• Steve Bunce

Tricky Thompson will test Klitschko

Steve Bunce July 3, 2012
Wladimir Klitschko KOd Tony Thompson when they met in July 2008 © Getty Images

Are we nearing crisis point in the heavyweight division? There is a decreasing shortlist of fighters and new blood is needed for the Klitschkos to fight. And this Saturday we will see Wladimir recycle one of his former opponents, Tony Thompson.

At heavyweight there has been a shortage of marketable challengers for a long, long time. But when Thompson first appeared a few years ago, he was considered a real threat to Wladimir because of his size.

Going into that July 2008 fight, an awful lot of people thought Thompson had a bit of chance. However, it didn't turn out that way: he had a damaged knee, was limited with his movements in the ring, and was knocked out in the 11th round.

I was surprised when I learned Thompson had been recycled, but everyone should remember he wasn't thrown in as a sacrifice first time round. And he will be better this time, because last time he felt shamed by what happened. I had him on my BBC London radio show not long afterwards, and you could tell that Wladimir wasn't just a pay day for him: he sounded inconsolable when he went over what went wrong. He really cared and not many of the recent challengers have felt that way.

What he has in his favour is that he's been in with Wladimir before, which means he won't be surprised when he gets in the ring, as so many have been down the years. He knows that Wladimir is fast, can cut down the distances - and is not the robot people dismiss him as.

The X factor for Thompson, as in every Klitschko fight, is how motivated Wladimir will be. Will he be as sharp as he was against David Haye - or will he be as ill-prepared and lacking in concentration as Vitali was when he met Dereck Chisora?

The fact Wladimir's admitted he doesn't want this fight hints to me he isn't taking it as seriously as he should - and you can see why that's the case: he dominated the last fight and took care of business against a guy he was told was going to push him.

But ultimately, what has Tony Thompson got left at 40? He was made to look an old man by Wladimir at 36. He has to go for it: he's not going to win on points, or stop him in round 11 or 12. Chisora showed how it's done: put pressure on, get in the face of a Klitschko.

An unfocused Klitschko could open the door for Thompson © PA Photos

Thompson needs to perform out of his skin - and I can see that happening, but it is unlikely to be enough. Big Wlad to win inside eight rounds, but it will be a real fight.

Fists of Fury
On the same night as Klitschko v Thompson, Tyson Fury continues his learning project against America's Vinny Maddalone - a durable, veteran lump who is part of Fury's five-fight plan to pick up experience as he moves closer to a Klitschko fight.

Fury could have been in the ring with a Klitschko on Saturday himself, but he feels he needs to get more rounds under his belt first. He wants to meet one of the brothers feeling that he has a chance of victory, rather than just being there to make up the numbers.

Maddalone is a step up for Fury: he has got some big old names - Tomasz Adamek, Jean Marc Mormeck, Evander Holyfield - on his record down the years, so he is a good measuring stick.

I don't think Fury will be out there to sharpen up his defence, because he's in the entertainment business. He'll get in there, he'll do what he wants - and if it means he gets hurt, then he gets hurt.

People say he's got no stamina, no chin, no this, no that - but four million people watch him and he's extremely likeable. He must be doing something right.

I don't think he will change much in this one. When he knows he has to be more cautious, he will be more cautious. Right now, he just wants to have a fight. And who knows, perhaps he will stick to his aggressive instincts against Vitali or Wladimir. Why not? What's the point of waiting around, getting jabbed to death until the 11th or 12th and then getting knocked out?

Chisora went for it and performed brilliantly. He was brave, put himself in a position to be hurt - he got hurt - but it's the risk you've got to take.

Fury will stop Maddalone and continue on his journey towards a world title.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Steve Bunce Close
Steve Bunce has been ringside in Las Vegas over 50 times, he has been at five Olympics and has been writing about boxing for over 25 years for a variety of national newspapers in Britain, including four which folded! It is possible that his face and voice have appeared on over 60 channels worldwide in a variety of languages - his first novel The Fixer was published in 2010 to no acclaim; amazingly it has been shortlisted for Sports Book of the Year.