The recently returned British heavyweight Tyson Fury, who fought in early June this year after a near three-year hiatus from boxing, has announced who’ll be his stepping stone as he hobbles back into relevance.
He’ll face Italian Francesco Pianeta (35-4, 21 KOs) on the undercard of Carl Frampton’s August 18 bout at Windsor Park, Belfast.
Pianeta is a former victim of Wladimir Klitschko, who Fury defeated in 2015 to claim the Ukrainian’s IBF, WBA and WBO belts, and although Pianeta has lost four of his last 11 fights, he represents a marked upgrade in opposition for Fury, who was widely derided for taking on the vastly overmatched Albanian Sefer Seferi in his June comeback fight.
As a genuine heavyweight, as opposed to a blown-up cruiserweight, Pianeta will be a litmus test for Fury and the current state of his game.
The former European champion has notable victories against recognised opposition, including Frans Botha, Oliver McCall, Matt Skelton and Johann Duhaupas.
He also shared a ring with former WBA heavyweight champion Ruslan Chaegev in 2015, although he proved no match for his Uzbek opponent, losing via first round TKO.
Fury has suffered a tumultuous return to the professional ranks having relinquished his world titles as a drugs-ban loomed large; Fury released an emotional statement in October 2016 confirming that he had taken cocaine during a battle with depression.
While his return to action was a shot across the bows of the heavyweight division, which is currently dominated by Fury’s fellow Brit Anthony Joshua and American Deontay Wilder, his choice of opponent raised eye-brows.
Fury was never expected to be tested by Seferi, and so it came to pass. Fury toyed with his opponent, tagging him at will before inevitably dispatching the Albanian in the fourth round.
The bout, which at times resembled an exhibition, was roundly condemned and would have done little to prepare Fury for the greater challenges in front of him.
A title shot against either Joshua or Wilder awaits Fury if his unbeaten record stays intact and he continues to raise his level of opposition.
Defeat Pianeta and a domestic dust-up against either Dillian Whyte or David Price could be the next rung on the Tyson Fury ladder, and a win against either man would put Joshua and Wilder on notice.
Promoter Frank Warren has taken the reigns of Fury’s career, and should he steer the ship in the direction it is currently facing, he could put Fury in for a title shot as early as next summer, depending on movement around the rest of the division.
But with a little over a month until he meets Pianeta, Fury would be well advised to focus on the job in hand before setting in his sights upon the current kings throned atop the blue-riband division.