by Sean Morehouse
When I sat down to watch the British heavyweight title fight last weekend, I didn’t have much in terms of expectations. From my previous experiences watching Tyson Fury and Dereck Chisora, I had decided that Chisora was a crude, mentally unstable brawler and the six-foot-nine Fury was a bit of a sideshow attraction that might sell some tickets but wasn’t going anywhere in the sport of boxing.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that, especially in the case of Fury, I had been dead wrong.
Starting with the fighter bios that were shown on UK television, I began to find Fury (15-0-0, 10 KOs) a fascinating character. Beyond the touching story about his humble upbringings and his close relationship with his currently incarcerated father, he seems to be a very genuine, engaging young man. Generally, I find these short pre-fight documentaries about fighters to be rather dry, but in the case of Fury I found myself quite interested in what he had to say about a wide variety of subjects ranging from his Catholic faith to the sweet science itself.
What impressed me even more was what happened once the fight started. A cool, confident Fury was a complete boss in the ring for the majority of the fight. Chisora (14-1-0, 9 KOs) was quickly reduced to the wild swings I had expected from him, but to his credit he was a bit quicker and more explosive than I had thought, even carrying around a career-high 261 pounds.
While (perhaps because of that extra weight) Chisora seemed to tire quickly after a second round where he appeared to hurt his man, Fury maintained the composure necessary to pace himself. When Chisora tried to rest on the ropes, Fury opened up less than I was hoping, but he showed a patient desire to pick his shots. When Chisora mocked and taunted him, perhaps in an effort to get Fury to punch himself out, Tyson smiled back and continued his methodical work.
The smiles were a constant theme throughout the fight. Fury seems to enjoy the act of combat, a trait of some of the best fighters in the world (Manny Pacquiao a very notable example) use to their advantage. A relaxed, confident fighter is an effective fighter, and Fury takes the concept of being relaxed in the ring to new heights. Indeed, judging only from the look on his face, the majority of the fight you would think he was playing a child’s game like hide-and-seek, not engaging in the brutal, life-threatening sport of pugilism. This may have a lot to do with his traveller upbringing. In the pre-fight video he spoke about the culture of bare-knuckle fighting between Irish travellers, how after committing acts of extreme violence against each other, it’s common for the combatants in these bouts to share a few drinks. He certainly seems to view boxing as an exercise in amusement more so than the average fighter, and this is a feeling that will likely help him throughout his career.
As far as the ceiling on his potential, the jury is still out. I have trouble imagining him ever having the pure athletic ability to defeat a Wladimir Klitschko but as he said after the fight, “The Klitschko’s are 40 year olds.” Wlad (56-3-0, 39 KOs) and Vitali (42-2-0, 39 KOs) are actually 35 and 40, respectively, but his point is well taken. The two-headed German-Ukrainian monster will not continue forever. Eventually a new generation will have to step up, and Fury at just 23 looks as good as anybody in terms of being able to do that.
A more reasonable first defense of his British title has already been suggested. Belfast’s Martin Rogan (14-2-0, 7 KOs) and Fury could battle later in the year for the Irish Heavyweight Championship, a title Fury has expressed interest in winning.
Regardless of his next opponent, Fury is a fresh face in a division that eagerly needs them. If he does rush it and take on a Klitschko next, we can all safely assume that he will at least give a more game effort than the last UK fighter to challenge Wladimir…
Sean Morehouse can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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