In a weekend that saw the return of Ronnie O’Sullivan to the world of snooker, Rafael Nadal lose his first match in Monte Carlo since 2003, and where Luis Suarez made yet more headlines for aping Mike Tyson, it seems fitting that amidst all the news over the last couple days, that another Tyson made perhaps the biggest mark of them all.
Madison Square Garden has seen some pretty magical events in its lifetime, and its theater on Saturday night saw another moment to add to the history. Tyson Fury, the giant Manchester based heavyweight had his 21st professional fight, against Steve Cunningham, a former cruiserweight World Champion who had recently stepped up to the heavyweight division.
Fury’s struggles in New York started long before the bell rang. His trainer, and uncle, Peter Fury had been unable to travel into the US due to visa issues, and that seemed to be affecting him in the moments before the fight. Fury has always been a character, a showman, but in the moments leading up to the first punches being thrown he was a Wildman, gesticulating wildly.
The fight started, and the older, yet wiser Cunningham took control early, and in the second round, Fury was knocked down for just the second time in his career. A professional career which had started aged 20 in Nottingham looked to be careering out of control in the city that never sleeps, but Fury recovered quickly, and as the rounds progressed, began to assert his dominance, tiring Cunningham out with his sheer size, before knocking the American out in the seventh round with an absolute peach of a shot.
His debut in America was reminiscent of Prince Naseem Hamed’s 1997 American debut, in the very same arena. Hamed shared knockdown after knockdown with the tough Kevin Kelley, before finally winning in the fourth round. Fury has long shared Hamed’s showmanship, and he concluded his American network debut with a little sing-song, of a country classic.
That was Saturday night, but the Tyson Fury story is a phenomenal one that has gone on for even longer than his 24 years. Fury was born premature, to gypsy parents. His dad, a former pro boxer himself, is currently serving 11 years in prison for gouging a man’s eye out, and Tyson’s early career was fraught with difficulties, his amateur days were impacted by the emergence of David Price who stopped Fury from going to the 2008 Olympic Games, as he was the number one British amateur Heavyweight.
After consistent amateur disappointments, Fury turned professional at the end of 2008, and this is where the story starts becoming personal for me. 2008 was my first year of university, and to be honest, I was completely miserable. My personality was completely against the grain of the usual student, and I initially struggled to form any meaningful friendships. Sport, but especially boxing became my solace, and I quickly became obsessed with the sport I had been a fan of since seeing Joe Calzaghe destroy Jeff Lacy in 2006.
On the sixth of December 2008 Carl Froch beat Jean Pascal live on ITV1 to win the WBC Super-Middleweight title. It was a fantastic fight, and for me, the sad student sitting in and watching boxing on a Saturday night instead of socialising, it was a refreshing break from the tedium of my life at the time. However, despite the magnificence of that fight, my one abiding memory from that night is seeing the debut of Tyson Fury. Fury beat a Hungarian gentleman called Bela Gyongyosi, in far less time than it takes to try to figure out how to pronounce that name. It was his pre fight vignette that really made me take notice, his confidence seemed legitimate, and the chat was already there.
I’m not sure whether it was just the size discrepancy between the two which made the novice boxing fan in me so much more impressed, but there was something about Fury which instantly appealed to me. He was a big lad, but he had longish hair. He was from Manchester where a lot of my heroes are from, and for the journalist in me, it was really intriguing to be able to follow somebodies career from the start. You can hear in the commentary the excitement trembling in the voice of John Rawling at the potential of Fury.
Now, I get why people don’t like Tyson Fury and his personality. He is a very outspoken human being, and has trashed pretty much every other boxer out there. His rant on David Price and Tony Bellew live on Channel 5 bordered on homophobic, and his twitter account veers between reading like a written version of the God channels, and the rantings of a twelve-year-old boy. A lot of boxing fans like ‘respect’ and Tyson Fury definitely doesn’t do respect.
However, I do have an issue with the people, who to this very day, have a problem with Tyson Fury the FIGHTER, and more importantly, the people he has fought. I’m nowhere near educated enough to understand all of the intricacies of boxing, and of boxers, but if you dig a little into the record of Fury, you can see a man who has had an incredibly tough upbringing into the professional ranks.
In Fury’s second fight, he beat Marcel Zeller, who at the time had a record of 21-3-0. Sure, those 21 wins weren’t against brilliant fighters, but to throw a novice into a fight against a boxer who has that sort of win loss record, indicates a level of trust and quality. Fury finished him in three rounds.
In Fury’s third fight, he stopped the incredibly tough Daniil Peretyatko in two rounds. Peretyatko beat Larry Olubamiwo in his next fight. In his previous fight, he went eight rounds with Dereck Chisora without being stopped, and over a year later went six rounds with David Price without being stopped.
In Fury’s eighth fight, and having only been past the third round once, he beat the underrated John McDermott, then at the time boasting a 25-5-0 record on points, after ten close rounds.
Just over half a year later, and in his 11th fight, he knocked out McDermott in the ninth round of their rematch.
Three of his four wins after that fight were wins against previously undefeated opponents, and it was the July 2011 points victory over Dereck Chisora which made some skeptics really sit up and take notice. Fury outclassed, outmatched, and outfought Chisora, to take his undefeated record, and the British title.
Since that win, he beat the again previously undefeated Neven Pajkic in three rounds, dismantled Martin Rogan in Belfast, and completely outclassed the former World title challenger Kevin Johnson over twelve rounds in December.
In 21 fights, Fury has beaten a range of opponents, from bangers, to defensively solid fighters, former Champions and prospects who never were. If you compare his record to a David Price, or Deontay Wilder, or to pretty much any heavyweight prospect in the world whose name isn’t Kubrat Pulev, his level of opponents is unmatched, especially at the age of just 24, which in heavyweight terms is pure baby.
To put things into perspective, Fury is currently 13 years younger than Wladimir Klitschko, and 17 years younger than Vitali Klitschko. He is eight years younger than David Haye, and five years younger than David Haye. Anthony Joshua, the currently Olympic champion, is less than a year younger than Fury. Age isn’t everything, but if he is in the position he is in before his 25th birthday, he is clearly doing something right.
Fury will never be a boxing purist’s wet dream, he takes chances, yet he takes his foot off the gas. He’s powerful, but not powerful enough to knock everybody else. He’s fast, but not fast enough to have his hands as low as he does. But despite that, despite his trainers relative lack of experience, despite his unpredictability, and his sloppiness, he is still here, and still unbeaten.
As Steve Cunningham knocked him down in that second round, after Fury had been yelling at him wildly for much of the first round, I just knew he would turn it round and win it. A lot of people in life, and in boxing, are motivated by money and fame. That’s fine, it’s natural, and there is nothing wrong with that. But Fury is motivated by fighting, and that is the difference between him and boxers. Fury, despite his skills isn’t a boxer, he is a fighter. If he wasn’t fighting in the ring, he would be fighting on the streets, and would probably be fighting behind cells one day.
Nobody is perfect, and Fury isn’t, not as a boxer, and certainly not as a man. Whether it’s his aforementioned ‘banter’, or his travelling background, or his somewhat hypocritical religious propaganda, people will find a lot to complain about with the man. But as a fighter, as an athlete, as a warrior, I find it baffling that people still find the time to complain about him.
It’s very likely that he’ll get knocked out one day, it’s heavyweight boxing, those low hands will be too low one day. He might get blown out in a round against a Klitschko, or even David Haye might finish him before then. But it’s not the destination, and it’s the journey, and the Fury journey is one it’s worth jumping on.
When I sit and think about it, it’s quite likely that without Tyson Fury turning my interest in boxing from semi-serious fan to obsessive fan, I would never have found the interest to finish my degree. I would never have gotten into MMA, and I would never have made almost 50 TV shows on boxing and MMA which really helped get my name noticed in the media world. I never would have made many of the friends I now have, nor would I have gotten to meet some of my sporting heroes. In a weird way, Tyson Fury saved me from failure – who is to say he can’t do the same for you?
Whether it’s calling out UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez, or naming his daughter Venezuela, you just can’t knock him.
I’m not going to end this essay with a video of Fury knocking out somebody, or of him hitting himself in the face with his own uppercut. Instead, I’m going to end this video by sharing a video of Tyson Fury turning up to a press conference with two midgets as security guards, and if you can’t love him after watching this, you will never love again in your life.