TYSON FURY’S penchant for the unpredictable has known no boundaries.
You could trace a lengthy list of pre- and post-fight press conferences and bring up numerous infractions, hoaxes and examples of outlandish behaviour.
You often don’t know whether he is joking or being serious, if it’s the real Tyson or a media persona he tries to live up to.
What we are told, however, is that he is returning and he means business.
And he has a new trainer. Gone is Uncle Peter, with whom he had enjoyed so much success, and in has come 25-year-old Ben Davison.
You wonder if this is another Fury prank, that when a fight nears Adam Booth, Joe Gallagher, Dave Coldwell or Dominic Ingle will be in the camp. The pool of English trainers with quality résumés and busy stables is deep.
Davison, positive, proactive and ambitious, is unknown outside of the fight fraternity and those within it know him for one thing, cornering Billy Joe Saunders the night the WBO middleweight champion limped home in tepid fashion against average Russian Artur Akavov.
As far as CVs are concerned, it is not the most convincing for taking on an established brand, the lineal world heavyweight champion and a man who is looking to return after a controversial and high-profile two-year-plus absence from the ring.
Davison will have to prove himself, and Fury – still only 29 – will need to prove in the ring that he has made a sound decision.
But they are in it together. They’ve put in the work in Marbella and complete their camp in the UK ahead of Fury’s anticipated comeback.
Davison, of course, does not want to be judged alone by his one night at the helm for Billy Joe.
The middleweight was widely condemned for a narrow victory, but Davison contends that the job – for which he had only a couple of weeks’ notice – was one of salvation rather than making a statement.
Saunders had split with long-time trainer Jimmy Tibbs and was in poor shape.
For Davison, it was about his client coming through with the belt. No more, no less. In that respect, it was a success, though it has not been recognised as such in any other quarter.
He knows, as the man in the corner, that he was in for a battering from those who knew better. “Yeah, listen,” he calmly says. “Especially with Billy Joe’s performance… I knew going into the fight the majority of the blame would be put on me, it was something we were aware of but it’s something I didn’t mind to help Billy Joe do what needed to be done.
“I was working with Billy Joe [in the camp], but it was about two weeks before the fight that Billy Joe and Jimmy [Tibbs] parted ways and it was sprung on me that he wanted me to take over from there – but the damage had been done from what was in the camp. We had to make the best of a bad situation. [James] DeGale had a situation when he fought [Caleb] Truax, unfortunately he didn’t come through it [in the first fight] but me and Billy Joe did. It was about retaining the belt. If I was in charge and everything had been in perfect order I never would have put Billy Joe in to box but I knew no matter what he was going to fight and I knew his best chance to get through it was with me, who knows him better than anybody. I knew the tank wasn’t quite full and it was a dangerous defence because Akavov was unknown and we had to play it smart, it was a situation we had to get through and we did.”
Davison is more defiant about it than defensive. He played with the hand he was dealt and will not, when his career as a boxing coach is done, be judged on that one night more than a year ago. Saunders went on to beat Willie Monroe Jnr and then dazzled like never before while dishing out a boxing lesson to David Lemieux in December. Fury will be doing well if he handles anyone as skilfully as Saunders did the heavy-punching Canadian, but Davison feels they are already on the right track.
The former champion has lost “a decent chunk of weight” having begun the descent from an eye-bulging, belt-buckling 27 stone (378lbs). As the kilos have come off, the mood has lightened. Fury is feeling better about himself and the buzz in the camp is contagious. Davison feels there was a link to Tyson’s weight and his mindset, he was depressed when he was heavy but is now in a better place as a result of getting fitter and becoming healthier.
“A million per cent,” Davison says. “It’s the same for anyone. When you’re out of shape you feel horrible, especially a man who’s trained all his life. He’s seeing more shape coming, he’s standing in front of the mirror, his arms are coming round and shaping up a bit. Day by day, when you’re 27 stone, you’re going to look at yourself and say, ‘Can I ever do this? Am I going to come back to what I was?’ But he’s taken a big, big chunk of weight off and there’s light at the end of the tunnel now. That’s part of the draw for his comeback, how he’s going to look, so we’re leaving it to the imagination for the minute.”
Davison informs that Fury is looking good, that everything is on schedule. Of course, the likes of Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder have been mentioned, but Ben would like Fury to have several fights to get back into it. “It’s step by step at the minute,” he continues, pouring cool water on the idea of some high-profile outings this year. “But 100 per cent he can [fight the best]. Everyone knows his boxing ability and having success in a big fight like the [Wladimir] Klitschko fight – and having it so much one way – that builds you as a fighter, you improve. We’ve seen it in the gym but people haven’t seen it under the lights yet.
“There’s loads of things to work on. We’re not in any rush. He’s a big man, a very big man, and he’s the biggest draw in boxing. Anthony Joshua is having a unification fight with Joseph Parker and all they’re talking about is Tyson Fury. That says it itself. He’s got a bit of weight to shift, some ring rust to shift and as camp goes on naturally, the questions that need to be asked are being answered.”
Is Tyson, whom Davison only met last year, still ambitious, having been to the top of the hill and perhaps realising he did not like life at the summit?
“One million per cent. Today there was a test put in front of him and he passed with flying colours; it was one of the big runs out here. I was holding it off, really, but he made the decision he wanted to do it and he did it with eight-stoners, nine-stoners and 10-stoners and ran them into the ground. And that was one of the tests in my mind that I wanted to put him through, because it’s a physical test and it’s a mental test all in one. It’s a very, very hard run, and any challenge I’ve put in front of him he’s smashed with flying colours and any challenge I put in front of him he’s doing it time after time – with a smile on his face as well.”
Davison, who was just 24 when summoned for the Saunders salvage mission and still works in Billy Joe’s camp, insists he is confident in his own abilities and says he’s “not going into it blind,” but appreciates he has a tough task to follow after the achievements Fury enjoyed with his uncle, Peter, on his way to becoming world heavyweight king. “I know what it takes to get to the top and to be at the top and when Tyson asked me I said, ‘Don’t rush into any decisions.’ He’d obviously had a lot of success with his uncle, but he was adamant that was what he wanted to do, and it’s working out.”
So he has big shoes to fill?
“You can say that,” Ben continues. “But the challenge doesn’t intimidate me. That’s something I can take away from the Akavov fight. I got chucked in the deep end and it doesn’t get any deeper than that, so it’s nice to get someone 100 per cent all on my own. It makes it easy. It’s an easy job to get someone who’s as hard-working as Tyson is into the right sort of shape. He listens to everything, does everything that’s asked of him and then some, and I believe in myself, he believes in me and it makes my job a lot easier. Peter obviously did very well with Tyson and I’m sure we will have a successful run as well.”
Davison will turn 26 in November but believes we have yet to see the best of his new recruit. “There will be some slight changes obviously, there are some changes we’ve made, through his diet, which is helping him, the way he’s getting the weight off, which I think will help him peak higher when he competes. [There have been] some little changes in his preparation in regards to his style. I think you will see a few different things, and one aspect I bring is youthfulness and he’s a sharp boxer and I think with me being young and being that little bit sharper and being able to push him and push the pace on the pads I think you will see an even sharper Tyson. And from having the victory out in Germany [over Klitschko], that would have brought him on and the fact that he’s a couple of years on I think you will see some more strength in him, more maturity. So I think you will see a better-than-ever Tyson.”
Davison maintains that he is the boss of the camp, but says that in Fury he has a more than willing and able student. “I wouldn’t be in this job if not,” Davison adds. “I wouldn’t work for no man for no money if he wasn’t doing it. With Tyson, everything I say goes, he listens, he always wants to do extra. The hardest thing is holding him back a bit. He wants to push on and on.
“That [winning the world title] was his ultimate goal and he’s achieved that but you set yourself new goals. It was the same with Billy Joe. When he won the world title that was his goal. But you find it with a lot of fighters, once they actually win a world championship and they think they’ve achieved what they set out to achieve. ‘What’s my goal now? Is it money? Is it this, is it that?’ And that’s where I find people get a little bit lost. Billy Joe had that hard period and brought himself back round. Now he’s got new goals, he wants to unify the division. With Tyson, he has unified the division already and it’s done him the world of good having that time without boxing because it’s shown him that without boxing in his life he’s unhappy. So he’s not doing it for money, he’s not doing it for glory, he’s doing it for the love of the sport – and I think that makes a massive difference because if it was for the wrong reasons I wouldn’t be here.”