LAS VEGAS — The world’s biggest heavyweight, a 6-foot-9 giant with uncanny agility and quickness, is about to kick off Phase 2 of his campaign to become the world’s biggest heavyweight.
Tyson Fury, who holds the lineal heavyweight title, is set for his second bout in Las Vegas when he takes on unheralded Swede Otto Wallin on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in the main event of a card streamed on ESPN+.
Fury is that rare combination of athlete and entertainer, and while he’s arguably the world’s finest heavyweight, it’s not clear which job, fighting or promoting, he loves more.
As he concluded a short public workout near the race and sportsbook at the MGM Grand Garden, an unmistakable sound rose above the singing of a couple of dozen British boxing fans and the clink of the nearby slot machines.
Fury is cackling and guffawing as he grants a few interviews. He’s mugging for fans’ cameras, shadow boxing, jumping around and high fiving with a few of the fans who are singing “There’s only one Tyson Fury,” to the tune of the classic song, “Winter Wonderland.”
He’s in his element at this moment every bit as much as he is in the ring. He’s a massive -2500 favorite, with oddsmakers giving him a 96.2 percent chance to win. Basically, the bookies are betting that Wallin will be little more than cannon fodder for Fury, which is what Tom Schwarz turned out to be when they fought in June.
He’s asked what kind of challenge Wallin, who is 6-6 and has a 20-0 record with 13 knockouts, albeit against very limited competition, will present.
“I have no idea,” he said. “We’ll find out on Saturday night, won’t we?”
He’ll be fighting for the second time in 92 days, a sprinter’s pace for a modern heavyweight, partially because he wants to stay busy to battle the aftereffects of depression and partly because ESPN executives asked Top Rank officials to bring him back.
He’s a central figure in ESPN’s plan to grow its streaming service, and building more familiarity with him among American boxing fans before he fights WBC champion Deontay Wilder next year is paramount.
Top Rank president Todd duBoef termed Fury’s Las Vegas debut in June a huge success, and highlights of his win over Schwarz got more than five million views on YouTube. The highlight of the fight was probably when he sang Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” to his wife, Paris, in the ring after the bout. That was his first of two songs that night. At the post-fight news conference, he had 87-year-old promoter Bob Arum and 67-year-old promoter Frank Warren join him in singing Don McLean’s “American Pie.”
He also memorably stole a page from “Rocky IV” and made a classic and memorable ring walk that night dressed like Apollo Creed as James Brown’s “Living in America,” blared over the sound system at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. It brought down the house.
He wore a luchador mask into the ring for his public workout Tuesday as a nod that he’ll be fighting on Mexican Independence Day weekend in Las Vegas. That’s been a weekend typically reserved for boxing’s biggest Mexican stars, and fighters like Oscar De La Hoya and Canelo Alvarez have done huge business.
But with Alvarez unable to finalize a deal with WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev in time to fight Saturday, Top Rank and Fury jumped in to fill the void.
The entrance Saturday, duBoef promised, will be epic. Fury wouldn’t give any hints other than to say it will be Mexican-themed.
“You have to see this,” duBoef said. “It’s great.”
Fury has already signed to fight Wilder in a rematch on Feb. 22, assuming he beats Wallin and Wilder beats Luis Ortiz later this year. The introduction of Fury to the American audience and all of the hoopla around it is to make him a familiar face and help boost that fight’s pay-per-view sales.
Fury, though, isn’t having any of the Wilder talk. When Wilder’s name was raised, Fury shook his head and said, “We’re not talking about anything other than Saturday night.”
He didn’t have much to say about Saturday’s fight, though it probably didn’t matter. The likelihood that Wallin wins, or even makes it a compelling battle, is roughly the same as the Miami Dolphins’ odds of running the table and winning the Super Bowl in February.
Possible, yeah, but neither is all that likely to happen.
So Fury goes on and sells himself and almost doesn’t need an opponent.
“It’s all about me anyway,” Fury said. “I’m the best heavyweight in the world and it’s about what I do, not what anyone else does.”
Those who want to see the most compelling matches might want to take a pass on this one.
But those who love to see one of sport’s most compelling personalities, a guy who rebounded after nearly committing suicide by crashing his sports car into a wall, won’t miss it.
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