Best of 2019: Fury has brought spirit of Ali back to boxing
British boxing stylist Tyson Fury justified his billing as the most exciting heavyweight in the world on his first victorious trip to Las Vegas, writes Desmond Kane.
There is a frisson floating over Tyson Fury at work, a touch of theatre dusted down from a bygone era that is outlandishly engaging. Not just in Fury's vast array of boxing skills, but in his ability to elevate his sport above the mundane. Not only is Fury a quite magnificent unbeaten champion boxer, he is one who does not take himself too seriously. He is fighter first and entertainer first.
Boxing’s most exciting exponent is not only British, but brilliant. The ‘Gypsy King’ has the world at his feet. He waltzed into the ring to face Germany’s Tom Schwarz at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Saturday evening to the sound of James ‘The Godfather of Soul’ Brown belting out Living In America. Dressed up like Carl Weathers’ Apollo Creed character in Rocky IV complete with showgirls and feathered headpieces.
He was more in his element in Sin City than the Rat Pack back in the Sands.
It was a fitting dazzling hors d'oeuvre with Fury proceeding to produce a brilliant bobbing and weaving exhibition more impressive than the fictional figure of Creed. Switching to southpaw, he finished off the game Schwarz in the second round with a clinical flurry of punches after a memorable bout of Muhammad Ali's rope-a-dope left his opponent swiping fresh air. The American audience loved it because America loves a winner. If you can add a touch of vaudeville to the victory, all the better.
"I can go southpaw or orthodox, I can punch with the left as well as the right. I wanted to show a few things to the American public to introduce myself properly,” said Fury.
Tyson Fury celebrates his win over Tom SchwarzPA Sport
It was all a timely nod tip to boxing history. In particularly, Ali, boxing’s ultimate entertainer, sport’s greatest lionised and canonised sportsman, an image of whom Fury walked past on his ring walk to a cakewalk. Fury does not want for charisma.
Ali would have loved Fury’s approach to the sweet science inside and outside the ropes because he believed in bringing boxing back to the people. There is no sport more raw, honest and captivating when two blokes are forced to confront each other in bloody combat, but crucially Fury, like Ali, is aware that his aptitude is also part of a mass entertainment industry.
Rocky vs Muhammad AliEurosport
"I'm a big fat bald head walking out in an Uncle Sam outfit. Everybody loved it. It just shows that you don't take your job too seriously. I love to fight, and love when the crowd are all there wanting to see a good fight. I thrive on that sort of stuff."
It is an attitude that elevates Fury into a realm of possibilities. “Never change,” said Fury’s promoter Frank Warren after he delivered a verse of Don McLean's America Pie at the post-match media conference having serenaded his wife Paris with Aerosmith's I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing inside the ring.
Fury is the best in boxing’s supreme division, and appears to be the finest British heavyweight since Lennox Lewis topped these evenings in the 1990s.
The fists of Fury belie a thinking man in gloves. Fury is not merely a meathead. He is a supreme strategist, who is clearly in touch with his own sensibilities.
Fury has battled depression, booze, drugs and obesity to return to the summit of a sport he fell so spectacularly from after outpointing Wladimir Klitschko in Dusseldorf in November 2015. He has come out the other side still standing tall. Perhaps even taller than his towering 6ft 9in frame. He is man of the people because people can relate to his personal battles and trauma.
At the age of 30, he is in his prime and has never lost his belts in the ring to justify his status as the lineal champion. In the interim, the father of five almost lost more than the spoils of his wars. His life was on the line which makes his second coming in boxing an example for those espousing the necessity in modern life for good mental health. Fury is a living embodiment of how to haul yourself back from the brink. Largesse could not solve Fury's problems, only he could.
A decade after David Haye was dubbed the self-styled saviour of boxing after the false dawn of his points win over Nikolai Valuev, Fury is more than the sum total of 25-fight unbeaten run. He does not make predictions he cannot keep. He told the world he would outmanoeuvre Klitschko, and duly outclassed the expectant Ukrainian.
He came from nowhere to outbox Deontay Wilder last December, getting up off the canvas to earn a draw that should have been a points win after he clubbed Wilder for large swatches of their 12-round contest in Los Angeles.
Tyson Fury in Las VegasGetty Images
One suspects Fury would have no such issue with Ruiz Jr, Fury completed his mission against the overmatched but previously unbeaten Schwarz with style and substance. He plans to have one more fight before revisiting Wilder early next year for the WBC belt. Probably back in Vegas.
His ability to unify his division is the key to how history will remember him, but he has faced tougher fights and won. Anyone that can face down depression and emerge from the darkness must be given serious respect.
Fury is as much as the real deal as Evander Holyfield was back in the day. His day has come, but better days lie ahead.