Tyson Fury is back in action with a familiar level and style of opponent on Saturday. (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
Former British and Commonwealth heavyweight champion Tyson Fury has already made quite a name for himself in the sport. How could he not? A colorful, giant heavyweight with future world champion hopes pinned to his back since he turned pro, the 24-year-old gypsy has had his scares in the ring, and some remain skeptical about his ultimate upside.
But one thing is for sure: Tyson Fury doesn't have boring fights, and with promoter Mick Hennessy attempting to build him into a money fighter with a Channel 5 TV contract that has Fury's fights seen by more casual fans than those who might tune in to see Sky Sports bouts or subscribe to BoxNation, that's a big factor. Is he fun to watch? Yes. Is he a heavyweight? Yes. Is he interesting? Yes.
And thus, on some level, Tyson Fury is already a star, despite taking few risks, and blatantly avoiding David Price to fight the likes of Neven Pajkic, Nicolai Firtha, Martin Rogan, and on Saturday, American club battler Vinny Maddalone.
Fury (18-0, 13 KO) may not have taken risks against Pajkic, Firtha, and Rogan, but each fight was interesting. Actually, the Rogan fight was fairly dull in the early rounds, but strangely intriguing because of Fury's attempt to suddenly become a 6'9" southpaw, which if successful in the long run, would give him an even more unique approach given the division's general lack of left-handed fighters.
If there is worry about Fury's potential given that he's been rocked by Pajkic and Firtha, and his career-best wins are over John McDermott and a grossly out of shape Dereck Chisora, there is none about his bottom line marketability. Even if he loses eventually, and he will, there will still be the fact that he's fun to watch, fights like he likes to fight, and has a charismatic presence. For a guy his size, he's remarkably entertaining -- when we think of the giant heavies, the guys 6'6" or above, we usually think of robotic jab machines like the Klitschkos (though they are, of course, the real deal and genuine talents), freak shows like Nikolai Valuev, and guys whose only real strength is their height and reach.
Fury has broken that mold to pieces and run it through a wood chipper. He's got a true fighter's instinct, and doesn't try to live off of his natural advantages too much.
With that all in mind, you can expect pretty much par for the course on Saturday. Maddalone (35-7, 26 KO) is what he is: A limited, 38-year-old Queens native who comes to fight and doesn't have any fear of losing. He fits the mold of Fury's recent opponents, and as such he should be a relatively easy mark for Fury, as the big galoot continues to take baby steps and build a fanbase via terrestrial TV.
You can certainly criticize Hennessy's matchmaking, and I think it's very fair to do so. But when you think about what he's doing, it makes sense and I believe you have to respect what he's doing at least a little bit. Mick Hennessy has been marginalized as a promoter. That's a fact. When he lost Carl Froch, it could have pretty much been over for him. But that's not the case.
Right now, Tyson Fury is his only real attraction. The ace up his sleeve is the Channel 5 deal, and with it, he is gaining major exposure for Fury, young super bantamweight Kid Galahad, and for Chris Eubank Jr, whose name can make him an easy star, and thus far appears to have real potential in the ring, too.
Hennessy's deal with Channel 5 doesn't just keep him in the game, though. It could be a game changer in the long term. If fighters, especially amateurs graduating into the pro ranks, see Hennessy's relationship with the network for the major incentive it definitely can be, it wouldn't be any major shock to see him rebuild his fighter stable and eventually become a true powerhouse promoter.
As for Saturday's fight, it's just another chance for Fury to look impressive and sell himself to an audience that is part major boxing fans, and part curious viewers who could become boxing fans with the right spark to light the fire. Heavyweights bring in the folks who won't necessarily sit down and watch welterweight Kell Brook just to see what he's about. Fury will win, and should do so fairly easily, but you can count on Maddalone to show up and give an honest, real effort, too, same as Firtha, Pajkic, and Rogan have done recently. I guess the one good thing you can say about this matchmaking is they're at least matching Tyson with guys who will come and fight, if not have any real chance to win. Prediction: Fury TKO-6
Vacant European Bantamweight Title
Stuart Hall (12-1-1, 7 KO) vs Lee Haskins (25-2, 11 KO)
I'd call this a pick'em sort of fight -- I might favor Hall just a bit, but Haskins looked really sharp in the Prizefighter tournament last October. The bad news is he also hasn't fought since then, so there could be just a little ring rust. Haskins went 3-0 that night, losing none of the nine rounds he fought against his opponents.
Hall, 32, is a former British champion who lost his crown to Jamie McDonnell last September, when McDonnell made the decision to add the British belt to his European and Commonwealth straps. He's got issues as a fighter -- his defense is lackluster, he's not quick at all, and he doesn't throw much in combination, so he rarely builds any major momentum offensively. But he does have a little power, and at 5'8" he's pretty big ffor the division.
Haskins, 28, would be scoring arguably a career-best win if he takes this one. A former Commonwealth flyweight and British super flyweight champion, the 5'5" southpaw is actually the last man to beat the aforementioned McDonnell, when he won a 77-76 referee's card in March 2008 in Barnsley. McDonnell vacating the European title has given Hall and Haskins a major opportunity, and Haskins has expressed his desire to take a crack at a world title should he win this one.
I don't really have a favorite to win this one -- I'm going to pick Haskins because I think at his best, he's a bit better overall fighter. The size could be a real factor, though. Prediction: Haskins by close decision.
Also in action on the card will be Chris Eubank Jr (4-0, 2 KO). The 22-year-old second generation fighter will be facing Terry Carruthers (11-11-6, 1 KO). Carruthers isn't much of a puncher, but he's a really solid test for Eubank's fifth pro fight. Carruthers knows his way around the ring and beat the hell out of Adnan Amar his last time out. He has been stopped five times, so if Eubank comes to close the show early, he may be able to do that.