By Courtney Riley
For the many rising and shining stars who perform under the bright lights of fans’ spectatorship, athletes are some of the brightest among them. Winners and champions of all disciplines litter the sporting cosmos like twinkling lights in a distant night sky. Yet, centuries old tradition dictates that the most luminous of them all is the Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World – the crowning glory of all sports – and the enigmatic Tyson Fury is the man who could be king.
In boxing, the order of succession is not one of hereditary entitlement where one merely inherits a throne. In our sport, kings aren’t born, they are made – just ask the wanton prince, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. With up to four champions per division, the sport of boxing is like a game of thrones. Fighter (along with their managers and promoters) scheme and manoeuvre themselves into a position that gets them a shot at the title. In theory, the best fighters of their respective weight division(s) rule. There have been a number of boxing dynasties throughout the history of the sport, and one of the most dominant families in recent history has been the Klitschko brothers. The Ukrainian pair has sat atop the heavyweight throne for well over a decade. After the retirement of elder brother Vitali, who moved into politics in his native Ukraine, the younger Wladimir has reigned supreme over the division with the meticulous banishment of all challengers who had dared to reach for his crown. He is the third longest reigning heavyweight champion of all time behind the legendary Joe Luis and the great Larry Holmes. Also, he has earned a doctorate degree in Sports Science and is a fluent speaker in four different languages. The man is exemplary and a model champion – everything that his young rival is not.
Tyson is a divisive figure in the sport, partly due to his outspoken personality and self-confidence. Many though, see him as an arrogant man who veils over his insecurities with his faux self-assurance. In just his fourth professional bout, Tyson managed to splash into the consciousness of many fight fans the world over, when a clip of him accidentally detonating a headshot on himself went viral. This was the start of the Fury roadshow, though some would call it a circus. The potty-mouthed Mancunian is well known for his shenanigans both in and outside of the ring. On his American debut, he was dropped by the much smaller Steve Cunningham in the second round of their IBF title eliminator, only to get up and stop him in the seventh. To top it off, he serenaded the crowd with some squeamish singing in a post-fight performance. The man is an enigma. One of Tyson’s latest stunts was his belly-achingly funny appearance at his promotional press conference for his upcoming bout against Klitschko when he arrived in a Batman suit before rolling and wrestling on the floor with the Joker. He jests, he entertains, and he seems to be having a lot of fun doing it. One thing is for certain however, Tyson Fury is no clown, even when he pretends to be the court jester. Adversely, he is like a pair on nunchucks. We can get so caught up in all the flair and showiness that we might overlook the fact that Tyson packs a real punch and is a genuine threat to Wladimir’s decade long reign.
Tyson Fury is a natural born fighter. His name alone testifies to the fact. The self-styled gypsy king is from a proud Irish-traveller background and is a 6ft 9ins, 255 pounds thoroughbred from a stock of bare-knuckle boxing champions. His late cousin Bartley Gorman reigned as the bareknuckle boxing king among the travelling community for nearly two decades before retiring undefeated. Tyson’s 23-0 unbeaten professional record, unlike many of his contemporaries, has not been padded full of cab drivers and nay-hope journeymen. His learning fights were not against a bunch tin-cans who were simply there to collect a cheque and make him look good. Yes, there have been soft matches, but for the most part, many of his bouts were against real fighters who were there to challenge him at his respective level as he went through his apprenticeship. In only his eighth bout, he outpointed his tough compatriot, John McDermott for the English Heavyweight title before stopping him in the ninth round of their rematch for the vacant British strap three fights later. His résumé includes: the game former Commonwealth champion, World and European title challenger Dereck Chisora who lost a lopsided decision in a spirited effort against Vitali Klitschko; the durable former world title challenger Kevin Johnson who endured a 12 round battering from Vitali Klitschko; and former world cruiserweight champion Steve Cunningham. None of those fighters were world-beaters but they were good challenging fights at the appropriate times. Boxing is all about levels after all.
As a fighter, Fury is tall, rangy and extremely awkward. His awkwardness stems mainly from his mobility and his ability to operate as either right-handed or left-handed fighter. He fights tall behind his jab and is quite unpredictable with his variety of punches. Klitschko though, is a well-oiled machine who sticks to the basics to methodically break down his opponents. Fury has labelled his rival’s style as ‘boring’ and ‘robotic’ and his banking on his mobility, unpredictability, and head movement to at the very least, make for a compelling contest.
Wladimir has had an unbeaten stretch since his defeat to Lamont Brewster back in 2004. Since then, he has dominated opponents of all shapes, size and styles with relative ease. Tyson Fury is tall, taller than the 6 foot 6 Klitschko, which some observers believe will be a threat to the champion. Mariusz Wach at 6ft 7½ins was also a taller opponent than the champion. He too was dominated to a 12 round unanimous decision. According to CompuBox, Klitschko landed an impressive 40% of his total punches against the challenger who stood in front of Klitschko all night. Wladimir does hold victories over more mobile (but smaller) opponents as well. David Haye and Bryant Jennings were both mobile and awkward opponents for Wladimir. They posed a challenge to the champion due to their movement and evasiveness but were rendered ineffective and powerless to Klitschko’s dominance. Interestingly though, Klitschko landed a mere 26% of his shots against both those fighters – 14% less than he did against the stationery Wach. This does suggest that movement and evasiveness does present some trouble to the champion. Fury to many heavyweights will be like a Zebedee – a figure who just won’t stay still. His size and punch variety could also lead to the champion taking a lot more punches than he has become accustomed to in recent years.
This writer believes Fury has more than a puncher’s chance. He believes that Tyson Fury is that man to be made king. We may all witness a coronation November 28th. And the new…