Tyson Fury will challenge WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder in Las Vegas in November after easing to a 10-round victory over Francesco Pianeta at Belfast’s Windsor Park.
The 30-year-old needed only to defeat his little-known opponent to secure the ambitious fight, which will represent only the third since his comeback began in June, and was afterwards joined in the ring by the powerful American where both fighters and promoter Frank Warren confirmed they will meet.
Crucially for Fury, after the disappointment of his four-round victory over Sefer Seferi in June, in being taken the 10-round distance he was given the chance to shift much of the ring rust that would have developed during his near-three-year absence.
He will have to lose further weight and continue to rediscover his sharpness following an unremarkable performance in which he rarely hurt his opponent, but standing opposite Wilder, he vowed: “I’m going to win this man’s belt and bring it back to defend right here in Belfast.
“You can’t knock out what you can’t hit. This man (Pianeta) couldn’t land a blow on me.
“This was the performance I needed to prove against a tough opponent that I can move and box again at the best level.
“It was a calculated boxing performance as promised. Working on my boxing, get the rounds in. I’m very happy with my performance. It was a step up in opponent; I needed to box and move and still show I can go 10 rounds.
“We are two men that will fight everybody; they called, I answered, I said ‘Send me the contract’ and they sent it, I signed it. One thing I promise is that I’m knocking you out, boy.”
— DON TYSON FURY (@Tyson_Fury) August 18, 2018
Wilder, 32, and who clashed with Fury at Friday’s weigh-in, then told the former WBA, WBO and IBF champion: “It is one thing that Tyson Fury has never had. He had many belts, but he’s never had the WBC belt.
“If he ever thinks about having this belt, he better wake up and apologise to me because he’ll never have this.
“I can’t wait to fight you because I am going to knock you out. I promise you. You’ve never been knocked out but you’re going to feel the experience, what it feels to get hit by the ‘Bronze Bomber’.
“I’m happy to be here but I’m sorry to tell you that Fury will not be bringing the WBC belt back here. This fight we are having is on; it’s official, it’s on, baby.”
Warren, who has overseen Fury’s comeback, added: “All (a date and venue) will be revealed next week, but the fight is on.”
IBF featherweight champion Josh Warrington similarly travelled from Leeds to join Carl Frampton in the ring after the latter stopped Australia’s Luke Jackson in nine one-sided rounds, and Warren confirmed that they will also fight before the end of the year.
“We’re now going to make the dream fight,” he said. “It will happen, definitely this year. It’s on.”
The 31-year-old Frampton, who defended the interim WBO title, said: “I’m not a world champion, Josh is a world champion. I’d love to be a world champion again.”
Warrington, 27, responded: “He performed well, but listen I’m looking to get the fight, I beat (Lee) Selby and I’m still ranked behind Carl.”
On Thursday, the Afghanistan Cricket Board revealed that national captain Asghar Stanikzai had changed his name to ‘Asghar Afghan’ after the 30-year-old batsman registered it for the new Electronic National Identity Cards.
He joins a growing list of sportsmen to have changed their names during their playing careers. Here, we look at five famous sports stars who completed all the legal paperwork in order to be known by a different name.
Sugar Ray Robinson, previously known as Walter Smith Junior
Ahead of his first bout in 1936, Walter Smith Junior borrowed the Amateur Athletic Union card of another boxer, whose name was Ray Robinson.
He loved it so much that Smith didn’t go by his birth name for the rest of his career. Once described as ‘sweet as sugar’, Robinson said: “Sugar Ray Robinson had a nice ring to it. Sugar Walter Smith wouldn’t have been the same.”
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, previously known as Lew Alcindor
Just after getting his hands on the 1971 NBA championship with the Milwaukee Bucks, Lew Alcindor converted to Islam and adopted the name Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
It translates as “noble, powerful servant. The name change didn’t have any impact on his talent as the star went from strength to strength, winning six NBA championships including five with the Los Angeles Lakers over his epic 20-year playing career.
Muhammad Ali, previously known as Cassius Marcellus Clay Junior
Named after his father Cassius Marcellus Clay Junior, it was in 1964 that ‘The Greatest’ revealed he wanted to be known as Muhammad Ali.
He had already made a name for himself as Cassius but the decision came after he converted to Islam and affiliated with the Nation of Islam (NOI).
“I am Muhammad Ali, a free name – it means beloved of God, and I insist people use it when people speak to me,” the late boxing star said at the time.
Metta World Peace, previously known as Ronald William Artest
Having made a name for himself with the LA Lakers, the American forward ensured he would no longer be called Ronald William Artest when he changed his name in September 2011.
Instead, people would have to get used to calling him Metta World Peace after he wanted to inspire the youth to get together in peace. The word ‘Metta’ was chosen since it meant kindness and friendliness.
Asghar Afghan, previously known as Asghar Stanikzai
The most recent sportsman to change his name. The Afghanistan cricket captain has played an integral part in the national team’s journey as they qualified for the 2015 World Cup and achieved Test status.
On Thursday, the 30-year-old batsman changed his surname to ‘Afghan’ to ‘honour of protecting the national identity of Afghan citizens’.
The second opponent of the former unified champion’s comeback is the little-known German Francesco Pianeta, who will travel to Belfast for their fight at Windsor Park on August 18.
Fury revealed earlier this week that negotiations have begun for him to challenge American Wilder in the US before the end of the year, but for all of the Briton’s pedigree such a step up would represent a significant risk.
When his comeback began promoter Warren spoke of the need for the 29-year-old, before challenging one of the division’s leading fighters, to have several fights in quick succession to overcome the effects of almost three years out of the ring.
Pursuing Wilder so soon could be perceived as a change in strategy to something more short-term, but asked if that represented cashing out on a fighter who divided opinion when defeating Sefer Seferi on his return, Warren responded: “Deontay Wilder’s doing that. I’m not doing that.
“I could sit around and give him another couple of fights, I’m not doing that at all. From my perspective, if he feels he’s ready to go for it – we’ll see what he looks like, he may still look a bit rusty in Ireland but the bottom line is he’s in the ring.
“He’ll be coming out of that fight, whatever happens (as long as) he wins the fight, in a better position to go and challenge for the titles he never lost in the ring.
“(If we wait) Deontay Wilder’s punch isn’t going to go away in a couple of fights – he can punch. The fact of the matter is he’s in there, he fancies it, physically he’s in a good position, and most importantly with Tyson, mentally he’s in a good position, and that’s the main thing – mentally he’s there.”
Warren also revealed that concerns Wilder could lose before fighting Fury are contributing to their drive to make sure Fury next challenges him in what would ultimately be a glamorous match-up.
“My worry with all these heavyweight champions, Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua, is they’ll get beat,” he said. “Both of them could get beat. It’s not difficult to hit Anthony Joshua – hit him on the chin, he can go, we’ve seen it happen.
“Deontay Wilder’s come from behind in fights, we know he’s a big puncher, but he’s been behind and shown he can be beaten on points.
“Deontay’s coming over (to Belfast) for the fight.
“Tyson’s in good nick, he’s shifted another bit of weight. Get this fight out of the way and he’ll be ready to go. It’s not like he’s got lots of miles on the clock; he’s still a young man.”