Ok, I’ll admit it; I didn’t give Tyson Fury much of a chance of beating Wladimir Klitschko. Not many others did to be honest against a man who has 65 professional wins, holds three of the four main titles and who, alongside his older brother, has dominated heavyweight boxing for nigh-on 15 years. Plus the bout was in Klitschko’s adopted backyard – Dusseldorf – where he beat David Haye in 2009. Yes Fury was unbeaten, but this was boxing with the big boys on the world stage; Klitschko hadn’t been beaten for 11 years. Fury didn’t have a cat in hell’s chance.
Yet win he did and the gobby Mancunian (who has some frankly Neanderthal views on women and homosexuality, amongst others) triumphed in some style, winning on all three judges’ scorecards after 12 rounds. Fury seemed composed, keeping his older and less mobile opponent on the move and using his superior reach and quicker reactions effectively.
Klitschko seemed strangely subdued, looking almost scared to throw punches. He stalked his opponent around the ring for most of the night, but when he got within range he seemed reluctant to unleash his heavy right hand and when he did, he couldn’t land with any meaningful blows. Fury’s ability to change stances between orthodox and southpaw also seemed to trouble the Ukranian. Moreover Fury’s enormous stature (6 foot 8 inches) meant that Klitschko couldn’t bully the Englishman like he normally would.
Admittedly, the fight was not a classic. Whilst Fury wobbled the champion with a few shots, there were precious few edge-of-your-seat moments. When it was clear in the later rounds that Klitschko required a knockout he upped the tempo but Fury negotiated the final stages like an experienced old pro to such an extent that one would have thought that Klitschko was the challenger and Fury the title incumbent.
Yet, despite the marvellous victory, I don’t feel Fury is quite getting the recognition he perhaps deserves. This is possibly due to his divisive personality, but whatever one thinks of him as a person, to beat a champion of Klitschko’s stature in his own backyard is nothing short of remarkable.
It’s easy to classify Fury as just another one of boxing’s trash-talking wannabes – all his outspoken views and stunts actually distract everyone from the matter in hand – namely a boxing match. Maybe this is how Fury wants it and maybe Klitschko got sucked in to thinking that he was a bit of a joker and got a bit complacent in training. At 39 years of age and with however many millions in the bank, it’s probably quite difficult for Klitschko to motivate himself to get up for a 6am run every morning.
However he might like to portray himself, Fury is a boxer with serious talent. He moves well for a man of his size, his defence is pretty tight and he can change stance at will which makes him an awkward opponent. One doesn’t go 25 fights unbeaten without having a bit of ability. Despite appearances he also seems to have a fairly cool head on him. Last year he dispatched Dereck Chisora (a world-title challenger lest we forget) for the second time with a performance of staggering efficiency. It wasn’t necessarily pretty to watch but it was mighty impressive.
Fury is heading what is fast becoming an electrifying time for British boxing. There is definitely a changing of the guard as stalwarts like Carl Froch and Ricky Burns are being replaced by a younger, more exciting generation. Anthony Crolla, James DeGale, Kell Brook, Lee Selby, Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg (the last two will put their respective super-bantamweight titles on the line for a domestic super-fight next year) are all world champions. Add to that Anthony Joshua and Billy Joe Saunders and established stars such as Amir Khan, Tony Bellew and David Haye (who announced his return to the sport last week) and the future is genuinely bright for boxing in the British Isles.