Posted On March 10, 2020
This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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For all its undeniable brutality, boxing is a fairytale. You don’t need to have ever laced up yourself or watched Rocky to understand that. The cold hard truths meted out in the ring are surpassed by the blood, sweat, and tears that enable men to triumph over adversity and to fight battles others cannot see. Boxing has saved many men from a certain life of crime. Bernard Hopkins famously learned to box in prison, while Mike Tyson was well on the way to joining him before falling under Cus D’Amato’s wing. Boxing saved Tyson Fury too.
An Against All Odds Life
His story is nothing short of a fairytale: born 3 months premature and weighing just a pound, doctors feared for his chances. Thirty years on and 280 pounds heavier, Fury had won the world heavyweight championship. While spiraling into the despair of drugs and depression, Fury ballooned to 420 pounds. It was during this time he was on the brink of suicide. He then decided to get up off the canvas and retake the title. As comebacks go, his ranks up there with Ali-Frasier and Foreman-Moorer.
After three years out of the ring and with just two tune-up fights, Fury faced Deontay Wilder. Wilder was the most feared puncher in the division, arguably in heavyweight history. His knockout ratio is 98%. Despite clearly winning 10 of 12 rounds, and widely-recognized as having won the fight, the judges awarded Wilder a controversial draw.
Contemplating the Rematch
Fury knew the rematch would have to be different. In the heavyweight division where one punch can end it all at any given moment, there is something mercurial about a 6’9” Hercules who boxes rather than slugs it out while moving with the grace of a welterweight. But that is what Fury does.
There is also nothing more iconic in boxing than the age-old battle of the boxer versus the puncher. While Fury is the consummate boxer, Wilder is unquestionably wild. I’ve seen club fighters with superior technique, yet he has what legendary trainer Teddy Atlas refers to as the ‘eraser.’ He possesses a thunderous straight right which has put 40 of his 41 opponents down and out. All that is except Fury.
Would the Rematch Live Up to the Hype?
After an enthralling first encounter in 2018, Wilder-Fury 2 was touted as another Ali-Foreman, a Lewis-Tyson, a Louis-Marciano. Such was the hype in a sport which rarely delivers what is promises. In the build-up to the fight, everyone was asking the same question: ‘Can Fury box for the full 12 rounds without getting knocked out?’ The consensus was that he couldn’t. The bookies had Wilder as the favorite, with the only possible outcomes Wilder by KO or Fury on points.
The majority of experts also couldn’t see Wilder failing to land. David Haye confirmed Wilder was the hardest puncher he’d every sparred. On the other side of the ring, Teddy Atlas drew attention to Fury coming in a career-heavy 273 pounds. Coupled with rumors of problems in the Fury camp, most experts seemed to agree that Fury couldn’t do it.
Nevertheless, having been robbed his last time out, Fury declared pre-fight he was going to take things out of the judges’ hands and knock Wilder out. This was perhaps advisable. Fighting in Wilder’s backyard with three American judges and an American referee Fury faced another lopsided deck he would have to overcome.
Mock Fury At Your Own Risk
Indeed, he wasn’t taken seriously. In boxing, you generally have to take everything with at least two pinches of salt. Trash talk is part of the sport and many a beef is manufactured purely to sell tickets. Besides which, Wilder has a great chin and had only been down once in his career. Even that happened a decade ago.
Furthermore, Fury’s career has been dogged with criticism, although it’s not entirely certain why. Perhaps it’s because he doesn’t look much like a heavyweight champion. He lacks the menace of a Foreman and unaccompanied by the bulging muscles of Joshua.
His critics have branded him ‘boring,’ ‘awkward,’ and ‘a spoiler.’ He shouldn’t worry as he’s in good company. All-time greats like Mayweather and Klitschko were often referred to as ‘boring,’ mostly by those who don’t understand the sweet science of the ring where the art of hitting and not getting hit is king.
Yet time and time again, Fury has told everyone what he was going to do. These assurances fell on mostly ears of disbelief. Only he actually did precisely what he promised. No one thought he could defeat Klitschko in Germany. Few believed he could come back from the brink and even go the distance against Wilder. Precious few took his talk of taking the fight to Wilder seriously. Indeed, Wilder openly mocked his punching power, claiming Fury had ‘pillow fists’ for hands.
‘Everyone has a plan until they get hit’ as the old boxing maxim goes, but the trouble is it works both ways. Fury said he was going to take it to him from the opening bell, and that is exactly what he did. He utterly destroyed Wilder and forced him onto the back foot from the get-go. It wasn’t that Wilder didn’t land any bombs, Fury simply walked through them and did so with more convincing offense of his own. After the first knockdown, it was clear Wilder was shaken. In the fourth round, his eyes actually looked fearful. After seven rounds, it was a bloody massacre and the Wilder corner was right to throw the towel in.
Other British Champs
Britain has had its share of heavyweight champions over the years. Henry Cooper famously knocked Ali down. Lennox Lewis is an all-time great, but never quite gelled with the public. Frank Bruno was much-loved, but more heart that anything else. With this victory however, I believe Fury surpasses them all.
He is something special. Not just what he’s achieved, but what he’s come back from. Fury completely changed his style from that of a defensive to offensive fighter. To do so in the space of a short training camp is something only a Rocky film would have previously contemplated. To his fans too, Fury is all-heart. He actually allows his Twitter followers to phone him. Fury also is an ambassador for mental health and is as warmly-received on the streets of America as he is in Manchester.
An Apt Comparison After All
When he made his professional debut 12 years ago, I recall his father John Fury being mocked for comparing him to Ali. Those comparisons no longer appear ridiculous. With this win, I believe Fury has cemented his legacy in the pantheon of the greats: Marciano, Ali, Louis. In fact, I believe he’d have given them all more than a run for their money. We were denied the fairytale ending back in December 2018. Fury ensured we finally got what we wanted.
Now that all the heavyweight belts are tucked up cosily in Britain, a thrilling encounter is once more on everyone’s lips: ‘When does Fury-Joshua happen?’ After the February 22, 2020 performance, however, the question perhaps ought to be, ‘Does Joshua want anything to do with Fury?