Feature

The Rebirth of Tyson Fury: How do you train a fighter like The Gypsy King?

Tyson Fury
Mikey Williams/Top Rank
Former heavyweight champion Tyson Fury has had his share of trainers in his pro career but seems to have found the right fit with Ben Davison

THERE was a quiet moment – just the one – during the chaotic Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury press tour.

It came in the closing moments of the first press conference, at BT Sport’s headquarters in Stratford, East London.

“Better go ring up Peter,” said Wilder. “You’re going to need him.

“You better go get Peteeeerrrr!”

For a few seconds, Fury appeared lost for words. The only response he could muster was a slow, mocking nod of his head.

Wilder thinks he’s found a weakness – and he may have a point.

The pre-Peter Fury version of Tyson was, in the words of his former amateur rival David Price at the time, “an accident waiting to happen,” a vulnerable gunslinger prone to eating right hands.  

He only just got past John McDermott in what was seen as a straightforward enough stepping-stone fight in September 2009, and then in 2011, he was shaken up by Nicolai Firtha and dropped by Neven Pajkic.

The Pajkic drama led to a rethink and ahead of his next fight, against veteran slugger Martin Rogan in April 2012, Fury started training with his uncle, Peter.

In his subsequent eight outings, Fury went from being the most exciting heavyweight in the world to the best – a unified world champion. The only time Fury was in any danger during that spell was when Peter wasn’t in his corner.

Because of his past convictions, Peter couldn’t make the trip to New York for the Steve Cunningham fight in April 2013, and without him there, Fury’s heart overruled his head. His feet were flatter, his left hand strayed inches lower than it should have done – and Cunningham capitalised.

Down in the second from a right hand, Fury had a further wobble in the fourth from a similar shot, before he got on top of the former world cruiserweight champion and clobbered him to defeat in seven.

Tyson Fury vs Steve Cunningham
Steve Cunningham gives Fury problems (Ed Mulholland/USA Today Sports)

Every time Tyson had Peter in his corner, the fight was largely drama-free.

“Peter got Tyson believing in his boxing and gave him confidence in his fitness,” said Clifton Mitchell, a former pro heavyweight himself who worked as Fury’s cutman when he was with his uncle.

He did it by taking Fury away from the cake shops of Lancaster.

At the start of his pro career, Fury was trained by his late uncle, Hughie, a former pro light-heavyweight and thinking man who died in October 2014. He was a believer in the Ingles’ philosophies and wanted Tyson to be mobile and sharp. He got Tyson sparring his son, Phill, a super-welterweight.

The spars took place in a shed with a leaky roof at the back of Hughie’s six-bedroom house in Lancaster, often to a backdrop of Roy Orbison’s Greatest Hits.

It was, said Tyson, “the coldest gym in England,” his visible breath proving his point when I visited. 

During training camps, Fury stayed in a caravan in his uncle’s backyard – and was known to stray from there…

Hughie wasn’t in a good mood when I rang him for a progress report in the weeks before a fight. Tyson had gone missing.

“I imagine,” said Hughie tetchily, “a new cake shop has opened in his neighbourhood and that’s where he will be.”

Another time, Hughie, who often showed his best form when his pride was pricked during his own 3-6-1 pro career, told me: “I saw him drive off in the middle of the night and knew what he was doing. He was peckish and was off to the 24-hour garage a couple of miles away for some sweets.”

Hughie claimed once: “Someone once told Tyson Jaffa Cakes are good for you because they give you energy and that was just what he wanted to hear. He used to eat a packet every day – and thought it was part of his training.”

Hughie was an engaging character, a real storyteller, and perhaps he was prone to exaggeration every now and then when talking to a reporter. But his frustration with his nephew was obvious and inevitably, there were fall outs.

Fury went back to former amateur coach Steve Egan for the first fight with McDermott and following that struggle, there was a brief spell with Robert McCracken, and Brian Hughes was in the corner for the one-round blowout of Hans-Joerg Blasko in March 2010.

Unhappy with the amount of punches he took in the 134 seconds the Blasko fight lasted, Fury went back to Hughie for the McDermott rematch in June 2010. That ended in a confidence-boosting nine-round stoppage win at a sweltering Brentwood Centre, and in possibly Hughie and Tyson’s best night together, Dereck Chisora was comprehensively beaten at Wembley Arena.

Hughie told me he took desperate measures ahead of that fight.

“I’ve locked him in a caravan in my back garden, so I can keep an eye on him,” he said a couple of weeks ahead of the fight in July 2011.

“I’ve taken his phones off him, sent his wife away and told all the cake shops in the area not to let him in.”

Fury boxed a good, disciplined fight that night, but the hit-or-be-hit Tyson soon reappeared and he left Hughie – and his favourite cake shops – behind for training camps with Peter in Belgium.

Arfan Iqbal, a cruiserweight from Derby, joined Fury on a couple of his camps there and said: “We were in a place called Essen [in Belgium]. It is in the middle of nowhere.

“The closest shops were a 15-minute drive away. It was just train, train, train and by the time you finished training, all you wanted to do was sleep.”

The Fury who emerged from these camps was no “accident waiting to happen.” He was now a hard-to-hit southpaw.

Fury boxed left-handed throughout his first fight with Peter – that five-round dismantling of Rogan – and after schooling Christian Hammer in February 2015, Tyson told the press: “With the right-handed stance, you can get hit over the top, but as a southpaw I don’t get hit at all.”

Seasoned gatekeeper Kevin Johnson reckons the Fury he faced is just about unbeatable. Johnson, comprehensively outpointed by Fury in December 2012, said: “With the reach and movement he has, he has a huge advantage. It’s almost unfair!

“He has a reach of something like almost 90 inches and he’s always moving away and pulling back from punches. He’s just so long and you can’t reach him. He doesn’t punch hard, but he doesn’t have to. He just pecks away, doesn’t get hit and wins rounds.”

One of the other major questions going into his December 2018 fight against Deontay Wilder was whether Fury’s current trainer, Ben Davison, would be able to exert the same control over Fury as his uncle Peter did. “Tyson might be captain of his own ship these days,” offered Mitchell ahead of that fight, “and that’s never a good thing.”

On the evidence of what we’ve seen so far, Davison appears to have Fury’s attention and respect.

Tyson Fury vs Deontay Wilder
Tyson Fury working with trainer Ben Davison (Action Images/Jason Cairnduff)

Boxing news – Newsletter

Current Issue