Tyson Fury was bedecked as a king as he was carried through Vegas, a remarkable man so sure of his regal lineage that three of his sons are called Prince. But he knows what it’s like to be a pauper, too.
Two years ago he was trapped in the squalor of boxing wilderness, a dark place that many boxers go but so few return from. He had added 10 stone in excess fat and was publicly battling mental health and addiction issues – the heavyweight division, meanwhile, was chugging along quite nicely without him. That’s why Saturday night’s scarcely believable destruction of the most ferocious man in boxing, Deontay Wilder, is a triumph of the human spirit above all else.
What makes his capture of the WBC title so special is the depths he has come from, the pits he has dragged himself out of, before summoning the strength to produce a result so commanding. To do so on foreign soil against a champion so dominant must rank as the best of its kind by any British boxer.
In that strange grey area mixing the euphoria of the night before and the perspective of everything else, Fury now feels like the king of the heavyweights. He knew it was coming, that’s why he dressed royally during an epic ring-walk but even with a robe and crown Fury doesn’t quite look right as a king.
Fury is the great contrarian, a man where nothing makes sense and little can be explained. He is ‘the Gypsy King’ but is unmistakably a man of the people whether on the Vegas Strip or in Morecambe town centre.
He has brazenly proclaimed for some time that, despite having to pick his gargantuan frame off the canvas twice in his draw with Wilder 14 months, he would target a two-round knockout in the rematch. He seriously expected us to believe that he would swap right hands with a savage who was, months ago, called the hardest puncher in boxing history.
Fury said all this with a straight face but, it turns out, in a famous town designed to make the gullible part with their cash, he was the most honest salesman of them all.
It took him slightly longer than advertised but, in the third round, only the sound of the bell saved Wilder.
Fury is custom-built for the big occasions, it takes a certain personality to be laughing and joking backstage when the opponent is in the more traditional mind-frame. His two-round prediction worked a treat because it had Wilder guessing, doubting, questioning, wondering. He did the same in late 2015 to Wladimir Klitschko, whose near-decade-long reign as champion was ended when Fury tortured him with mind-games before befuddling him inside the ring. Klitschko seems baffled by Fury to this day.
And then comes the other great contradiction of Fury’s – after the unforgettable highs come the horrendous lows. After beating Klitschko he insisted his goals were complete and it caused a devastating downfall. This time, the most important fight he faces is to keep himself on a positive path.
Inside the ring, an ominous statement has been thrown down.
Suddenly before us we have a gigantic 19st 7lbs man with defensive reflexes and, now, a thudding punch of his own.
He tore out Wilder’s heart within two or three rounds of their rematch and broke his opponent’s desire to remain in the ring long, long before the towel came in. Wilder was gutsy but that wasn’t the ‘Bronze Bomber’ for more than a round or two, he was rendered into a meek and fragile thing by Fury’s sheer might.
It was an evolution made possible by his link-up with trainer Sugarhill Steward, whose Hall of Fame uncle Emanuel turned Klitschko and Lennox Lewis into monstrous champions. To accommodate Steward, Fury got rid of Ben Davison who had nurtured him through his comeback, enticed him back from the brink of despair. It was utterly ruthless to dispense of Davison but that is an aspect of Fury’s character beyond the fancy dress and karaoke.
Fury is now a two-time world heavyweight champion who, in separate reigns, has held all four major belts (IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO) not to mention the English, British, European and Commonwealth titles. Fury defeated champions who had reigned for nine years and five years respectively, in Klitschko and Wilder. He suddenly stands alone as an undefeated champion in this generation – Anthony Joshua, and now Wilder, have succumbed.
The fight to make is the undisputed heavyweight championship match, which would put Fury against Joshua for all the marbles in a battle of two Brits. A mouth-watering occasion. Wilder does, however, have the option to face Fury again but he will be a changed man after the pounding he took and might not rush to activate that contractual clause.
Is Joshua in Fury’s sights? Look closely at him between rounds on Saturday night. Look at his gum-shield. Green and white. It says ‘Nigeria’. The mind-games master has already started and you didn’t even notice.
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