By Geoff Poundes
It’s being billed as Tyson Fury’s big international test this Saturday night, when the former British heavyweight champ supposedly steps up a level to accept the challenge of Kevin “Kingpin” Johnson at Belfast’s Odyssey Arena. 24 year old Fury, 19-0, 14 KO’s, has blazed a trail through the domestic heavyweight ranks, and knocked over a couple of foreign patsies along the way, making full use of his physical advantages – he’s 6 feet 9 inches tall and weighs in around 250 pounds. Along the way he’s proved a degree of adaptability – and won some plaudits from the cognoscenti when he boxed Martin Rogan, for instance, entirely as a lefty when he’d only been seen previously as an orthodox fighter.
In truth his American opponent on Saturday night is generally more mouth than trousers. Johnson, 28-2-1, 13 KO’s, has an impressive resume until you examine it in any detail and discover his best win has probably been a stoppage of a 41 year old Bruce Seldon back in 2008. In the interim Johnson managed a good deal of bluff and bluster when challenging Vitali Klitschko for the latter’s WBC title in Switzerland, when he talked a great fight but went down with little more than a whimper. Johnson failed to win a single round from the robotic Ukrainian.
British fans were treated to a little more of the Kingpin’s peculiar brand of self-promotion when he turned up at a Prizefighter tournament in June of this year – spouting poetry and bullshit before losing out widely to novice compatriot heavyweight Tor Hamer in the final three-rounder of the competition. At 33 years of age Johnson has flattered to deceive and there’s nothing in his body of work to suggest he’ll put a dent in the young British lion.
Fury has struggled to find his footing in the world of professional sports, and continues to regularly put that rather large foot into his rather large mouth. Having surrendered his British title to avoid a confrontation with David Price, who subsequently won the belt, Fury made some ill-chosen comments on live television (questioning Price’s sexuality and masculinity) , for which he was persuaded to apologise later, and if he’s not careful he’ll fall out of the British public’s affection – particularly as Price is rapidly assuming the role of consummate, media-friendly professional.
At some point in the future, presumably when there’s an awful lot of money on the line, Fury and Price will meet in a battle of true giants, but until then young Tyson will be looking to keep racking up the wins until one of the Klitschko’s can be persuaded to, for once, risk their titles against a live opponent.
Kingpin Johnson won’t derail those plans – in fact, if he sees the fifth round it’ll be something of a shock.
There’s little to savour on the undercard – other than a seventh appearance this year for Chris Eubank, Jnr, 7-0, 3 KO’s, who is fast making a reputation for himself in the middleweight division, and will be boxing an opponent yet to be named.