April 17, 2017
April 17, 2017
Tyson Fury

Action Images/Lee Smith

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I’VE just been watching The Gloves Are Off, I don’t think I need to tell you who was in it. We’re not far away now from one of the most eagerly anticipated clashes of the century; “A fight for the ages,” as Johnny Nelson described it.

It was a good watch. I did wonder, as we got nearer and nearer to battle, whether relations between Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko might become a little strained. Whether the younger man might get tired of his adversary and what has seemed to me to be his deliberate attempt to write his defeat to Tyson Fury out of the record books and once again wrap himself in the regal cloak of invincibility he wore with such style before that night in Dusseldorf 17 months ago.

Like it never happened.

But it did happen.

And, as Dr Steelhammer admitted, without that defeat 90,000 people would not be trooping through the Wembley turnstiles on April 29 and however many millions more around the world would not be planning their evening around watching two men fight.

It’s a huge deal, the kind of spectacle only boxing can provide where the eyes of the world turn to that small squared circle that has provided more drama than any other sporting arena.

Tyson Fury won’t be there, I’m pretty sure about that, and few will give him a second thought.

But we should, because without him it would not be happening.

As admirable and professional and statesmanlike as Klitschko was during his reign, it was not an exciting era in the glamour division of a sport once memorably described as “show business with blood.”

The fight crowd were crying out for someone to, if not beat the champion, then at least give him a fight, create some excitement. David Haye looked like he could be that man but came up short and it had got to the point where change only looked like it would arrive with the Ukrainian’s retirement.

“Moribund” was one word I read used to describe the heavyweight division. If you’re wondering (I had an idea but had to look it up), it means “at the point of death” or “in terminal decline.”

But Fury revived it with a performance born not just of great skill but also bursting at the seams with self-belief. It was extraordinary and it changed everything.

Whatever your opinion of the now former heavyweight champion of the world, he did something that nobody else could do and in the process breathed life back into boxing. Life, and sport particularly, is full of ifs, buts and maybes but even in the world of fake news there are still certain things that we do know, and with regard to the current state of the heavyweight division, what we know is this: If Fury hadn’t done his thing in Dusseldorf then Anthony Joshua would not be the IBF heavyweight champion, AJ and Klitschko would not be meeting for the IBF and WBA titles and Tyson’s cousin Hughie would not be in New Zealand on the sixth of May to fight Joseph Parker for the WBO title.

So in the cool of the evening on April 29, when the stage is set, the first bell sounds and the roar of the crowd fills the London skies we should all just take a moment and spare a thought for the man who made it happen. Tyson Fury.