As of last week, lineal heavyweight champion of the world, Tyson Fury, has been cleared by UK Anti-Doping to fight again. News on the Furious One has been coming thick and fast in recent days, keeping fans in suspense over his current training efforts and his hoped-for return. Recently Fury has been back in the limelight for wars of words with Tony Bellew, Chris Eubank Sr., and perhaps most importantly, IBF and WBA heavyweight champ Anthony Joshua.
While accepting a backdated two year ban from the anti-doping authority is a major step forward, Fury has another hurdle to clear in the new year, namely a hearing with the British Boxing Board Of Control in January. “The Gypsy King” and his fans are hopeful this will be little more than a formality as he continues his efforts to get back into fighting shape, efforts which, we now know, will be guided by trainer Ben Davison instead of Tyson’s uncle, Peter Fury. The switch in coaches is hopefully a positive signal that Tyson is more determined than ever to restore his fitness and make a dramatic return to The Sweet Science.
Tyson calls Davison “a hell of a trainer,” but in the same breath states that there was no falling out with the man who guided him to his huge win over Wladimir Klitschko. “Peter is my uncle and I’d do anything for him. We worked together well, but sometimes a change is as good as anything else.”
The heavyweight division has missed Fury. More to the point, boxing has missed “The Gypsy King.” And with Fury soon officially licensed to fight again, it may not be long before we are on the cusp of the biggest match in the history of British boxing. Yes, my friends, we’re talking Anthony Joshua vs Tyson Fury. Literally and figuratively, fights don’t come any bigger than that.
If Anthony Joshua was a movie, he’d be a blockbuster. He’s clean cut with great production and unquestionable mass appeal. Tyson Fury, on the other hand, is the more rugged, complex, and unpredictable art-house flick. No one’s quite sure what to make of him or how seriously to take him. There’s too much controversy, too much that’s strange and difficult to understand. Drugs, depression, dressing up as Batman, nandrolone, singing Aerosmith songs. The weirdness just doesn’t stop.
Maybe this is why Fury’s never seemed exactly ready for primetime and hasn’t received the exposure and backing that you might expect. Controversy he’s had plenty, perhaps too much. Meanwhile Joshua has the unwavering support of Matchroom Boxing, Eddie Hearn, the mainstream media and Sky Sports. Following the 2012 London Olympics, Hearn began paving the way for Joshua to become one of boxing’s biggest attractions, to be nothing less than a celebrity, a UK mega-star and a huge cash cow.
But in truth, can AJ have a real legacy without fighting Fury? At this point in both their careers, their paths must cross in the near future. In England, Joshua has become bigger than boxing. His sex appeal brings scores of women to his public workouts and fights; he’s humble, self-aware and comes across as genuine, perhaps a role model. He is boxing’s new golden boy, on a rags-to-riches journey that has been a blessing for the heavyweight division, which, with the exception of Fury’s unexpected win over Klitschko, has been stale for years. Meanwhile, in contrast to Joshua, Fury’s journey has been anything but smooth.
Until recently, Tyson’s relationship with former promoter Mick Hennessy had echoed the gypsy sentiment of loyalty, trust and honour. And Fury is a proud gypsy man. He remained faithful to Hennessy through the rough, when other promoters were out to poach him. In his post-fight press conference following the Klitschko victory, Fury said: “Definitely a Jerry Maguire story for me and Mick Hennessy. Started from the bottom, now we’re at the top together. Everyone wrote us off, said we had no chance. He kept faith, I kept faith, Peter [Fury] kept faith.” At the moment Fury is working with MTK Global, at least on an advisory level, while leaving his promotional options open for now.
For those unfamiliar with gypsy culture in the UK, they are widely regarded as lower class, often labelled as ‘thieves’, ‘pikies’, and many other derogatory terms that place them as the dregs of society. Fellow gypsy boxer and friend Billy Joe Saunders recently said in an interview: “Am I ever going to be a role model? No. If I was to run and save the Queen from death, I’m still never gonna be a role model, am I? I’m just a gippo who saved the Queen. She wouldn’t give me an MBE. She’d probably buy me a new caravan.”
Fury is in fact related to former bareknuckle heavyweight champion of the world, Bartley Gorman V, King of the Gypsies. In a 1995 short documentary by acclaimed British indie movie maker Shane Meadows, Gorman declares: “Among gypsies, like the Indians in America, there are breeds. In my breed there are the Gormans, the Furys, the Wilsons, the Kellys, the O’Neills, the McGuires and the Brians. That’s my breed. That’s one entire breed, and I fight for those people.”
And a fighting breed they are. In a recent episode of the White Rhino podcast hosted by Dave Allen, Fury talks of his own bareknuckle fighting career. “Most of them finished when I landed the first punch,” he claims. In the same interview, Fury is adamant that this current comeback is the real deal. Regular Instagram videos show him working the pads at Ricky Hatton’s Manchester gym and it’s clear he’s dropping the excess weight and hasn’t lost his movement or reflexes. He remains a force in the heavyweight division and it may be just a matter of time before he regains his title-winning form.
Tyson Fury is the underdog. Unlike Anthony Joshua, who has been given the red carpet treatment at every turn following his gold medal victory at the 2012 Olympics, Fury has had to struggle to get fair treatment from the media and the powers-that-be. Fury is anti-establishment; increasingly, Joshua is the establishment. Which only makes a Fury vs Joshua match that much more appealing and intriguing.
Tyson will come in as the underdog in such a fight, and rightly so considering he hasn’t been active since November 2015. However, his treatment at the hands of the British commission has been shabby to say the least and has held the man back from advancing his career. In order to cement his comeback, Fury’s dedication to the sport in the months to come will have to be second to none.
And if he maintains that and returns to fighting form, you can forget Ricky Hatton vs Junior Whitter, Amir Khan vs Kell Brook, and Joe Calzaghe vs Carl Froch. The biggest tragedy in recent British boxing history in terms of the one that got away will be Tyson vs AJ if politics prevents an all-England heavyweight superfight. Make no mistake, Joshua vs Fury just has to happen! — Sherif Dhaimish