One of the tattoos on heavyweight Tom Schwarz's right arm reads "FUTURE," which could turn out to be quite apropos depending on how things go for him in his next fight. Perhaps he will be the future lineal heavyweight champion of the world.
Schwarz has the unexpected opportunity of a lifetime as the opponent selected to challenge lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury on Saturday (ESPN+, 10 p.m. ET, with preliminaries on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes beginning at 7 p.m.) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
The bout marks Fury's much-anticipated return from his epic draw with titleholder Deontay Wilder on Dec. 1 in Los Angeles in a fight many believe Fury deserved to win, despite suffering two knockdowns, including a heavy-duty one in the 12th round that he miraculously survived.
Fury and Wilder were close to terms for a rematch, but Fury, along with promoter Frank Warren, elected to go in another direction. Fury instead signed a lucrative long-term co-promotional deal -- Fury says it's worth $100 million -- with Top Rank to bring his fights to ESPN platforms.
To kick off the agreement, Fury naturally needed an opponent, one his team hopes will give him a good fight -- just not too good of a fight -- because there are already plans for the rematch with Wilder in early 2020, as long as both men win upcoming bouts.
Fury (27-0-1, 19 KOs), of England, is getting most of the attention going into Saturday's fight, but Schwarz, the big-time underdog (+1,200, according to Caesars), has his own hopes and dreams riding on this opportunity.
"If I win, I have another life," Schwarz said through a translator. "I am a fighter with a big heart. I am a fighter with good skills, and because of this, I am the best opponent for Fury."
It would be a Rocky-like upset if Schwarz wins, and Fury knows it. A Schwarz victory would rank as an even bigger upset than the one Andy Ruiz Jr. authored on June 1 when he stopped Anthony Joshua to take his three heavyweight title belts in a shocker in New York.
So just how did Schwarz wind up getting the coveted shot against Fury? After all, Top Rank could have picked anyone. Schwarz has his theory.
"I'm a young fighter with a big heart and big balls," he said. "So why doesn't Fury pick another one? I am the one for this fight and I am the guy who will beat Tyson Fury on Saturday."
Picking Schwarz wasn't really that complicated, according to Top Rank chairman Bob Arum.
"My goal was always to be a world champion. That's my biggest ambition. That is my target. So only one thing is on my mind -- to be a world champion." Tom Schwarz
"We looked at the rankings and we saw that in virtually all the organizations Schwarz was a top-five guy, top two in the WBO," Arum said. "We had never promoted him or had anything to do with his people, and we reached out to [promoter SES Boxing] to see if they would be interested. He is an undefeated fighter, popular in Germany, 24 wins and no defeats, and we felt that he was the best possible opponent for Tyson Fury."
Arum said Schwarz's size was also a factor in his selection as the opponent.
"One thing we wanted to make sure is we weren't going to match Tyson Fury with a small heavyweight because obviously the long-term goal is to fight [the 6-foot-7] Wilder, and so we wanted a big guy. Schwarz is 6-foot-5, and we felt that it would be an interesting and a good fight."
"As you saw [June 1], I can never overlook anybody because it's heavyweight boxing. Tom Schwarz knows if he beats Tyson Fury, then he's set for life," Fury said. "He becomes a multimillionaire, he gets to headline big shows. All his dreams come true."
Schwarz's recollection is that his mother once told him he was "born for boxing." He believes he began to pursue his passion at age 9 or 10.
"I always wanted to be a fighter and boxer, and so I started my career as an amateur and then as a professional," he said. "I joined SES Boxing and turned pro at the age of 18."
He has a glossy record (24-0, 16 KOs) and at 25 he is younger than 30-year-old Fury. And while Schwarz might not be as big as the 6-foot-9, 260-pound Fury, few fighters are. Still, Schwarz is an imposing figure at 6-5 and 241 pounds. He's taking a huge step up in opposition, but he sure looks the part of a heavyweight title challenger.
"I think Tyson Fury is the best fighter in the world," said Schwarz. "Nobody else has his style. Nobody else can do what he does. It's not easy to train for his style. All I can do is to fight against him, to see the situation and adjust as it goes.
"This is what I've been working for since I was a kid. A fight in Las Vegas against Tyson Fury is a dream come true. While I appreciate Tyson as a great fighter and a sportsman, I am young, ambitious and in the top of the world rankings. I've won 24 fights. I've got nothing to lose, and my 25th victory will come against Fury."
Schwarz was 41-9-3 as an amateur before turning pro in 2013 and eventually winning the German national title as well as various sanctioning body regional titles. He has been knocked down twice as a professional.
"My goal was always to be a world champion. That's my biggest ambition. That is my target," he said. "So only one thing is on my mind -- to be a world champion."
As excited as Schwarz was for the opportunity to face Fury from the moment he signed, he said he finds additional inspiration in Ruiz's dramatic upset of Joshua, which was one of the biggest heavyweight upsets ever.
"I saw the fight and there is great motivation to see that every fighter in the world, if he has good skills, if he is motivated enough, is able to defeat a world champion," Schwarz said. "Andy Ruiz has a big heart and he did a great fight. So this is a great motivation for me to do the same and to win."
Despite Schwarz's long odds to win, it's still heavyweight boxing, where one punch can change everything, as Ruiz reminded the world two weeks ago. Arum, of course, expects Fury to win and move on to much bigger business, but he is keenly aware that nothing is guaranteed inside the ring.
"We know that anything can happen," he said, adding some history about German fighters and heavyweight upsets, including a mention of Max Schmeling's famous 1936 knockout of Joe Louis in their first fight. Arum also mentioned a fight that he promoted.
"I remember when George Foreman won the heavyweight championship by beating Michael Moorer [in 1994]," Arum said. "We wanted to make a not-so-difficult first title defense and put him in with [popular German contender] Axel Schulz. And all the judges gave Foreman the nod in that fight. A lot of sportswriters from Germany and also the United States believe Schulz won that fight. It's heavyweight boxing -- anything can happen."