WHEN Tyson Fury and Dillian Whyte finally come face-to-face in front of 94,000 fans at Wembley Stadium tonight, boxing will be at its brilliant best.
The build-up to this thrilling all-English encounter for the WBC heavyweight championship of the world – the first of its kind for 29 years – should have been a celebration of both men and the show they are going to put on.
Sadly Fury’s relationship with the Dubai-based mobster Daniel Kinahan – who has now had his assets frozen in the UAE – has made most of the fanfare and hoopla toxic and anxious.
Thankfully – in the warped way only boxing can really manage – when the lights go down, the anthems play, the fighters enter and and the opening bell goes, all the suspicion and whispers and allegations will dissolve for a maximum of 36 minutes of gladiatorial action.
Almost three decades ago Lennox Lewis and Frank Bruno had a similar showdown in Cardiff that gripped the entire nation.
The relationship between the two remains frosty to this day, genuine and respectable needle that has never quite lifted because of the words that were exchanged in the build-up to Lewis’ seventh round KO win.
Britain has enjoyed iconic pugilistic moments since then, thanks to Carl Froch’s magnificent retirement punch that ended his two-fight rivalry with George Groves in 2014.
And Anthony Joshua sold the home of English football out almost single handed when he beat Wladimir Klitschko there in 2017 and Alexander Povetkin on the same hallowed turf in 2018.
But having two British, English-speaking stars from boxing’s blue-riband division clash at the home of the England football team is a once-in-a-generation experience.
Promoter Frank Warren’s £31million purse bid broke a world record, so did the ticket sales, despite what everyone in the industry knows is an undercard about as thin as an anorexic flyweight.
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And the sense around the occasion is that both men want to live up to the hype and expectation.
Undefeated Fury – despite being 6ft 9in and blessed with freakish agility and speed – has been dropped six times in his career. Whyte has been stopped by AJ and Povetkin and had wars he could have lost against Derek Chisora and Joseph Parker.
The vulnerabilities in this fight – between two reformed villains who share almost 40st of muscle and spite between them – are almost as tantalising as their superhuman powers.
And so, rightly or wrongly, when the dust settles temporarily on Fury’s links to an organised crime syndicate that has allegedly flooded British sport with drug money, all that will be left is two blokes standing in a ring and fighting for their lives.
There is bundles of (clean) cash and a couple of garish gold belts on the line too.
But – and even the most decrepit cynic should not be able to convince you otherwise – for these 36 minutes both men will be thrown back into a bearpit or an amphitheatre, slashing away for survival and your entertainment.
This is a night that might just make you proud to be British again.