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Could Tyson Fury upset Cain Velasquez?

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One punch can change things

McNeil By Franklin McNeil
ESPN.com
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The best boxing heavyweight today is not Tyson Fury. But Fury is undefeated and no other boxer possesses his gift of gab. When Fury speaks, people listen -- though few like what they hear. At 6-foot-9, 250 pounds, Fury is an imposing figure. Of his 21 opponents, 15 failed to go the distance with him.

Upon first glance, Fury's numbers are impressive. They, however, do not add up to taking him seriously -- his dearth of quality opposition is a factor. It would be difficult finding knowledgeable fans who'd give him a reasonable shot at dethroning Wladimir Klitschko.

But Fury is undaunted by what others think of him or his chances in a fight. Fury is a very confident man, so much so that he proclaims himself the world's best fighter -- boxing or mixed martial arts. This is where the enigma that is Tyson Fury gets interesting; becoming a boxing champion isn't his sole goal. He also wants dibs at UFC heavyweight titleholder Cain Velasquez, inside the Octagon no less.

Any professional boxer making his UFC debut against that promotion's champion would be a massive underdog. We're talking Powerball-type odds. This doesn't mean, however, the boxer has zero chance of pulling off an upset. Fury would have a chance against Velasquez -- a slight puncher's shot. Like all boxers, Fury is foremost a fighter. So he would step into the cage confident. And that is half the battle.

Fury would also have a significant edge in height and reach (85 inches) -- Velasquez stands 6-1 with a 77-inch reach. These are the only advantages Fury has over Velasquez inside the cage, but they are keys if he is to upset the champ. The only reasonable chance Fury has against Velasquez is to catch him flush on the jaw as he attempts to close the gap, either during a takedown attempt or to grapple against the cage.

To refute this notion, most MMA fans will cite the UFC debut of former boxing champ James Toney against Randy Couture in August 2010. Couture easily disposed of Toney in one round.

But Toney, a natural boxing super middleweight, had neither the height nor reach advantage over Couture. And he was never a power puncher at heavyweight. But Fury is a legit heavyweight and, wearing 4-ounce MMA gloves as opposed to 10-ounce boxing gloves, his hand speed and power will increase.

A well-placed right hand by Fury on Velasquez's jaw could stagger the UFC titleholder. This is unlikely to play out, but anything is possible in MMA.

Remember Toney's MMA stint?

Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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Aug. 28, 2010. I thought we buried the boxing versus MMA debate then. I'd rather not dig up its corpse.

That was the night three-division boxing champion James Toney collected the easiest paycheck of his life, losing via submission to two-division UFC champion Randy Couture at UFC 118 in Boston.

I remember sitting on press row that night in TD Garden as Toney prepared to walk to the cage. A fellow journalist turned to me and said, "Even though I know exactly what's about to happen, I'm still pretty excited." I told him to enjoy the feeling because it would be gone shortly.

Couture took Toney down in the first 17 seconds of the fight. Toney's "takedown defense" remains hard to describe. I've seen people move faster after spilling coffee on their lap. Actually, I remember thinking Toney was barely able to keep his balance the day before while he took his shoes off at the weigh-in.

Tyson Fury's challenge to UFC heavyweight Cain Velasquez is a little different from what I just described because he's not 40, but fundamentally it's the same thing. You want to know how many punches Toney threw that night from his feet against Couture? Zero.

That's the problem with the whole idea of boxer versus martial artist. The boxer doesn't get to box. Especially when the martial artist is a former collegiate wrestler. Velasquez took down Antonio Silva easily and Silva is a longtime martial artist, with a strong background in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. So how fast would Velasquez take down Fury, a man who has zero grappling experience?

I could mention that Fury hasn't even won a title in his sport, but it doesn't matter. If he beat both Klitschko brothers in one night, I would still say Velasquez defeats him in a UFC fight inside one round.

The real ugly side of this, the side you don't really want to think about, is that more than likely Fury would do exactly what Toney did: not care. You think Toney was really upset about Couture's takedown that night in Boston? His $500,000 reported salary was the highest of any fighter who competed that night. If Fury somehow does talk his way into a UFC fight (I really hope he doesn't), the work will already be done.

Don't expect Fury to care about actually training for it.