Tyson Fury: On The Brink Of Greatness
Tyson Fury has a problem; a problem not of his making. He is the WBC Heavyweight Champion of the World yet boxing aficionados, pundits, and enthusiasts simply do not accord this man the respect one would expect. ‘The Furious One’ is the latest in a victim of good-to-very good boxers who don’t seem to be taken seriously by enough of the boxing community; and it’s neither fair, nor is it his fault. So why is it happening?
I’m not going to get into Fury’s personal struggles here, (they have been cataloged, canvassed, and analyzed to death by so many others). Suffice to say, that to his undying credit, Tyson Fury seems to have faced and dealt with his inner demons. The answer to the lack of respect and universal recognition lies somewhere else.
Ever since the retirement of Lennox Lewis, the heavyweight division has been in a state of flux. Lewis hung up his gloves in June of 2003, after defeating Vitali Klitschko by TKO in the 6th round. It was the final defense of his title. At the time, he was universally recognized as the legitimate and only Heavyweight Champion of the World.
In the ensuing 17 years, fully 26 men have laid claim to at least part of the title. The conflicting business interests of the innumerable governing bodies has seen the sport devolve to nearly a division for every pound and more “Championship belts” than we can count. 26 “Champions” in 17 years…let that sink in for a moment.
A), The multiple organizations and titlelists have watered down what was once the most valued prize in sport, the Heavyweight Boxing Championship of the World. It was once regarded as the hardest sport’s crown to earn. Now, there are sometimes 4 or 5 boxers, all laying claim to the moniker, “Champ”.
B), There’s only so much talent to go around. If you’re going to have this many “champions”, there are going to be a few of questionable credentials. When even the casual fan is asked to accept Charles Martin or Mahmoud Charr, with all due respect, as the heavyweight champ, there’s going to be some pushback.
C), Four of the governing bodies (WBO, WBA, IBF, & IBO) recognize another British Fighter, Anthony Joshua, as the Heavyweight Champion. It’s apparent to this writer that these bodies, as well as advertisers, promoters, media executives, et al, are all pulling for Joshua to be recognized as “the Champ”. It’s easy to understand why. Joshua “looks” like a boxing champion, straight out of central casting.
He’s 6′ 6″, 230 lbs. He seems to have muscles in places the average person doesn’t even have the places, topped off by movie star good looks. If you asked someone to draw what they think the heavyweight champion would look like, their depiction would probably resemble Joshua.
The net result of all of this is that when one of the titlelists actually turns out to be good; even very good, respect is hard to come by. This is what afflicts Tyson Fury. Fury is a good boxer – very good! He possesses an excellent jab, good power, very long reach, a chin seemingly fabricated from titanium, and well above average footwork. He has the heart of a Ming dynasty warrior and probably has the highest boxing I.Q. through all divisions with the possible exception of Vasily Lomachenko. Fury is a master tactician.
Fury sports an undefeated record at 30-0-1 (21KO’s), with knockout wins over Deontay Wilder, Tom Schwarz and the well-regarded American, Steve Cunningham. Other than a hotly disputed draw in his first fight with Wilder, Fury’s fights are not close. He wins them going away. Despite all of this, many still do not accord him the accolades one might expect.
So what does he do? How does Tyson Fury not only capture the public’s imagination, but win the respect of the boxing community? Well, the first thing the ‘Gypsy King’ must do, is keep winning. Fury must win his trilogy fight with Wilder and defeat Dillian Whyte, if that fight is made. Then, he must beat Joshua in a unification bout.
Every bit as important, Fury is also a character; something that’s been missing from the glory division of the sport since the days of Tyson and Holyfield. His larger than life personality endears him to many, puts some off, but universally puts bums in the seats and sells PPV buys. He reminds some of Muhammad Ali, with his bravado, singing, and outrageous costumes. He must continue to build on this vein not through ever more colourful behaviour, but by winning.
Boxing is full of failed colourful characters; (Usman Ahmed comes to mind). But if Fury can continue to win, continue to capture the public’s imagination with his huge personality, continue to develop and demonstrate elite skills, and, more than anything else, negotiate the shark infested waters of the “Alphabet Boys” governing bodies of boxing, he has a shot at being one of the heavyweight greats. I, for one, can’t wait to see how he does.