I’ve never been able to stand him. Not for a single second, really. From the beginning, I’ve found Tyson Fury to be not only clownish (and occasionally offensive) in behavior and boring in the ring, but even unsightly to look at.
His soft gangly body and hunched posture made me think of Lerch, not a body. I found all of his “gypsy” schtick (however correct ancestry.com might find it to be aside) to be forced.
His mouth running wasn’t clever or funny, and on occasion it was actually racist.
Then there was the even more unsightly contests in the ring. All of his fights looked the same. Lean, hold, throw a couple shots here and there, wash-rinse-repeat. Every single Fury fight was worse than bad, it was boring. He was like the new John Ruiz. Nobody needed that.
Some of us had waited years for a fighter to come along and end the miserable era of Wladimir Klitschko. When that fighter finally arrived few of us would have thought that person would produce an even more desultory style in the ring than Wladimir, but that’s exactly what happened.
It would have helped if Fury possessed a personality – or god help us, a singing voice – that one could tolerate. But he didn’t. If there was any good news at the beginning of the Tyson Fury era it was that it almost ended as fast as it began. The grand opening and grand closing were practically on the same day.
Due to substance abuse and mental health issues, Fury disappeared for three years. Well, he figuratively disappeared. In reality, his already less than chiseled physique ballooned to close to 400 hundred pounds. His behavior became more erratic and his occasional public statements veered from buffoonish to downright disgusting.
To put it mildly, I was not enthused by the thought of Fury returning to the ring. I questioned his character, his commitment, and his ability.
As of this morning, I have discovered the need to check myself.
Because what Tyson Fury did to Deontay Wilder was far more than the obvious – the dismantling of a limited if hard-hitting fighter with no plan B. Last night, Tyson Fury came forward, threw heavy punches, forced Wilder to go backwards. He used every pound of his nearly 40 pound weight advantage to wear down and then destroy a fighter who at any point could change the match with a single blow. (Pictures, below, by Mikey Williams, for Top Rank.)
It was a bold and dangerous strategy. One that was fulfilled in remarkable and even entertaining fashion. After ending the fight in style with a TKO victory in the seventh, Fury continued to surprise. Oh, sure, there was still some of that awkward “colorful” rhetoric and behavior Fury has been known for, but there was also humility and class.
While nothing could surprise me more than an offensive game plan from a boxer who had previously been so risk-adverse as to make Floyd Mayweather Jr. look like Micky Ward, Fury’s kind and respectful remarks towards Wilder were most welcome.
I don’t know what’s next for Fury. He could fight Wilder a third time. Perhaps he turns his attention to putting all the belts together in a battle against his countryman, Anthony Joshua. What I do know is the next time Fury fights I will want to see it. And while I doubt I will be rooting for him – many of my laments about his style, both in and out of the ring, remain deeply held – I won’t feel so dismissive of him as a fighter or as a person.
In all fairness to Fury, I probably should have started cutting him some slack in regards to the latter aspect much sooner. Fury has often spoken with some eloquence on his struggle with mental health. As a person who suffers from anxiety issues myself, I should not have turned a tin ear to his words. I suppose I did so because I simply didn’t take him seriously as a fighter or as a man.
I do now.