SOMEWHERE overnight he had lost a shoe, his gumshield was at home, there was no headguard and he never bothered with bandages. Nobody filmed it, nobody made a song and dance, it was like an afternoon in the Fifties. In the ring was a new kid, a pro for one fight, a kid with hype and he was having a hard, hard sparring session with Hughie Fury. He was dangerous, he wanted it. Tyson Fury watched for a second, forgot about the shoe, the shield, the bandages, the headguard and found some old gloves. “I had to, it was what I do… and did I mention I was 26 stone? Never lose it, no matter what you weigh, you never lose it.”
The spar was during the bleakest of his wretched days and there was also 13 pints of lager sitting in his system – I guess that explains the lost shoe. It was a classic Fury tale and one that gently improves with age.
The kid in the ring that afternoon was Daniel Dubois and [on August 29] at the BT Studio Fury was there for his latest fight. It was a strict business deal in the ring on Saturday night, but then again the real boxing education of Dubois has mostly been in sparring rings. It started with the hundreds of rounds at the GB camp in Sheffield with Anthony Joshua, Joe Joyce and Frazer Clarke. It has continued ever since and the rounds with Hughie are part of the tale. The rounds with Tyson are not generally added to the list. Fury had to think that afternoon in the ring. “Daniel has the upmost respect for Fury,” said a witness, a member of the Dubois touring party.
“I will be retired when he is champion,” Fury said when last Saturday’s fight was over. It was a lost moment of truth in an evening of quality Fury statements. He was in funny overdrive with his “feather dusters” for fists narrative. He does that look of genuine puzzlement very well when he asks how his feather dusters could have knocked out Wilder. On the night in Las Vegas there were a lot of people – not just in the Deontay Wilder business – asking the same question.
The appearance at the BT Studio was the first proper boxing cameo by Fury since the night of the win in February over Wilder, which just seems like it belongs to another time and place. He told me he does not watch the fight back, but he watched every second of the few clips we ran as a tease before I introduced him. He is telling the truth – there was a look of wonder on his face as his punches sent Wilder reeling all over the ring and down a couple of times. I have seen a lot of boxers lost in the moment when they watch closely a previous fight, not surrounded by a dozen back-slapping cronies, but just standing or sitting in silence and taking in what they had done. That was the look on Fury’s face, one of happiness – he looked impressed with himself.
“Before that fight I knew exactly what I was going to do,” he told me. “Sometimes you just have to fight and that’s what I knew I had to do.” When did he know it would work? “In the 12th round of the first fight. I just continued from the end of the first fight; I knew, that was me, that was my plan.”
Inside the BT Studio and away from a crowd, Fury was relaxed. He was wearing the latest tailored suit covered in boxing icons, his body ready to fight “right now” and at one point he was in a huddle with Frank Warren; they were on the phone to Shelly Finkel, who works with Wilder. “Find me a venue, get me a venue,” he told me when I asked what he had told Finkel. It is clear that the search for a venue is the critical and elusive part of making the third fight happen; Wilder is in, Fury is in, the money is there, the date is there, but the ring is still in the clouds. “Everybody is working on it now.”
He talked of wrestling, being a gym junkie, big dossers, other rivals, his training methods, his state of mind and the great days with his family during lockdown. “I never had any media commitments, it was just my family.” There have always been a few Tyson Furies when it comes to interviews and getting stuff out of him. His bad days are difficult days, his good are brilliant, but I like the gentle stuff, the personal stuff. The tales with lost shoes and tales when he just laughs at the memory of something absurd that has happened.
There is interest now from Hollywood, not a biopic, but with him starring as an apprentice action hero. He was meeting with Jason Statham the day after the Dubois fight. Statham was ringside in Las Vegas for the Wilder fight – Statham turned a decent diving career into box-office lunacy. Fury is not thinking about just being a heavy, a man lurking in the background, either.
My fifth favourite British heavyweight of all time is Nosher Powell and he played a thousand roles in film and TV. He was variously known as Knuckles, Mr Knuckles, Hard man on the left, Hard man on the right in the credits. He once rode Laurence Olivier’s horse as a stunt double and fired a hundred guns for Roger Moore when he was 007. Why did you fire the guns? “Well, Rog hated the bang. I’m deaf now because of that.” Nosher could also fight a bit, a funny man and he would have loved the old-style ways of Fury.
“Fury has got it all,” Statham told me that night in Las Vegas. “He is already a hero.”
Fury was with friends inside the BT Studio, watching the fights, sticking thumbs up at winners and losers, smiling with warmth. “This is what I like,” he said. And it looked like it.
Thanks for that, mush.