Saturday, March 02, 2024  |



In WWE move, Tyson Fury blurs lines ahead of match with Braun Strowman

Tyson Fury and Braun Strowman play for the cameras, as WWE exec Triple H looks on. Photo from
Fighters Network

This is the boxing business, a fan must never forget that, and must remember it doubly when you get word like what dropped today.

Tyson Fury will have his next “fight” in Saudi Arabia, on Oct. 31, when he takes on no, not a heavyweight hopeful or a titlist on his level, but instead the WWE strongman Braun Strowman, a 36 year old N.C. native.

The behemoths beefed on the FOX “Smackdown” show and then met again on the “Raw” show, Monday. Fury, age 31, born in England, was beating down a security task force like he was the second coming of George Foreman, as he tried to get at Strowman, who is as tall as he is, and might outweigh him by 75 pounds.

A presser unfolded today, in Vegas, and that match, along with some other clashes which resonate, seemingly, with pro wrestling hardcores, were announced.

At T-Mobile Arena, they trotted out particulars for a mashup which will appeal to segments of the WWE, boxing AND MMA crowd.

The event will unfold in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and will get a jump-start on the Dec. 7 boxing event which will unspool there. Promoter Eddie Hearn has received backtalk from some people who object to the recent civil rights track record of the Saudis, as the stunning and repellent attack on American-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was a harsh black eye on the Saudi ruling class and our present top tier government. 

Hearn said that he separates sport from politics, and boxing has a history of bringing spectacles to nations where traditions don’t necessarily follow in line with some of ours. I messaged promoter Bob Arum to ask him his thoughts, and whether he had any second thoughts about taking part in a promotion in that location, because of the controversial nature of the KSA ruling style.

“Everybody has got to make their own decision,” Arum said. “What Eddie is doing, his fights in Saudi Arabia, it’s not illegal. He’s made the decision to do it. Everyone will make their own decisions, I haven’t been put in a position where I have to do it or not do it…I have to believe that I would do it. I am not critiquing anybody taking a position, I can understand it. It’s a place where some questionable things have happened. We all know there are questions, there certain things, the Khashoggi thing and other things, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you want to ban activities in that place. People can argue bringing these western type events to Saudi Arabia may be helpful in bringing about certain changes. I think that’s what the government there believes.”

He recalled from decades past an event he helped stage in another controversial zone. “I don’t want to be a hypocrite,” Arum continued. “I promoted a big fight in South Africa (John Tate vs. Gerrie Coetzee in 1979) and I exacted from my role in that fight that the stadium was integrated and all stadiums in South Africa would be integrated for a long time. People criticized me, Jesse Jackson, and Arthur Ashe, for doing what I did. Years later I was vindicated, Nelson Mandela was freed and he thanked my parter Sol Kerzner for doing it. He thought it helped ease the transition to democratic rule in South Africa, the ending of apartheid. I was faced with that situation, and it was even worse, I think. Apartheid was reprehensible, and yet I still did the event. I always thought I did the right thing. 

“With Saudi Arabia, you don’t have that situation, you have other situations, I don’t think it’s necessary to not do events there. I have to say, I realize other people have different views, and I respect those different views. I don’t think you necessarily accomplish anything by not doing events in places where there might be questionable activities taking place. As we talk it out now, I come to the conclusion that I lean in, in most cases. I want to emphasize this is my opinion, if other people come out differently I would respect their points of view.”

And no, Arum won’t be in attendance. “I have a business to run. The event is October 31, I will be in China, we’re putting another event together.”

So, back to the fight night…..Cain Velasquez, the now retired from UFC ace, will meet ex-UFCer and rassler Brock Lesnar in one contest, it was announced. (They have met before, at UFC 121, in 2010, when Cain bested Brock and snagged the UFC heavyweight crown.)

The event is tabbed “WWE Crown Jewel” and it will roll out at 1 PM ET, on the WWE Network. The company has been doing events in KSA since 2014 and has received pushback in some circles. Their female athletes haven’t been allowed to participate, with the company management being quoted as saying they are hopeful that will change down the near line.

Bob Arum gave an intro for Fury, saying he goes back a long way with the then WWWF, and recalls how he met the-then 29 years old Vince McMahon in 1974, doing the Evel Knievel “jump” over the Snake River Canyon (Idaho) together. He lauded McMahon for building an empire. Some hardcores will recall Arum had a hand in another McMahon deal, when Vince agreed to put Ali on WWWF shows to stir the pot for Ali vs Antonio Inoki, in June 1976.

Arum told the assembled media that Fury AKA “The Gypsy King” reminds him of Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, the 87 year old deal-maker stated, calling him “the consummate heavyweight. He entertains in the ring and he is a tremendous, tremendous personality. He is a real showman,” he said, doing the tele-prompter. “OK, now, The Gypsy King…Tyson Fury,” he announced.

Fury came out and thanked all for coming, saying he’s been a “life-long” WWE fan. The hitter said “I fear no man,” and he intends to stay undefeated. “I’m gonna knock Braun Strowman out,” he said. He kept it short, and then the two men did a face-off. Props to the two for engaging in some slapstick antics, like Moe and Curly (look it up).

Yes, the lines had blurred, in the name of generating revenue: boxing, too, is sports entertainment, more than most fans realize.

Listen to Woods on the Everlast TALKBOX podcast, for opinion and conversation with A grade guests.