I was nearly bowled over around 8 p.m. last Saturday evening. Hordes of fight fans – ranging from the casual to the sophisticated, were hurrying to abandon the Tyson Fury bandwagon. It’s a bandwagon upon which, I had happily never alighted. If you detect a certain satisfaction in those words, you’re not wrong. Mr. Fury was at long last exposed. I always considered him the best of an average lot of heavyweights. We are, after all, enduring a rather bleak period for the division.
Virtually every undefeated or rarely defeated boxing champion likes to fashion himself as the “best-ever” at some point in his career. Many of these claims are debatable but they aren’t laughable. Is Floyd Mayweather’s claim to being the greatest accurate?
Many would agree, but I’m one of a lot of fans who recall the exploits of men like Sugar Ray Robinson, or Marvelous Marvin Hagler and argue “Not so fast, Floyd!” Still, Floyd’s claim is at least a credible one; worthy of debate. One can say the same for the likes of Muhammad Ali, Henry Armstrong, et al.
When I heard the banter coming from Tyson Fury about him being the best heavyweight of all time though, that stretched credibility thinner for me than if it had been tortured on the rack. To hear him suggest that he is better than the likes of Ali, Joe Louis, Lennox Lewis, Mike Tyson, George Foreman, Rocky Marciano, Joe Frazier, or Larry Holmes, bordered on sacrilege!
Tyson Fury came along at the perfect time to forge his career in boxing. The division was – and still is – spectacularly weak. The art of boxing has died. In its place, we have some physical giants of great power, but little ability, competing for obscene prize money.
Fury dispatched nearly every credible opponent before looking outside of boxing for his next test. Now this part wasn’t entirely his fault. There are fewer boxers now. It can be difficult to find fights. He found his challenger in the MMA heavyweight champion, Francis Ngannou. Ngannou, no spring chicken himself at 37 years old, held a 17-win, 3-loss mark in MMA.
He also had 1 win in kickboxing. The man had ZERO boxing matches under his belt when he stepped into that ring in Riyadh. Zero! Against the heavyweight champion of the world, Mr. Fury!
Let me ask my readers this; what do you think Louis, Tyson, Ali, Foreman, etc. would have done to an opponent with no boxing experience?
In truth, I don’t think the boxing authorities would even have allowed this to take place. It would have been so incredibly dangerous.
But here we found ourselves; attendees to what was an anticipated slaughter by some pundits. Even I, as unimpressed with Fury as I am, thought he would win handily – because he should have. By the end of the second round, the truth was exposed. Ngannou was ALL Fury could handle.
The final result (I thought Fury won by a point) said it all. A split-decision win over a boxer on debut. “Embarrassing” doesn’t do this justice. Whether you believe Fury won the fight or not is of little import. What does matter is that we have to have that debate in the first place.
Here’s what I hope comes out of this. I hope that today’s boxing fans will finally start to listen to those who recall the greatest heavies of all. I hope that young fighters will be encouraged by this and see that there is a path to the title. It isn’t held by some mythical figure.
Most of all, I hope that sanity will return to our conversations about our sport and Mr. Fury’s rightful place in it. He’s a nice enough journeyman, who happened into the fight game at the perfect time for him. Life is all about timing.