By: Sean Crose
There was something different about him. You could just tell as you watched him make his American debut back in 2013. Unlike Anthony Joshua six years later, Tyson Fury didn’t make his US introduction at a packed Madison Square Garden, he fought at the far more modest Garden Theater. The Englishman’s opponent that evening, however, was no joke. For Steve Cunningham was a former cruiserweight champion who knew how to fight. Still, it was the tall, swaggering Fury who captured the eyes. When it was time to touch gloves before the bout, Fury slammed is fists on top of Cunningham’s gloves in a brazen act of psychological gamesmanship.
The fight was close, very close. Fury actually hit the mat. Ultimately, however, the 24 year old relied on his enormous size to wear Cunningham down. It wasn’t a stellar performance – but Fury didn’t seem to care. In fact, he sang away in the middle of the ring, mic in hand, victorious, after the bout had ended. This, it was clear, was someone unique. Just over two and a half years after the Cunningham bout, the man known as the Gypsy King could be found singing in the middle of the ring again. Only this time he hadn’t bested a former cruiserweight champion. This time he had just bested Wladimir Klitschko, the long reigning ruler of the heavyweight realm. Again, it wasn’t a brilliant performance, but Fury had done enough to stun the world. It was only the beginning of what turned out to be one of the most tumultuous rides in boxing.
Fury, as he was eager to let everyone know, was a Gypsy from Great Britain. He spoke openly and lovingly about his Gypsy background, about his wife Paris, about his father (who named him after Mike Tyson) and about those he surrounded himself with. Fury didn’t stop there, however. He was a man who could talk in public about anything, it seemed. Here was an individual unafraid to speak off the cuff in an era of Twitter rage. You may not have liked him – but he held your attention. For better or worse, Tyson Fury didn’t appear to be going anywhere any time soon.
Then came the fall. First, the rematch with Klitschko fell through. Then came failed drug tests and retirement, accompanied by an ocean of drinking, drugging, and suicidal desire. Tyson Fury, the Gyspy King, the man who had stunned the world by besting Klitschko, had found himself in a bad, a very bad, place. Fortunately, he survived the darkness until the daylight came. Admitting the severity of his situation, getting psychological help, and then getting back in the ring led to Fury’s rise, Phoenix-like, from the ashes. Now that he was returning to boxing, however, there were challenges, considerable ones, to be met.
Wise enough to not jump immediately back into the fire, Fury faced less than stellar opposition on two occasions, winning handily, and keeping his name out there while his mind and body became all the stronger. Then came Deontay Wilder. A tall, loud, American with confidence and swagger to match his own, Fury had, in a sense, stepped up to meet his boxing counterpart. Wilder hit hard, even harder than Klitscko. He was also younger than Klitschko. Perhaps most importantly, though, Wilder didn’t let the mind games and psychological bullying Fury liked to employ get to him in the least.
The fight, of course, became an instant classic. Though much closer than many say it was through most of its duration, Fury’s slick, slippery skills were telling the story as both men entered the final round. Wilder, however, still had his famous power. And he launched it to great effect as the fight was winding down. Fury found himself flat on his back, looking almost lifeless with open eyes as the referee began his count. Once again, however, Fury played the Phoenix, somehow, someway, getting back on his feet, then performing well the rest of the round. The match was ultimately ruled a draw. A rematch was inevitable.An now, this Saturday night in Las Vegas, the second Fury-Wilder fight will go down at the MGM Grand. This is one of the bigger fights boxing has presented in a long time, a co-broadcast between ESPN and FOX that’s getting ubiquitous promotion and hype. There hasn’t been a heavyweight fight this prominent since an over the hill Mike Tyson made the mistake of getting in the ring with Lennox Lewis back in 2002. As fight weekend approaches, the question is becoming less if Fury-Wilder 2 will be successful, but how successful will the match be.
That’s great news for boxing, but extra pressure on Fury. Not that he seems to mind. On the eve of what is possibly the biggest fight of his life, the unpredictable Englishman is once more oozing with confidence. He has a new trainer in the esteemed Sugar Hill Steward, and is even saying he’s going to knock Wilder out. That sort of thing could be attributed to Fury’s gamesmanship, or even just his desire to shoot his mouth off. The odds of Fury actually knocking out the feared Wilder seem quite unlikely to most. Then again, Fury has now made himself famous for bucking the odds over and over again. The deck often stacked against him, the man relishes playing the wild card.