NOT unlike being at school, sometimes in boxing the unpopular kids are forced to group together and find a table in the lunch hall at which they can all sit and experience something close to comfort.
For Hughie Fury and Michael Hunter, two of the least fashionable heavyweights circa 2022, it makes sense to adopt this same approach: stay close, stay ready, look out for each other. The queues to fight them have, after all, been frustratingly short, with few eager to enjoy their company, and it’s maybe for this reason their career paths will converge on July 2, when they ignore the rest – those they claim ignored them – to fight one another.
Though still to be officially announced, a fight between Fury and Hunter would appear a sensible one. Even if more intriguing than thrilling, it will, if nothing else, turn two avoided fighters into just one.
“These are the fights I want,” Fury told Boxing News. “Hunter is an avoided man like myself. Nobody wants to fight him. But I’m not the same as them. This is the sort of fight I have been chasing and want to take. I’m more than happy with this fight. At the minute I’m in the south of France and I’m training hard and hoping it happens.”
Should the fight take place, Fury, 26-3 (16), knows he will be sharing the ring with the best opponent he has boxed since losing against Alexander Povetkin in 2019, yet gets only motivation from this fact. He will know, too, that Hunter, 20-1-2 (14), bettered his own result against Povetkin – drawing with the Russian in 2019 – and that the 33-year-old American, known as “The Bounty” Hunter, has scored good wins at heavyweight against the likes of Sergey Kuzmin, Aleksandr Ustinov and Martin Bakole.
“I’ve watched him over the years and he’s no mug,” Fury said. “He’s come up from cruiserweight, so he has fast hands, and you just have to be switched on with him. He drew his last fight against Jerry Forrest, a southpaw, but he’s been winning for the most part. I’ve seen some of those wins and know what I need to do to beat him but I’ll let my fists do the talking on the night. There’ll be a big difference in size but Hunter comes to fight and I think it will be a case of last man standing.”
In terms of his own career, Fury, despite his low-key demeanour and awkward style, has still been given opportunities, notably against Povetkin, and Kubrat Pulev, and Joseph Parker, whom he boxed for the WBO title in 2017. He came up short in each of those fights, losing respectably on points, and has since then struggled to find opportunities of equal value.
“No one wants to fight me. It’s tough,” he said. “You get a fight and just have to take each day as it comes. You never know when that fight is going to get cancelled or the opponent will pull out. It’s not easy to get the fights I want. It never has been.
“It’s obvious [why he is avoided]. With the fights I had at a young age, although I lost, nobody was able to do what they wanted with me. It was man against boy and the losses I suffered were because of this. I was lighter and not as experienced. I was a young kid. But now I’m a man, with proper man strength, and these guys know that.”
One man happy to fight Fury was Christian Hammer, whom Fury stopped after five rounds – a retirement stoppage – last October. That night, in the process of breaking Hammer down, Fury seemed to be punching with more authority and purpose than usual, perhaps aware of the need to start entertaining if he is to secure the fights he so desperately craves.
“It was easy and I was fairly relaxed,” he recalled. “It was a shame I couldn’t get more rounds in. I would have knocked him out, 100 per cent, but he retired before I had the chance to do that.
“In that fight the plan was to plant my feet and let my shots stick in a bit more as the fight went along. I did that, I thought, and you could see Hammer’s eyes rolling at times. But he’s a clever man. He pulled out of the fight and fought a couple of months later [on January 1 against Frank Sánchez]. He knew he would have got stopped by me, so saved himself for another day.”
A pro for nine years, it’s strange to think Hughie Fury is still just 27 years old and therefore, historically speaking, only just entering his prime as a heavyweight contender. However, it is the case and Fury is determined that the best of him has yet to be seen.
“I’m very experienced,” he said. “What I’ve done and what I’ve gone through, it’s been a lot. I’ve taken every opportunity that has come my way and fought everyone I could and that stands me in good stead now. I’ve been in with a lot of different fighters, and a lot of different styles, and I know what to expect now. Nothing is going to shock me in the ring.
“This is my time to show the world what I can do. I’ve had all my learning experience and now it’s time to move on to that next chapter. This fight against Hunter is the fight I need to do just that.”