Britain braces for polarising hero
LONDON — Britain, a country renowned for loving gallant losers, must now learn to live with the most polarising hero in its sporting history.
This nation’s first opportunity to come to affectionate terms with Tyson Fury will present itself when he defends all the world heavyweight titles he won in such unexpected, unorthodox and, for many, unbelievable style on an unforgettable Saturday night against the man who had reigned supreme over heavyweight boxing for a decade.
Wladimir Klitschko will invoke the rematch clause in their contract and make a bid to regain his WBA, IBF, WBO, IBO and Ring Magazine belts.
Whenever and wherever that happens — be it in Germany next April or at Wembley or Old Trafford in May — it is likely to end in another bamboozled failure against the Manchester giant who drove him to distraction and defeat in Dusseldorf and who recorded a unanimous points decision.
Fury could not care less if he has to return to Germany to do it all over again. Nor need he. The scale of the upset with which he has shocked the world — the biggest since Mike Tyson was struck down by James Buster Douglas — was elevated by his achievement taking place in Klitschko’s adopted homeland.
Unless Klitschko can solve the puzzle of the Gypsy King — which looks beyond even this chess player’s powers — a second victory over this iconic figure will cement Fury’s place in history.
Already, he has delivered an unforgettable night for those who can say we were there.
Already, he is not only the eighth British heavyweight to become world champion but the first member of the travelling community to do so. A legacy in progress. By the time they meet again Klitschko will have turned 40, too old to improve or change the style which had been so effective for so long. Fury will still be 27, further emboldened by yet more of that outrageous self-confidence and his prowess enhanced by this spectacular success.
The manner in which he wears the crown will affect how quickly the British public take him to their hearts. The stunts, the antics and the provocative opinions were outspokenly expressed in order to sell the fight on pay-tv back home.
Britain needs to see more of the nice guy behind the Batman mask and he offered to everyone a glimpse of that persona in his hour of triumph.
Fury gave respect to Klitschko: “If I can be half as great a champion as Wladimir I will be very happy.”
He was at first tearful, then proud but also humble in victory: “It is an honour for me to have beaten this man, to be sitting here with all these belts, to have joined the list of British world champions, to become the first heavyweight champion of Irish heritage, to be the first traveller to win this title.”
Fury had goaded Klitschko with his antics and threats to pull out of the greatest night of his life and some of his statements had offended many of his own countrymen.
He even kept waiting the 55,000 gathering in Dusseldorf’s roofed-in football stadium — veteran rocker Rod Stewart and his cameo curtain-raiser included — by insisting that the champion with the second most consecutive defences in ring history re-wrapped his hands under supervision by one of his team. But as it transpired that was all part of the psychology before the physical display of astonishing agility by such a huge human being.
Walk the walk after talking the talk? Fury, all 6ft 9in of him, danced the dance. He had said he would confuse and bewilder the seemingly invincible Klitschko. Few could quite believe him. There was nothing in his form line, albeit that he was unbeaten, to suggest he could ascend to elite world level. Yet he delivered on that promise. Big time.
So remarkably light was he on his feet that it is not an exaggeration to say that while he is still on the foothills of ever emulating The Greatest ever, his speed and movement were Ali-esque.
So was the impudence. When he was repeatedly warned by American referee Tony Weeks for punching the back of his opponent’s head — eventually having a point deducted which might have proved costly had the fight been really close — he playfully patted Klitschko on the backside.
He also risked putting his own hands behind his back at one point, to emphasise how hard it was for his opponent to land punches. Not that it was easy for Fury to connect, so practised is Klitschko in his own defence. But the cuts and swelling to Klitschko’s left cheek and right eye bore their own testimony as to who deserved to win this fight.
The manner of Fury’s victory is as good for the hardest game at large as it is for British boxing, which now boasts no fewer than 11 world champions in what is promising to become a golden age.
Another of Fury’s largely undetected human qualities is his loyalty and Mick Hennessy, the manager to whom he remained faithful through the hard times despite siren calls from bigger names, is right when he says: “The world now has a young, fresh, exciting, brash heavyweight champion who is so unpredictable that not even I know what he is going to do next.”
Nor did Klitschko. Fury raced across the ring at the first bell to prove he was more than ready for what the Ukrainian had called his “welcome to big-time boxing”. Then he moved and jabbed and at times taunted Klitschko, who would admit: “I couldn’t land my left jab or my heavy right hand, which are my biggest weapons”.
Had Fury driven him to the verge of retirement? Klitschko said: “We have lost the battle but not the fighter. That fighter is still in me. Do I want the rematch? Yes. That’s why it is in my contract. Defeat is a learning process and I will digest this lesson and come back better.”
His elder brother Vitali, himself a formidable heavyweight champion before retiring into Ukraine politics, confirmed: “This was not the real Wladimir. Partly that was because of Fury and congratulations to him on this performance. But my brother will want to show his true self in the rematch.”
The part played by his uncle-cum-trainer cannot be overstated. Not only did Peter Fury somehow bring his naughty nephew to battle leaner, quicker, faster and stronger than ever before but he devised a brilliant game plan. Fury’s victory was a triumph for ingenuity, imagination and daring to be different.
Since, despite his sometimes lurid outbursts during the build-up, there was no gloating by Fury after the event, England should stand ready to salute him.
As a non-drinker now, he plans no immediate celebrations.
He was overjoyed when his wife Paris arrived to tell him she was expecting: “We’re pregnant. We’ve been trying for our third child for two years. My celebration will be with the family on December 25.”
Happy Christmas, champ. You deserve it. — dailymail.co.uk
Tyson Fury goes for the jugular against Wladimir Klitschko