Maybe Tyson Fury knew better than anyone, after all.
Maybe the 6'9" (ish) chatterbox knew that his punches weren’t as straight as Wladimir Klitschko’s, that his chin wasn’t as sturdy and that his all-around toolbox wasn’t as full.
So he and his handlers went to plans B, C, D and otherwise.
And as Saturday turns into Sunday on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, all who bought into his act can raise a pint and have the last beer-sopped laugh.
Say it now, everyone: Tyson Fury is the heavyweight champion of the world.
The trash-talking, mic-stealing, Aerosmith-crooning heavyweight champion of the world.
And make no mistake, it’s not solely because of a 12-round anticlimax in which he and a nine-year incumbent combined to excite no one—while landing 72 jabs, 66 power shots and nothing close to a blow that anyone outside their families will remember beyond the next news cycle.
Instead, the greatest title in pro sports changed hands largely because of things occurring on the margins before and after Michael Buffer pronounced the sky-scraping combatants “ready to rumble.”
Fury and Co. hemmed about the gloves during fight week. They hawed about the ring surface during fight afternoon. And they flat-out moaned about hand wraps in the final few hours, ultimately mandating that Klitschko restart the process from scratch lest the entire event be scrubbed.
Maybe it mattered. Maybe it didn’t. But while the Ukrainian has never been confused with Mike Tyson when it comes to offensive activity anyway, there was clearly something about the whole Fury experience that lulled him into a preposterously low connect rate of 4.3 punches per round.
You think Floyd Mayweather Jr. is non-violent?
This was like watching Money fight under anesthesia.
Once the challenger was through jabbering at his stone-faced foe during the anthem ceremony and jawing at him following Tony Weeks’ mid-ring instructions, he maintained the interplay with a steady stream of mugging, clowning and all-around foolishness that, if nothing else, allowed him to stay in his behavioral comfort zone. And, by extension, helped prolong what seemed like perpetual confidence.
Lest anyone forget, too, it had been a while since Klitschko had seen the down side of the ledger.
No fewer than 11 years, in fact. Back when Brett Favre was still a Packer, LeBron James was still a rookie and Donald Trump was still identifying more as a Democratic blowhard than a Republican one.
Problem was, after a decade-plus of avoiding losses, Klitschko didn’t appear to know how to seize a win.
Among high-profile heavyweight fights, it resembled the dethroning of the last man to string together Klitschko’s number of title defenses, Larry Holmes, back when the Easton Assassin was bamboozled by a young, awkward guy who moved haphazardly around the ring, flicked shots from unnerving angles and was unwilling to simply stand still while the older man tried to land something of consequence.
By the time Holmes mustered urgency 30 years, two months and seven days ago, he was well behind in a fight he ultimately lost by one, three and three points on the cards to Michael Spinks.
And on Saturday, even with a point docked for rabbit punches, Fury won eight of 12 rounds according to two judges on his foe’s adopted home turf and nine of 12 according to a third.
“I came here to Germany, in the lion’s den,” Fury said in a post-fight mid-ring interview.
“We worked so hard to this. It’s hard to come to foreign countries and get decisions. When that point got taken off, I thought I wasn’t going to get it, to be honest.”
Bleacher Report had it closer at 114-113, but there was no doubt which man looked the part.
In fact, as a bloodied, swollen Klitschko stewed in the background, the new champ essentially talked through a softball question from Lennox Lewis, asked the former undisputed king to hold his water as he grabbed the mic and took to serenading his wife with a version of “I Don't Want To Miss A Thing” that figures to have Steven Tyler cringing for each of the 119 days between now and his 69th birthday.
It was silly, self-aggrandizing and completely unforgettable.
And if you think Fury is going to tone it down now that he’s champ…“Dream On.”