Frozen out Tyson Fury plots fiery assault on heavyweight landscape
By Stephen Lynch
Tyson Fury is not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. After a frustrating 2013 following his KO win over Steve Cunningham in Madison Square Garden, Fury finally returns to action in two weeks against unheralded Gonzalo Basile at Stratford’s Copper Box Arena. Should he be victorious then and in a planned April outing, the switch-hitter is slated to rematch a resurgent Dereck Chisora in June. A Dereck Chisora fighting awkward “Kingpin” Kevin Johnson and on a run of 4 KO victories since being stopped by David Haye and gamely taking Vitali Klitschko the distance in Munich. A Dereck Chisora, the European heavyweight champion at that, who has a recent TKO victory over Deontay Wilder’s next opponent and fellow American Malik Scott.
In a weight class that’s been notoriously shorn of excitement and depth since Lennox Lewis hung up the gloves, it’s only recently that the division is slowly starting to sparkle again as Fury and fellow contenders prepare for the post-Klitschko era. Most are taking tentative steps, making no unnecessary risks or leaps of faith in a division where a loss would be a major setback – dropping the loser far down a list of queuing challengers for Vitali’s relinquished WBC trinket, and Wladimir’s soon-to-be vacant belts.
Following Wlad’s absurdly one-sided wrestling match with fellow Olympic gold medallist Alexander Povetkin and after his older brother’s abdication of the WBC belt, attention is focussing on the Bermane Stiverne-Chris Arreola-Deontay Wilder triumvirate this year that will decide who inherits the Ukrainian opposition leader’s championship. Given Wladimir’s public desire to unify, whoever progresses is likely to defend against Dr Steelhammer should he dispatch of Australian mandatory Alex Leapai in April.
And here is where the heavyweight ridiculousness starts to unfold – Tyson Fury got a shutout win over the guy (Kevin Johnson) who knocked out the guy (Leapai) who is now challenging the champ. What’s more, Tyson Fury knocked out the guy (Cunningham) who beat the guy (Tomasz Adamek) who beat the guy (Arreola) who’s now challenging for the vacant WBC belt, against the same guy he lost to last April. In other words, should Arreola avenge against “B. WARE” – Fury will have beat the man who beat the man who beat the world champion.
To add insult to injury, Wilder has crept above Fury in the division’s rankings and is likely to land a title shot before his Manchester-born rival – despite well-founded suspicions that none of the Bronze Bomber’s 30 opponents have been legitimate challengers, exampled by his most recent win coming against someone (Nicolai Firtha) Fury himself knocked out over two years ago. Indeed neither of Golden Boy’s and the UK’s Sky Box Office teams seemed overly eager to schedule a blockbuster fight between the two unbeatens.
This brings us to one of the sources of Fury’s recent inactivity and unwarranted criticism, one David Haye. The rigmarole over Haye’s injuries has actually gained his fellow Brit some positive publicity and fans – also due in no small part to the ring progress of his talented cousin Hughie and well-respected, sage trainer Peter Fury. Team Fury have conducted themselves commendably through a very trying period – while prominent pundits such as ESPN’s Dan Rafael and Sky Sports’ Adam Smith have sneered and looked down their noses at Tyson, barely able to disguise their disdain for someone who remains a livewire rival to the more media and establishment-friendly Wilder, and Haye - should he decide to come out of pseudo-retirement/inactivity again.
The 6ft 9 inch giant is often lazily caricatured by casual fans as a cocky, big-mouthed protected fighter ducking real competition, who will be exposed when he steps up in class. Such a perspective ignores most of Fury’s recent moves; signing twice to fight Haye after initially pursuing Wladimir’s new IBF mandatory Kubrat Pulev. Let’s not forget also that Fury has also tried to make fights with then-unbeaten Denis Boystov (later KO’d by Leapai) as well as Ruslan Chagaev, Adamek and Povetkin.
If “2Fast Fury” is trying to dance his way past meaningful opponents and avoid risky fights, then he’s doing a pretty poor job of it thus far – and if Fury is ducking and padding out his record, then I’d be curious as to how one would describe what the likes of Wilder and Gennady Golovkin have been doing recently? Indeed should Mayweather grant Amir Khan a shot this coming May, I’m sure he’d be the first to admit his British opponent is hardly coming off a dozen knockout victories nor impressive consecutive wins at welterweight.
Looking down the BoxRec and Ring Magazine ratings – the Mick Hennessy-promoted fighter ranked at #4 and #5 respectively – there are very few names that jump out at you as viable opponents for Fury in the year ahead. Setting aside aforementioned names who the 25 year old has already chased or are in mandatory positions and who are you left with? Tony Thompson? Odlanier Solis? Robert Helenius? Deontay Wilder and the winner of undefeated contenders Mike Perez-Bryant Jennings aside, few options are left open in 2014 to the British-Irish fighter outside of a second domestic dust-up with “Delboy” Chisora as a final eliminator to become mandatory to Klitschko’s WBO strap.
Finally on the dilettante opinion that Fury is a soft touch and easy fight for any capable heavyweight, there seems to be an absence of folks rushing to fight him in what should be a low-risk, high-reward contest if he’s as vulnerable and dodgy as his detractors make out. Sanctioning organisation politics aside, surely Tyson is at least as credible or dangerous as the likes of Leapai, Francesco Pianeta and Mariusz Wach? What about the late legendary trainer Emmanuel Steward’s view that young Tyson had the ability to become the next superstar and dominant heavyweight figure in the same mould as Lewis and Klitschko in ruling the roost in boxing’s glamour division. Speaking in 2011, Steward said: “The way that he's progressing now I believe he can be maybe the complete package for the heavyweight division because of his talent, he's good looking guy and very colourful personality, I think he can be a tremendous shot in the arm for the heavyweight division in the future."
All you can do in the game is beat whoever is put in front of you and to call out the lions and the bears in your area code. On both counts Tyson Fury is doing an exemplary job and will continue in this vein in 2014. To date the equally vocal and opinionated Wilder’s and the Haye’s of the world have had plenty to say, but crucially have failed to step forward to try and derail Fury’s exciting heavyweight campaign in the only place it counts – the ring.