Who is Tyson Fury?
We live in an era sadly devoid of heroes. Celebrity culture is a toxic mix of narcissism, fakery, gossip, spin, and hyperbole. And then there is heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury -The Gypsie King, a man cut from a different cloth.
In Nov 2015 the undefeated but unfancied Fury, a tall, jester-like traveller from Manchester England, faced Wladimir Klitschko – a robotic, colourless Ukrainian who had reigned over the heavyweight division for 9 ponderous years for the WBA, IBF, WBO, IBO, and The Ring titles. Klitschko was taciturn during the build-up, smiling silently at the amusingly confident Fury rants, secure in the knowledge that his technically proficient style, with his relentless left jab, would deliver him another victory, much to the joy of his huge German fanbase. Fury is a towering man – 6 ft 9 in, weighing in at 112 kgs, but is deceptively fast, with a lightning if unorthodox jab of his own, great footwork, and excellent evasion skills. When the bell rang he basically led the robot on a merry 12 round dance, his awkward, elusive style providing Klitschko with increasing frustration. The Germans were confused. How could a jester possibly beat a robot? Fury skipped through the bout unscathed to emerge as the unlikely heavyweight champion of the world.
Fury partied hard in true traveller fashion, and then the wheels came off his wagon. In the months following his magnificent victory, he was a man adrift. With nothing to strive for, no mountains left to climb, he stopped training, gained about 70kgs of belly fat, started drinking 12 pints of lager a day, developed a voracious cocaine habit, failed a bunch of drug tests, and went on long-winded rants involving wild conspiracy theories. His belts were stripped, he was on the verge of suicide, almost driving his sports car off a cliff in a moment of dark depression. Tyson Fury was a big, fat joke. A cautionary tale. Another Icarus.
On New Year’s Eve 2018, while dressed as a ghost and attending a party for twenty-something-year-old socialites, Fury had an epiphany. He called his long-suffering wife to inform her that his wild partying days were over, he was coming home. The next day Fury strapped on his running shoes and went for a gentle jog. He shuffled and waddled for about 1km before halting with nauseous exhaustion. The distance was irrelevant, a small fire had been lit in the flabby Fury belly.
In the months that followed Fury sacked his trainer, signed with a new management company and got to work, hitting the pavement, the gym, and working the big bag, sweating off his enormous girth, preparing for his comeback to the ring. His kids jogged alongside to keep his spirits high. Hundreds of hours of gruelling work manifest with a somewhat corpulent and rusty bout against unfancied Francesco Pianeta that Fury won on points. The fire was now well alight. Fury then signed to fight American knockout machine Dentonay Wilder, the undefeated, unloved WBC champion. Wilder adopts an alter ego when he enters the rings. He wears a black mask on his entrance and has spoken openly of a desire to literally kill an opponent. His winning streak, while impressive, had garnered little public support.
The lead up the fight was immensely entertaining, Fury is a man with a razor wit, and again he played the merry prankster, this time to Wilder’s sullen psychopath. They entered the bout at coin flip odds, the consensus being that if Wilder couldn’t get an early knockout, Fury would certainly win the fight on points. And that is about how it played out. Fury ducked and weaved, danced, jabbed, clinched, and expertly dulled the American’s explosive power for 12 enthralling rounds. Fury simply worked harder and had more tools in his arsenal. Then, in the 12th Wilder connected with a booming right hand that caught Fury off balance and set him downward. Wilder followed the falling Brit with a left hook that flattened him out completely. Fury hit the canvas. He might have been dead. He lay on his back, arms outstretched, motionless while the ref began his count. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Nothing. 7. Bang. The Fury computer inexplicably rebooted and he rolled and climbed gracefully back to his feet in one of the most remarkable recoveries ever witnessed in the history of boxing. He nodded to demonstrate his awareness, and the fight continued. Wilder smelled blood and went hunting for the finish, but Fury bobbed and weaved, regained his footing and almost pinched the round with some crisp counter-punching.
The buzzer sounded, Fury jumped up on the ropes to celebrate a momentous victory and we went to the scorecards. The smart people in the room had Fury winning maybe 8 or 9 of the 12 rounds with his greater output and superior ringcraft. But fight fans, there would be one more twist in the tale. The evil tentacles of boxing corruption had emerged from the depths, and the fight was judged a draw! Every spectator who could count to 10 was stunned.
Fury took the gross miscarriage with amazing grace. He later informed journalists that his travelling fans were ready to turn the venue into a war zone, had he given the word. He laughed about the injustice, there was no need to point out the absurdity of a result that was plain for all to see.
Following the fight Fury got straight back into the gym. There would be no repeat of the post-Klitschko train wreck. On 15th of June 2019, Fury returned to the ring, making very short work of undefeated Tom German Swartz in 2 clinical rounds of classic boxing. Negotiations for the inevitable Wilder rematch are ongoing. Until then Fury will hopefully continue to carry himself with class and grace. He’s a beacon of heroism in a world lacking in substance, truth, and resolute integrity. He’s a story of redemption, rehabilitation, looking deep within oneself to find the strength and fortitude to continue to fight the good fight. Long may he reign over the boxing world.
Jackson Byrne – Combat Sports Correspondent