THERE has never been a world heavyweight champion like Tyson Fury. Furthermore, there has never been a fighter of any size, race or gender like The Gypsy King. He is a one-off, the kind who comes along once in a lifetime. One we must cherish and appreciate for as long as he’s at the top of his game.
His story is not without controversy or bad behaviour. But to dwell on anything other than his latest triumph would be wrong. What Fury continues to achieve in the confines of a boxing ring is mesmerising, almost beyond comprehension. No, he may not be as graceful as Muhammad Ali, as adept at following a gameplan as Lennox Lewis or as fearsome as Mike Tyson. But anyone now suggesting that Tyson Fury could not compete in any era is too fond of the past.
The sheer size of the man would make him a difficult proposition for anyone. Add to those colossal dimensions his ability to make the most of them (something comparable giants always struggled with) then throw in his versatile skills, ringcraft, stamina and durability. Add the complexities of his mind – the havoc he unleashes in the psyche of his opponents, the charisma, the fearlessness, the refusal to lose – and you have, quite simply, a formidable warrior who must now be regarded as one of the best of them all.
Some will say that praise is too high. They will point to Deontay Wilder, to his limitations and his one-trick right hand. All the best heavyweights would have beaten The Bronze Bomber, they’ll say. Of course, we’ll never know. But I can’t think of a single heavyweight who would not only have recovered from that monstrous right hand that Wilder slammed into Fury in the fourth round, but also regained their senses so quickly. It’s true that not all heavyweights would have lost their composure and been caught with it in the first place. But Fury has shown, more than once, he can thrive in the deathliest of circumstances.
What is certain is that Fury, in twice rising from the canvas in that astonishing three minutes and slowly hammering the resistance out of a rival so courageous it was scarcely believable, has proved beyond any doubt that he is the best heavyweight of his time. Would any active heavyweight have survived that fourth round onslaught from Wilder? Surely not. More to the point, would any active heavyweight have fared any better than Wilder in the face of such educated violence? Again, the answer has to be no.
For the sake of balance, we must be realistic about Wilder’s shortcomings. It was apparent, as the torrid battle rumbled on and on, that the American’s limited repertoire had again cost him dearly. A cannonball right hand will get you a long way, but perhaps not quite far enough.
Regardless, he deserves almost as much credit as the victor. Written off by many, myself included, after taking such a frightful pasting in their rematch, he gave his all to the very end. The mental demons, the sheer horror of fighting Tyson Fury, would have been insurmountable to the vast majority.
So the praise we put on them both, in the aftermath of arguably the most thrilling heavyweight showdown of them all, is completely justified. We must thank the bitter rivals for reminding not only hardcore boxing fans how exhilarating our sport can be, but heap gratitude on their shoulders for exhibiting that wonder to the world. It was heartening to see every newspaper give lengthy coverage to the contest, and every news bulletin talk about the fight.
That is the power of the world heavyweight championship. One that Fury must now parade with pride. It is too early to suggest what comes next but the stage is set. Whoever is in his future, whether it’s Dillian Whyte or Oleksandr Usyk or Anthony Joshua, Fury has restored the public’s faith in the richest prize in sport. That prize is his, irrespective of what the sanctioning bodies may say. Better still, all the confusion regarding who is the true leader simply doesn’t exist anymore. The heavyweight division is in good health. And Tyson Fury stands tall as its king.