WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury might be the greatest heavyweight ever. A bold statement and one that nostalgia nor fact will ever be able to prove or disprove. It is neither right nor wrong, but it starts a good argument. Fury, a two-time heavyweight champion, who is also the lineal heavyweight champion, is as complicated as explaining the spot of boxing itself to an outsider.
Nothing makes sense, and because of that – he is the perfect person to sit atop the sport at this time, as he is a reflection of the sport. Let's go through this, not unlike the film, The Fog of War, in which Errol Morris interviews Robert S. McNamara to think about what it is about Fury that bothers people.
#1 Outside of friends and family – the world never saw him as THE GUY
Let's be honest. The market, the push, everything was for the modern Frank Bruno – Anthony Joshua to be the next star of the heavyweight division. Despite looking like a model or a pro wrestler, the flaw was that Joshua had one huge weakness. Joshua couldn't turn defense into offense and offense into defense. Joshua is a big average; very good at everything in the heavyweight division, but not elite at anything, particularly a major flaw when facing the greats of his era.
Joshua has one win against a legitimate Hall-of-Famer, a knockout over Wladimir Klitschko in a fight he was losing most of the way. Compare that to Fury, who dominated Klitschko from start to finish and fought a younger Klitschko, might I add. You'd think we live in a bizarro world in which Fury's win gets less credit, but it also shows how narratives shape boxing rather than facts.
So far, Joshua has lost three times; surely, he will lose more before his career is over. Once to Andy Ruiz Jr., who made Joshua pay for recklessly punching coming forward, as Joshua, up until that point, had never really experienced a fighter with the high-level head movement who could shoot punches back at him. Joshua would avenge the loss, but not the way I wanted to see it – getting a win on paper, but not all looking like Lennox Lewis did in those rematches’ years prior, commanding respect. Joshua safely won a fight against Ruiz in the rematch, but did he impress – no! Now Joshua is at a crossroads, having lost to Oleksandr Usyk twice and having a mental breakdown after the second bout. #HipHipHooray. Ten years of strategic moving and marketing to achieve accolades have fallen by the wayside, as the man who thought it would be his era now looks to be at least #3 in his current heavyweight era and could fall even further if not careful.
Fury looks a tad bit like Humpty Dumpty; he is not a body guy by any means and says some wild things that I won't repeat. Tyson Fury doesn't resemble Hulk Hogan from the '80s, saying, “say your prayers and take your vitamins.” He is a complicated character with many flaws outside of the ring but has stepped up each time he faced the best of his era. Whereas Fury's contemporary of Anthony Joshua was like a 90's Karl Malone filling that stats but not winning the title, Fury served as a Tim Duncan, solid and sound – but one who, outside of the local market, didn't have a huge base. That should mean something – winning. Yet, Fury has constantly won his whole career but has been doubted every step of the way.
#2 Tyson Fury Is Better Than The Guys In His Era, but Only Two Title Defenses
Purists hate the fact that Fury has only two world title defenses to his credit in his whole career. One against Deontay Wilder, a fearsome puncher, who since he lost, people love to underrate or overrate, but for sure, never accurately rate, the skill of Wilder as well as Dillian Whyte, a big puncher, a product of his era, but a deeply flawed fighter, who probably never stood a chance against Fury if he had three arms let alone two.
Fury reminds me of Conor McGregor. McGregor at the heights of McGregor's powers, as neither cared about the belts, per se. McGregor wanted moments to happen. Holding two belts in the UFC octagon on top of the cage, seemingly challenging the kings of the divisions only to defeat them and take everything they worked for.
Fury loves to pillage and conquest, but being the King, despite it being in his nickname, is not really what I see him enjoying. Once he beat Klitschko, the heavyweight division was rather boring, and he quit boxing. The conquest of racking up title defenses against uninspiring challengers meant nothing to him. So much so that he started living an unhealthy lifestyle.
He had to go on a fitness journey to get back into shape. That journey quite possibly is what brought him back to the sport, not the fighters, but to see if he could become a champion after getting that Obese. Fury needs a challenge, and if he doesn't get that – he is uninterested. I firmly believe Fury can beat Joshua on a two-to-three-week training camp. He is just that much better than him, with Wilder maybe a bit over a month to be in shape and make sure he can take the power, but not much more. Fury has the fight IQ of a smaller fighter and happens to be one of the biggest heavyweights ever. It is a deadly combination.
His only challenge left is Oleksandr Usyk, and frankly, it seems like Fury, at the momentum, is unmotivated by that fight. Sure, it could be hard for him, but I think he gets more excited by doubt, large crowds, and excitement in either direction. Usyk is a true professional, who comes with a core fanbase and represents his country of Ukraine, but he is more quirky than a showman.
Awkward interviews, embracing coming to another fighter's home country, a small team; Usyk is a lot of the things Fury prefers to be coming into a fight. Fury vs. Usyk would be Fury granting Usyk an opportunity, and often Fury doesn't do that. Fury fought Wilder to see if he still had it; the two other fights stemmed from the initial affair. Unless the fans force that fight – I don't think Fury cares about Usyk, as much as he wants to beat up Joshua because he knows he can and knows it will get a lot of attention. To the next point.
#3 Tyson Fury likes attention
Tyson Fury is one of the more personable and famous fighters I have ever encountered. It seems that after the second Deontay Wilder fight, Fury has enjoyed the attention he is getting. So much so that I think it bleeds over to his social media. If I don't know a fighter, I don't follow them on social media – so I think many of his antics that annoy people go over my head.
It seems like Tyson Fury is the King of “just saying stuff” on social media platforms, and that “just saying stuff” turns into content on websites that get fans the wrong impression of what is happening. More so, Fury, I think now understands this and loves to poke fun at the power he has by doing this stuff.
Fury weaponizes words and calls out fighters like Anthony Joshua on the internet. The naive fans believe such a fight can happen and then get disappointed when a realistic opponent of Derek Chisora is presented like we're hearing for December 3rd. When fans are disappointed, the loser will always be the less popular fighter.
Anthony Joshua is the British equivalent of “Sugar” Ray Leonard, and Tyson Fury is the other guy. When the two get into a war of words, or boring “business boxing talk on the internet” (wake me up when Elon Musk or a current business genius enters boxing to show you how much a farce boxing business talk is, btw), if the fight doesn't get made – the more popular fighter will look better. Hence, Joshua whose career is run more like a Fortune 500 company than a human being, whereas Fury essentially grabs his phone and does stream-of-consciousness rants, not unlike books by Jack Kerouac.
This is a message to @anthonyjoshua.
My promoter Frank Warren convinced me to let Queensberry carry on negotiating with your team this week, despite me knowing that you were never going to do this fight… pic.twitter.com/XpcHOpZJzk
— TYSON FURY (@Tyson_Fury) September 29, 2022
Fury says a lot of stuff. Fury is famous – and if you consume a lot of boxing content, you will see a lot of random thoughts Fury has because websites love articles with his name in the title. Boxing is a blame game. So if two good fighters are not fighting each other, one fighter has to get blamed. For all of Joshua's flaws, he has been taking hard fights; he just often loses them when it is against an evenly matched fighter who is close to their prime. Fury has a habit of going on hiatus, and fans and pundits get tired of talk in the heavyweight division. Fury may be the best on paper, but people want to see him in a reasonably exciting fight, as he is currently one of the pillars of boxing's foundation.
#4 On His Own Terms
Boxing is free-market capitalism. You win all the fights, you get to the top, you find out your value, and you can control to a degree who you fight. Fury is not always someone willing to grant opportunities to new fighters. I would say no fighter who is a star, for that matter, currently is.
The issue is that the top-tier fighters are waiting for their peers to fight. The guys below them are not fighting but just staying busy to fight winnable fights, and so forth and so on. When this happens, we see what is happening at the top of the division mirror itself amongst different levels of the division. As the culture set for by the best fighters in the division will encompass that division.
Fury is a tough guy who has lived a tough life. He outlined the end of his career a while back and stated he wanted to face Chisora and Joshua – I can't recall if Usyk was mentioned – so his next bout, which we believe will be against Chisora, a trilogy fight we don't really need – will follow his schedule of getting another one of the fights he wants to do out of the way.
After that bout, Fury probably has two more fights left, maybe more, but I think two is the number I am looking at currently. Joshua and Usyk. The curveball is with Wilder and Helenius now fighting for the number one spot for the WBC heavyweight title; Fury will either vacate or have to do something quickly. Still, as we have seen before, Fury is less interested in belts, as he is proud to go by the moniker of the lineal champion, something he basically made popular.
In short, why do some fans hate Fury? He functions as a politician. In theory, a politician should represent our interests, but often they represent their own interest and just say stuff. Fury is in one of the most interesting divisions but is unfiltered and out, for one thing, being the best of his era. His means to getting there, whatever it takes. Though many fighters are like this, Fury's demeanor, not sugarcoating things, has been such a stretch from other fighters it has created a disconnect. The problem for those fight fans is Fury is just a lot better than all the modern heavyweights of his era.
The only one with a reasonable claim is Usyk, but fears of his size linger in my head. Regardless, it is interesting seeing how one of the five best fighters in the world has a subsection of hardcore fight fans who have turned on him, despite a few major achievements from the opposite corner. The big thing now is we wait and see if Fury will fight Chisora. I wrote about Chisora a while back as he is a fun, British folk hero, but largely outgunned by Fury, especially at this point in his career. The fight would be more about the stuff they say than the actual fight.
Yet, Fury is at the point of just being a celebrity. This year has been a victory lap, defeating an unmatched Dillian Whyte, and if he returns on December 3rd, facing another opponent who will more than likely lose. I think Fury doesn't hide his intentions; whereas others might go out of their way to sell you something, he is so straightforward it hurts him at times. Nonetheless, charting the end of the career of Tyson Fury is truly how I feel a lot of hardcore fight fans feel about boxing in the year 2022.