In a bout no one could have foreseen or predicted, this Saturday night boxing fans shall witness Tyson Fury attempt to maintain his lofty world ranking against the dangerous fringe contender Alexander Ustinov. The collapse of the Dereck Chisora rematch renders any discussion of him, or Fury’s attitude to him a moot point. What fight fans need to consider is what this bout has the potential to tell us about Fury’s current standing in the division, and whether or not it shall serve as a good indicator of Fury’s ability to mentally reign himself in after massive disappointment.
Whether loved or loathed the Mancunian giant inspires opinion among all those who watch him fight, or even just hear him speak. Many including this author see massive potential on a world level in Tyson Fury; however, large bastions of boxing’s faithful will be very quick to arrogantly dismiss him as an overblown hype job. The polarizing views fans have about Tyson Fury are not quite as easy to understand as one might think.
Fury occupies something of a unique category in that, unlike most prize fighters, a great deal of the disrespect and criticism hurled at him has nothing to do with his fistic ability. The truth is Tyson Fury is hated, or seen below world level, for two reasons. Firstly there is still a reluctance among many fans to simply forgive and forget that image of the; lumbering, oafish undisciplined heavyweight Fury used to be. The fighter who; got drunk before bouts, turned up out of shape, brawled as though in a bar rather than a ring and simply fouled and whacked away at smaller foes to get his victories.
The viral video of Fury punching himself in the face encapsulates perfectly this period of Fury’s career. Watching him then why should anyone not have believed that he was a highlight reel knockout waiting to happen? What was missed in all of this though were the facts that no matter how hard Fury was hit he always showed tremendous heart and that unlike nearly all of his contemporary prospects he was matched competitively almost from day one. Fury fought an opponent sporting a 21-3 record in only his second professional bout, he fought for the English title against the experienced John McDermott in only his eighth and he was happy to test his mettle against several unbeaten heavyweights (including the heavy favourite Dereck Chisora in 2011). When the excellent and revered trainer of Steve Cunningham, Nazim Richardson, joked that ‘Tyson will do our punching for us’ before Fury’s bout with Steve Cunningham, the Fury he was talking about no longer exists. Fury has evolved and improved, and I think many fans have refused to acknowledge it.
Fury’s best attributes have always been those a fighter can’t learn, but rather must be born with. He’s naturally tough, possesses a huge frame and is surprisingly nimble for so large a boxer. Add to that his excellent punch output, powers of recovery and ability to fight inside and you have a genuine world title contender on the loose. When Fury signed to fight David Haye last year the boxing world collectively agreed that there was a comedic car wreck KO waiting for Tyson around the corner. If Steve Cunningham can put him down Haye will murder him, so the logic went. It did seem in the immediate stages that Fury might actually have been cashing out by Haye, sacrificed by his handlers for a retirement payday. However, as the two bouts (both eventually cancelled) drew near, and Tyson’s dedication and confidence were on display, it stopped seeming that way. The Cunningham knockdown has hung over Tyson’s head for too long now. There’s nothing shocking about a former cruiserweight champion, in top shape putting a heavyweight down if he’s landing one of the hardest punches he’s ever thrown right flush on the chin of an opponent with his hands down and his face stuck out. Just because Fury has been wobbled doesn’t mean he can’t take a punch.
Tyson Fury should beat Alexander Ustinov on Saturday and he should do it convincingly. If he doesn’t grave questions must surface about his future. What this bout is really going to show us is how Fury can handle mental adversity. Right now the painful memories of losing his PPV dream date with Haye will be right at the forefront of his mind. He’s dealing with yet more financial losses, a third consecutive pullout, a late change of opponent and the strategy which goes with it, as well as the possibility of losing his license with a heavy fine (in this author’s view unfairly, it’s not like he bit off Chisora’s ear?). All of this will be preying on his mind. He will be a frustrated, pumped up, fighter come Saturday night and self control is essential if he is to ever win a world title. If Fury holds it all together, and doesn’t look to simply take his anger out on the giant Belarusian then he should win. This author hopes he does, because for all of his flaws Fury is still a 6ft 7 confident brash undefeated heavyweight who can fight on the inside. In my estimation that’s one opponent I’d pay to see in Germany against the long reigning Wladimir Klitschko. It’s up to him.