by Johnny Walker
THE BALLAD OF TYSON AND THE KINGPIN
“All I need is five days to train for a dude like you … five days, and I’m going to show you that. I’ll show you that on Saturday. All I need is five days to beat the hell out of a dude like you.” — Kevin “Kingpin” Johnson
“Listen, I’m ten times the man you will ever know how to be … the bigger they are, the harder they punch. This fool’s an idiot, yeah, and he’s gonna get smashed to bits” — Tyson Fury
I logged on to the conference call this week for unbeaten Anglo-Irish heavyweight Tyson Fury’s upcoming bout with American Kevin “Kingpin” Johnson (this Saturday in Belfast, Northern Ireland) a few minutes late, only to find that the two voluble boxers were already engaged in a screaming match.
After a few minutes of both men trading insults and talking over each other, some order was established, and both Fury and Johnson made their respective cases for victory this weekend.
“You’re a stepping stone, you’re not a champion,” Fury, who currently holds the Irish and WBO Inter-Continental heavyweight titles, spat at Johnson.
“No one’s interested in Kevin Johnson. This is the Tyson Fury show. So get that right.”
Johnson insisted that taking on the 6′ 9″ tall Fury doesn’t present any special problems for him.
“The good thing is, I’m well-rounded.” said Johnson. “It don’t matter if you’re tall or short, I can break you down within zero point five seconds.
“This guy [Fury] isn’t championship level. It’s not like I’m going in against a guy that really calls for me to even bring out my ‘A’ game.”
“This is the most clumsiest, goofiest guy I ever met in boxing history. This is the most feeble-handed hack guy I’ve ever seen in boxing history,” Johnson, warming to his subject, declared.
The two carried on the conversation the next day at the final presser, and of course, nothing was resolved, but by the time one man’s hand is raised in victory on Saturday night in Belfast, the picture in the heavyweight division will be just a bit clearer than it has been lately.
Tyson Fury has, in the past year, begun to take his career with the seriousness that befits a man who makes the boastful claims he does about being the next great heavyweight champion. Under the aegis of his uncle Peter, he’s put in the hard work (seen in any number of YouTube clips) in the gym and in the ring that it will take to compete at the highest (read: Klitschko) levels to which he aspires in the heavyweight division.
Following dominant wins over journeymen types Martin Rogan and Vinny Maddalone, Fury’s strategy is to vault past his domestic rival David Price–who he wisely avoided back when he trained for fights in his local pub instead of the gym–by taking on a fighter well beyond the level that either he or Price has fought to this date. Then, Fury says, it’s on to a shot against world champion Wladimir Klitschko next year.
To that end, unbeaten Russian slugger Denis Boytsov was lined up, but the Germany-based fighter had second thoughts and backed out late, leaving Fury scrambling for a replacement.
Upped stepped Johnson, whose resume includes a 2009 unaninmous decision loss to WBC champion Vitali Klitschko in which “Kingpin” trash-talked the Ukrainian incessantly up to and during the fight, but forgot that you have to actually engage to beat your opponent.
Instead, Johnson hid in the ropes and talked to Klitschko, his excellent jab still effective enough to mark up the champion’s face despite his being shut out on two judges’ scorecards.
Kevin Johnson’s passive capitulation against Klitschko saw boxing fans jumping off of his bandwagon in droves, but not before re-branding him with the sarcastic monikers “Queenpin” and “Safety Pin.”
Johnson got back on the right track earlier this year with an impressive ninth round stoppage of Aussie power puncher Alex Leapai in the land Down Under, but then fell to fellow American Tor Hamer in the finals of the Prizefighter elimination tournament.
This Saturday night, then, is a turning point for both Fury and Johnson. Fury, only 24, could recover from a loss here easier than could his 33-year-old opponent, but if the Anglo-Irishman is to implement his strategy of getting to a Klitschko payday (and hopefully a world title) before Price does, an impressive win to match his impressive rhetoric is a must.
THE PRICE IS RIGHT
As for David Price, the large and likeable Liverpudlian got an edge on Fury with the boxing public when the latter man dropped his British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles (since won by Price) rather than face him.
But as mentioned previously, Fury knew he was in no shape to match up with the disciplined, powerful Price–who at 6’8″ tall is only an inch shorter than Fury–at that time. And Fury has now gotten the upper hand again–provided he takes care of Johnson–as Price now spends his time beating up the likes of the beyond shot Audley Harrison and as is extremely likely, 45-year-old journeyman Matt Skelton this Friday night in Liverpool.
Price is the one taking media heat now, as scribes point to Fury’s next opponent and compare notes.
The unbeaten Scouse giant has even been forced to make the case for Skelton himself, virtually promising the press that the fight will last longer than his last instant blowout win against the hapless Harrison.
“No one has ever walked through Matt Skelton, even though he’s lost six fights in his career,” Price says.
“He’s a tough, proud man who is a natural fighter. Skelton fought in K1 kick-boxing in front of 70,000 people in Japan before he took up heavyweight boxing, and I’d be a mug to take him lightly.
“Skelton’s not going to be intimidated by my size, or my power.”
Yes David, but you’re a 29-year-old behemoth with dynamite in his gloves and he’s the boxing equivalent of a senior citizen.
If the result is anything but another mismatch, that will be the only big news coming out of this fight.
Price is quick to point out that he is also looking to move up for his next outing, saying he would like to take on the currently unlicensed in the UK Dereck “Del Boy” Chisora, who previously lost a decision to Fury.
And what about Tyson Fury–who recently derided a bemused Price as a “plumber from Liverpool”–himself? Thus far, the excitable Fury has been content to take the lead in stoking their “rivalry” in the press, while Price, as befits his nature, reacts with a Klitschko-like mixture of disdain and mild amusement.
“I think we are lucky to have each other,” a straightforward Price tells The Telegraph.
“We all need rivals and we are certainly that.
“We are both coming up through the division, and it will be a big, big fight when it happens.”