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Tyson Fury displays his brilliance on the biggest stage

Tyson Fury
ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images
Tyson Fury proves he’s box office gold before confirming his plans to retire, writes Matt Christie from the stands at Wembley Stadium

IF THE thrashing of an overmatched Dillian Whyte is to be Tyson Fury’s swansong, it was triumphantly in-tune yet all too brief. After the sixth round knockout the world heavyweight champion again insisted that, no, he will not fight again. At a buoyant Wembley Stadium, however, it was hard to shake the feeling that the “Gypsy King” should only just be getting started.

His newfound status as a national treasure took a long time to cultivate. A mixture of bad press, ill-judged outbursts about his personal beliefs and, later, news of a failed drug test somewhat tainted – fairly or not – his 2015 victory over Wladimir Klitschko. Subsequent obesity and depression made gaining supremacy over the once fearsome Deontay Wilder all the more impressive, but, for fans in Blighty, all three Fury-Wilder fights took place at an ungodly hour in the middle of the night. Not only that, Fury was starved of the travelling support he would undoubtedly have attracted were it not for the pandemic restricting flights and access to America for the titanic third instalment.

On Saturday evening, in a joyous pocket of his country’s capital, Fury did what he does best in front of a reported 94,000 fans, the vast majority of which there to see the heavyweight king. Bludgeoning a leading contender with one pristine swing of his right hand was not only a reminder of Fury’s supersonic skills, it was an exhibition of his brilliance at the highest level that the widespread British public hadn’t previously witnessed. Fury’s stock has never been healthier and surely rivals the appeal that fighters like Ricky Hatton and Joe Calzaghe enjoyed 15 years ago.

“People don’t doubt me,” Fury insisted. “I think they love me. Ninety-four thousand at Wembley, biggest crowd ever in this country, in Europe. People don’t doubt me, they love me in this country and I love them. Ninety-four thousand countrymen and women packed in here tonight, spending their hard-earned money on tickets. I am overwhelmed with the support.”

It would be a shame, then, if this long awaited moment of deliverance on home soil is when he decides to wave goodbye. Boxing brings out the best in Fury and though he has grown weary of the politics and being pulled in every direction behind-the-scenes, he is now in position to craft one of the most formidable reigns in heavyweight history. A victory over the Oleksandr Usyk-Anthony Joshua II winner would see his standing soar even higher. Then he could pick off and up-and-comer or two. But as master showman P.T. Barnum once said, ‘Always leave them wanting more.’ It’s also believed Barnum coined the phrase, ‘There’s a sucker born every minute’, and it wouldn’t be a surprise, given both his history and the history of world champions calling it a day and then coming back, if Fury’s retirement turns out to be a hoax.

Tyson Fury
Julian Finney/Getty Images

For now, though, we take him at his word. Yet it’s going to take some serious commitment for him to keep it in the long term. Beneath the bluster, and as ever there was plenty of it, the swashbuckling showman is surely delighted to at last be universally adored. It’s a drug that he will struggle to kick for good, no matter the promise he says he’s made to his wife. A high that excursions into the worlds of WWE and MMA – and both look likely – simply will not replicate.

“Ten years ago, I couldn’t sell 10,000 tickets,” Fury said. “Even when I went to Germany [in 2015], I was the underdog to fight Klitschko in his [adopted] hometown. I’ve always been the opponent, the on-the-road fighter… ‘Just send him over there’. Then he goes to Germany, beats Wlad, [then in 2018] goes to America, as the opponent [for Wilder].

“It was about time I got my just deserts as the home fighter. I’ve been the underdog my whole life. Look at me, I’m fat as anything. But the old fat boy can fight. No matter how many times people put me down or write me off in life, I never pay attention to them because it doesn’t mean anything. I have proved that – and I’m just a normal, lucky man, I’m an average Joe – anything is possible.”

Fury is many things but average is not one of them. Which he again proved by making the fourth best heavyweight in the world look decidedly so himself. There will be a temptation among the rapidly dwindling number of critics to say this one-sided shellacking tells us more about the loser than the winner. That Whyte, who had defeated Joseph Parker, Derek Chisora, Robert Helenius, Oscar Rivas and Alexander Povetkin, was flattered all along by his lofty ranking. Hokum. Whyte deserved this opportunity; that he was completely out of his depth speaks only of the man he was swimming alongside.

As early as the second round, one of the biggest punchers in the sport was struggling to land a single blow. He opened the bout as a southpaw and though the overly-pronounced prods of his right lead occasionally found the target in Fury’s ample midsection, he was far from convincing as a leftie. Nonetheless, it at least gave the champion something to think about. And to beat Fury, which might forever remain a conundrum unsolved, taking him out of his comfort zone is a must. Problem is, being in a fight is as comfortable for Tyson Fury as being in bed is for the rest of us.

“From being a little boy,” said Fury, “I was always destined to be the world heavyweight champion. My family always believed in me. It’s been a very special career.”

Somewhat amused by Whyte’s stance in the opener, Fury switched to southpaw himself at the start of round two. And that message – anything you can do, I can do better – would be hammered home with each passing minute. Whyte, in close, launched a right hand fuelled with bad intentions. In the mere blink of an eye, Fury repositioned his hulking frame to send the blow flying into orbit, the proverbial miles off course. Fury swatted Whyte with two left jabs and followed with a Floyd Mayweather-esque ‘check hook’ from the same mitt. Already one sensed that even if Tyson’s right arm was tied behind his back he would still have double the skills with one hand that his opponent had with two.

Unfortunately for Whyte, Fury’s right arm remained unshackled. He reminded the challenger of this when two punches from that side scored as the session came to a close. They didn’t appear to have much effect on Whyte but then, from where Boxing News was sitting, it was frankly impossible to tell.

It seems only fair to point out that we were not in our usual ringside position, which was peculiar given that this fight was taking place in the UK. On occasion, we have found ourselves in the stands when covering international fighters on foreign ground. However, it is exceptionally rare for BN to be denied a ringside seat at our home in Britain, particularly at one of biggest fights to ever take place here. The reason, we were told, is that there were only eight ringside seats available for the media due to the high demand for tickets, with the insinuation that the eight were taken up by more influential brands. That’s a great shame; Boxing News has been the chief independent boxing voice since 1909 and can now boast a worldwide reach of several million across our multiple platforms (numbers yet again proved with our coverage of this contest).

Others stationed in the ‘media box’ included The Guardian’s Donald McRae and Sean Ingle, the Daily Mail’s Riath Al-Samarrai, the Mail on Sunday’s Oliver Holt, and Tris Dixon, leaving some to speculate that those who had reported on Fury’s relationship with alleged crime boss Daniel Kinahan were rewarded with a spot on the naughty step. That remains only speculation, however, and it’s important to highlight that there is no suggestion whatsoever that Kinahan was involved in the making of this contest.

Tyson Fury

The demand to report on this event, the first in 10 years to feature two British heavyweights and a world title belt, was truly ginormous. Not all who applied were granted accreditation. There was room, thank goodness, for a few media members to my right who spent the entire evening giddily necking pints of lager without a laptop or camera in sight. Lucky them.

Unfortunate for Fury was the timing of the US Treasury’s announcement – 10 days before this bout with Whyte was due to take place – that resulted in Kinahan being sanctioned with a $5 million bounty on his head. It was always going to result in some negative press for the world heavyweight champion who, two years ago, publicly thanked the Irishman for his work as an advisor. Though Tyson’s failure to satisfactorily address the subject did him few favours in the build-up (and nothing irks journalists of a certain ilk more than unanswered questions) it was a little unfair that, out of all the fighters and other world champions Kinahan is linked to, only Fury was being made to talk about it.

Regardless, it was obvious – even from 100ft away – that the stink had no effect whatsoever on Tyson Fury. At 33 years old he is at the top of his game and a fighter that any heavyweight in history would find difficult to beat. Once the cuts and bruises heal, and the tooth that was socked out of his gum is replaced, Whyte can take some comfort from knowing he was beaten by a man surely destined for the Hall of Fame. It’s hard to make a case for any other active heavyweight being competitive with him in this form. That’s not to say Whyte couldn’t have performed better, however.

Intent on bulldozing his way in, the underdog whacked Fury on the back of the head and brazenly butted the front of it. Clumsy and bad-tempered, Whyte was too open and his approach too careless. A desperate man by round three, the 34-year-old Londoner ended the session by swallowing lefts and rights before a fiery fourth round saw referee Mark Lyson earn every penny of his pay. The official struggled to prize the rivals apart after a shuddering one-two made Whyte hold on tight.

“I thought I was boxing really well,” explained Fury. “Touching him with the jab, not getting too involved. Fair play to him, he tried to make it rough in there, tried to manhandle me, but have you ever tried wrestling with a dinosaur before? I’m like a T-Rex, I’m 6ft 9ins, I’m 270lbs. He tried hitting me with the elbows, he tried nutting me, using the forearms. But when you try and cheat in a fight, you always come up second best.”

The rivals were warned for their conduct at the start of round five. By now content that his opponent had nothing to bother him, Fury waited patiently for opportunities to counter. He never once had to wait for long. A right hand from Fury wobbled the “Brixton Bomber” who instinctively tried another home run rocket that again missed by a considerable distance. Fury upped the pressure but, with Whyte seemingly there for the taking, the champion tempered his assault, perhaps to ensure he didn’t stray into harm’s way but more likely from a desire to make the fight last as long as possible.

Tyson Fury
Julian Finney/Getty Images

As the bell chimed to signal the start of round six, the challenger was in no hurry to stand up. For a moment it looked like he was on the brink of surrender before he dutifully hauled himself upright and returned to battle. Doggedly he refused to yield, still hoping to somehow stop the giant from clouting him. But it was an impossible task, one that needed more than only the pluck that Whyte could offer.

With the round coming to a close, Fury bent his right arm and sent an uppercut into the jaw of Dillian Whyte. The blow landed at full-pelt and immediately stole the challenger’s senses before a subsequent shove took his feet. Whyte crashed to the mat, barely conscious. Brave to the end, Dillian managed to beat the count but as his body drunkenly lurched into the ropes, referee Lyson rightly called it off at 2-59.

This was Whyte’s third defeat, each of them coming by way of uppercut-induced knockouts. Flawed he might be but he remains a marketable slugger and more chances will undoubtedly come his way.

For the winner, the world is his oyster. Should he choose to leave this brutal and tempestuous trade behind, more power to him. Whether boxing is ready to let Tyson Fury go is another matter entirely.

The Verdict Fury close to faultless. It would be a great shame if he walked away now.

THE UNDERCARD

A long, long way from the reporter’s view there’s wins for Essuman, Ball and Tommy Fury

NOTTINGHAM’S Ekow Essuman retained his British and Commonwealth welterweight titles when he outpointed Bradford southpaw, Darren Tetley, over 12 rounds. The scores were 116-112 twice (John Latham and Marcus McDonnell) and 117-111 (Kieran McCann). Steve Gray was the referee.

The crowd seemed to enjoy Nick Ball’s stoppage of Morecambe’s Isaac Lowe. The Liverpool man was declared the winner at 1-45 of the sixth when Victor Loughlin stopped the featherweight contest.

Heavyweight David Adeleye, of Ladbroke Grove, beat Stockport’s Chris Healey when the third man, Chas Coakley, halted the bout after 52 seconds of the fourth.

Manchester’s Tommy Fury won every round of his light-heavyweight clash with Poland’s Daniel Bocianski according to referee McCann who scored 60-54 after six rounds. Also at 175lbs, Chatham’s Karol Itauma beat Poland’s Michal Ciach at 2-27 of round two. Mr Coakley was the referee.

At super-featherweight, two prospects scored victories. Southampton’s Royston Barney-Smith was adjudged a 40-36 (McCann) winner over Swindon-based Romanian, Constantin Radoi. Romanian opposition, in the form of Stefan Nicolae, was also bested by Lisburn, Northern Ireland’s Kurt Walker. Mr Coakley scored that one 40-36.

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