The Pugilist

Is Tyson Fury ready for Wladimir Klitschko?

Fury-Klitschko looks set to go down next year

It's shaping up to be a make-or-break 2013 for a host of rising British boxers. Tyson Fury, David Price, Kell Brook, Gavin Rees, Martin Murray, Tony Bellew, George Groves, Jame DeGale, Scott Quigg and others will all hope to realise full world title glory inside the next 13 months.

It was confirmed this week that the first name in that list is now just one victory away from a title opportunity: Fury will be lined up to challenge Wladimir Klitschko in the new year should he overcome Kevin 'Kingpin' Johnson in Belfast this weekend.

Barring an absolute disaster, he will. Do not be fooled by Hennessy Sports' glowing words for 'Kingpin' based on him taking Wlad's brother Vitali "to the limit" in 2009. Dereck Chisora accomplished the same feat earlier this year and looked just as outmatched as Johnson did from start to finish.

Even more recently, the American took part in Prizefighter's "International Heavyweights" tournament this past summer. A three-round, three-fight one-nighter, Johnson was the bookies' favourite based on his prior Klitschko exploits and 26-1-1 record.

He received the full promo video and interview treatment prior to his emphatic destruction job of Swindon-based Moroccan Moureddine Meddoun (current record: 4-2) and looked a million bucks in the process.

However, his sluggish semi-final non-fight with Poland's Albert Sosnowski (47-5-2) exploited work-shy tendencies and difficulties adapting to different opponents/approaches on short notice, even though Johnson won on points.

It was an issue which compatriot and final opponent Tor Hamer did not suffer: after outclassing hapless Brazilian Marcelo Luiz Nascimento in the quarters, Hamer realised Brit Tom Dallas was spent from his own first-round clash and went in for a 29-second semi-final kill.

Hamer then won the tournament, doing just enough against the tired and stationary Johnson to win an insipid final.

Fury-Johnson tale of the tape

Fury, like Hamer, experiments with different approaches and prides himself on out-thinking as well as out-boxing opponents. Neither have really been tested at the highest level so far.

Had 29-year-old Hamer been paired with Fury rather than Johnson, perhaps Fury could have proven his world title credentials with a win ahead of taking on Wlad, which will be like nothing the Irish-Englishman has ever experienced.

As has been the case from the start, however, Fury remains protected by his promoters, who will shout from the rooftops after the 'Kingpin' clash that their man has indeed proven his worth because of that time three years ago that Kevin got a title shot and wasn't killed.

Not that there's anything wrong with that sometimes: the more careful route got David Haye into the world heavyweight title picture, and the I'm A Celebrity star is officially a former world champ.

Unfortunately, without something closer to a competitive scrap pre-Klitschko, Fury runs a risk of suffering the same disappointing fate as Haye did against Wladimir in Hamburg last year.

The recent fates of previously-undefeated heavyweights Manuel Charr and Mariusz Wach show that the Ukrainian brothers enjoy offering opportunities to brash rising fighters who have not yet ventured without the proverbial stabilisers and eating them for breakfast.

Hennessy Sports have ensured through the selection of fighters such as Kevin Johnson, Vinny Maddalone and Martin Rogan that Fury remains unblemished and more marketable, but the day he meets Wladimir in the ring could be the day they regret the low-risk approach.

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RESULTS:

You may have heard, but 'The Hitman' was back this past weekend in Manchester.

Though his return from a three-and-a-half-year absence ended in defeat and a second retirement, the fight with Vyacheslav Senchenko proved to be one of the more thrillingly-poignant boxing evenings of the year so far.

Ricky Hatton earned respect for casting a more positive memory of his swan song than his crushing at the fists of Manny Pacquiao, and even more respect for laying on an excellent undercard which saw both Martin Murray and Scott Quigg win world interim titles in some style.

History was made that night on the other side of the world when Xiong Zhao Zhong became China's first-ever world boxing champion, defeating Mexico's Javier Martinez Redendiz in Kunming to lift the vacant interim WBC minimum-weight title.

COMING UP THIS WEEKEND:

Price-Skelton tale of the tape

As Britain's two heavyweight hopes, Price and Fury are often mentioned in the same breath. This weekend, they fight within 24 hours of one another as Price takes on 45-year-old Matt Skelton on Friday at Aintree, a pairing which re-ignited the war of words between the two.

Also in action on Friday is cricketing crossover star Andrew Flintoff, who after weeks under the media microscope in pugilistic training hell, makes his professional debut against undefeated fellow rookie Richard Dawson (record: 2-0).

The decision to trade the Oval for the 'squared circle' has divided opinion across the board and encountered plenty of criticism from those within the industry, but when the bell rings at the Manchester Arena Flintoff will be like any other boxing newcomer who has paid his dues in terms of preparation, and must now either sink or swim.

Trout-Cotto tale of the tape

And 'Trout a la Cotto' is a mouthwatering international offering from New York City, a world-renowned gastronaut's paradise, though our Stateside expert Kevin Iole rightly feels the bout has suffered from a lack of promotion.

Austin 'No Doubt' Trout is perfect in 25 fights so far and defends his WBA light middleweight title against the Puerto Rican hailed by Floyd Mayweather as his toughest-ever opponent.

Keep your eyes out for a midweek title bout early next week, too, as Koki Kameda defends his WBA bantamweight crown against Hugo Ruiz in Osaka on Tuesday.

As always, you can read up on all the title fight results on the Yahoo!-Eurosport website.