Tyson Fury Didn’t Lose – He Just Returned to Underperforming Again

By Jason Peck - 11/06/2023 - Comments

Want to see boxing brilliance? Watch Tyson Fury flatten long-time champ Deontay Wilder in their acclaimed trilogy. Watch him tear through his WBC challengers and behold the moment he effortlessly avoids a barrage of blows from Tom Schwartz with an almost Ali-ish grace.

That’s the Fury his post-Wilder fans have come to expect. The rest of us, we watched the first half of his career from the moment of his humble debut. And man – his rise to the top was far from graceful.

I’m talking about the Tyson Fury who punched himself in the face against the unheralded Lee Swaby. The Fury who won a far more questionable decision against the journeyman John McDermott. And most notably, the Fury who nearly got knocked out cold by Steve Cunningham, a former cruiserweight not particularly known for his power.

In the decades I’ve been following boxing, I’ve seen a lot of prospects rise through the ranks. Guys like Amir Khan, Shakur Stevenson, Vasyl Lomachenko and Anthony Joshua burst on the scene and wasted no time establishing themselves against far more experienced opposition and former champions – it’s clear from early on that some prospects are destined for the championship.

And then there was Tyson Fury – undefeated, until the moment he would actually face a threat.

A fight with former champion David Haye was planned in 2013 until Haye dropped out due to injuries; oddsmakers had Fury as a heavy underdog. Even when Fury finally earned a title fight against Wladimir Klitschko, he was still regarded as something of a joke. “Tyson Fury?!?” contender Shannon Briggs shouted at Klitschko when the fight was announced. “Are you kidding me??” The would be an easy night for Klitschko.

And then Fury took his title.


In the history of upsets, Fury’s 2015 victory makes his near-loss against Ngannou look downright predictable. If someone had bet me ten years ago that Fury would hold the lineal title for the better part of a decade while Anthony Joshua would implode, I’d have lost all my money. The modern-day Tyson Fury does things his younger self could only dream of.

In the week since the Francis Ngannou fight, I don’t pretend to know what happened behind the scenes. Maybe Fury thought that challenging an MMA fighter meant an easy payday, like Floyd Mayweather before him. Maybe Ngannou’s open workout with Mike Tyson was so lackluster that Fury stopped training at all. The why isn’t nearly so important at the end result.

Teddy Atlas came out with a scorecard I largely agree with. I had Fury winning the first two rounds until the infamous knockdown in the third. I had Fury picking up rounds afterward by controlling the fight with his jab. Nothing exciting, but it worked. There was a round or two that was tough to score, but I think Ngannou finished strong.

I also think the “controversy” over the decision comes from less than objective judging. People were expecting the dominant version of Tyson Fury to make an appearance. They had never seen the underperforming Fury of yesterday.

In scoring boxing, you cannot take the identity of the fighters into account, nor their previous records, nor the preconceived expectations. The average viewer gave more value to a punch landed by heavy underdog Ngannou because by all rights he should never land against the man who has held the lineal heavyweight title since the Obama administration. When Fury controlled the action over his underdog opponent, no one noticed. So what? He’s the champ – he’s supposed to dominate. Judges must be much more objective.

I think 96-93 was a fair score, all things considered. If someone wants to quibble over a round or two, that’s fine. Ngannou was in it to win, even for the rounds he lost. Most notably, Ngannou won his points with aggression. Fury won his with ring generalship, which isn’t nearly so exciting to watch.

Now no one knows what’s coming up. Is Fury’s fight with Oleksandr Usyk still on? Can Fury fight through the damage he sustained against Ngannou? I don’t know what version of Fury to expect, but this division just got a lot more interesting.