomime season arrived, and Knockdown-gate took TMZ and therefore the world by storm. It was at this point Malignaggi and Lobov became enemies. It was then they hated one another and went public with this hatred (likely seeing the potential of a rivalry of their own at some point in the future).
“I’ve always been known as one of the toughest guys in boxing. Lobov is known as a punching bag with a loud mouth,” said Malignaggi.
“If I had it my way, I’d knock him out in the last round. I want to pummel him from start to finish. He’s going to come out trying hard, and then he’s going to get gun-shy. He’s going to hesitate to even take a step.
“I’m always looking for my next challenge. I wasn’t planning on this, but it was sold to me, and it appealed to me. Artem is a punching bag and I usually hit that for free.
“I never lie, because I don’t have to fear anyone. You only lie because you’re afraid. Why are Lobov and his team lying? You know why. I don’t care what they think. I’m going to put this guy out next month.
“As I train, I realise that my hands are like razor blades. Get a good look at Lobov’s face, because next month I’m going to make it look like a road map with lines all over it.”
It’s hard enough persuading people a sport in which heads are punched and brains are scrambled has a place in so-called civilised society. It’s quite another thing, however, persuading those same people bare-knuckle boxing should exist, especially when it’s sold not as an art, or as a skill, but as an outlet for angry men to settle their issues without the risk of ending up in police custody.
Maybe that’s it. Maybe they’ve stopped trying to persuade or pretend because they no longer need to. Maybe this is what people now want from fighters and so-called fighting arts. Reduced to caveman simplicity, the likes of Malignaggi and Lobov are perhaps doing nothing more than playing to their audience and giving them exactly what they want.
It’s punching and it pays, but Paulie Malignaggi is better than this.