PROMOTER Mick Hennessy has hit back at the ‘prejudice’ heavyweight world champion Tyson Fury has had to endure during his professional career.
Fury, the self-styled ‘Gypsy King’, comes from an Irish traveller background – a distinctly marginalised community in the UK.
Despite defeating Wladimir Klitschko last year, Fury has failed to win the hearts of the British public and Hennessy, who has promoted Fury his whole career, is still shocked by the negativity aimed at Tyson.
“I shouldn’t have to sell him but I did have to with the amount of doors closed in our face, the amount of negativity, the amount of absolute b******s we’ve had to endure,” he told Boxing News.
“It’s shocking, it’s disgraceful. I don’t know what it is to be honest. When I first signed him I looked at him, his character, his style of fighting, his toughness and I thought he’d be a megastar.
“I didn’t even think about his background, his culture being a traveller. That didn’t occur to me. It shouldn’t occur to anyone.”
Most of the criticism Fury has received came during the furore he caused with comments about homosexuals and women last year.
After his huge upset win over Klitschko, The Sun’s Steven Howard wrote, “That Tyson Fury is now heavyweight boxing champion of the world shows just how bereft of any talent it [heavyweight boxing] is.”, while Guardian online columnist Julie Bindel used Fury as a gloomy prism through which to warily eye boxing itself.
He was shortlisted for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award after beating Klitschko, but the odds on him winning drifted after the public became aware of his comments. He ended up coming fourth in the public vote, despite a petition asking for him to be removed from the shortlist reaching over 80,000 signatures.
Conversely Olympic champion Anthony Joshua has been installed as the 9/2 favourite to win SPOTY this year after taking the IBF heavyweight title from the unheralded Charles Martin on April 9.
Fury recently said he has faced “racism and prejudice” his whole life, and that both have intensified since he won the WBA, WBO and IBF world titles from Klitschko [he was stripped of the IBF belt soon after].
As an amateur, Fury won the ABAs and also represented GB, including a bronze medal at the Youth World championships in 2006. Hennessy claims he has faced prejudice around Tyson since day one, despite being forewarned.
“I’ve had it since he turned pro and I’ve always fought his corner,” he said.
“You just know whenever you try and sell him – not even sell him as I shouldn’t have to – as long as he’s been a pro, if anybody couldn’t see what incredible potential he had as an amateur when he turned over, they know nothing about boxing.
“I didn’t think there would be prejudice, maybe that’s naïve. People warned me about it. All I can say is, I’ve experienced a lot of prejudice around him and it’s wrong.”
WBO world middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders – who also comes from a travelling background – hailed Fury as an ‘inspiration’ when we spoke with him after Tyson’s win, saying: “Tyson Fury won the heavyweight world title, he made history, it’s never been done before by a traveller. His victory is definitely an inspiration, not only for the travelling community but for the full world to see. In my view that was a bigger upset than if Floyd Mayweather had lost. Klitschko was the prize possession of boxing, the heavyweight they thought nobody could beat.”