Box­ing needs char­ac­ters like Tyson Fury

The Herald - Sport - - FRONT PAGE -

THE sug­ges­tion that sport has lost its real char­ac­ters is all per­vad­ing th­ese days and in most cases, it’s true. Ath­letes are me­dia trained to within an inch of their lives which, more of­ten than not, re­sults in bland­ness fol­lowed by even more bland­ness in in­ter­views and press con­fer­ences. And this is why the rise of Tyson Fury is one of the most refreshing things that I’ve seen in sport for a while.

The Brit will get his first chance at claim­ing a world ti­tle when he fights Wladimir Kl­itschko tomorrow night in Dus­sel­dorf. The Ukrainian boxer cur­rently holds the WBA, WBO, IBO and IBF world heavy­weight ti­tles and is un­beaten for 11 years but many say that his bor­ing style in­side the ring and his lack of flam­boy­ance out of it has sucked the life from the heavy­weight di­vi­sion.

Fury, the 27 year-old, 6ft 9in fighter from Greater Manch­ester, has reignited in­ter­est in the heavy­weight di­vi­sion in a way that few have ever come close to in re­cent years. He is a fas­ci­nat­ing char­ac­ter and is as ec­cen­tric as they come. Per­haps his great­est mo­ment came at one of the pro­mo­tional press con­fer­ences in Septem­ber.

Fury, dressed as Bat­man, ar­rived in a yel­low Bat­mo­bile, did a lap of the room with his cape bil­low­ing be­hind him be­fore wrestling The Joker to the ground. It was an as­ton­ish­ing se­quence of events but there can be lit­tle ar­gu­ment that it was one of the most en­ter­tain­ing press con­fer­ences of the year, a fact that Kl­itschko him­self ad­mit­ted to.

What Fury has man­aged to do, and this is eas­ier said than done, is gen­er­ate the max­i­mum amount of in­ter­est with­out cross­ing the line into ut­ter dis­re­spect which is where so many oth­ers have wan­dered. When David Haye fought Kl­itschko, he turned up at his press con­fer­ence wear­ing a T-shirt de­pict­ing the sev­ered head of Kl­itschko and his older brother, Vi­tali. Classy. When Derek Chisora was fight­ing Vi­tali, he spat wa­ter in the face of younger brother, Wladimir, who was ring­side.

But Fury has gen­er­ated more hype than Haye and Chisora com­bined with­out stoop­ing so low. Fury will an­swer ev­ery ques­tion asked of him – he does not re­sort to bravado and false machismo, rather, you feel that you get an ac­cu­rate pic­ture of who ex­actly he is and there’s some­thing heart­en­ing about this, so rare does it hap­pen.

Fury’s life story is in­trigu­ing; born three months pre­ma­ture and weigh­ing just one pound, his par­ents named him Tyson af­ter Mike Tyson, in the hope that he was enough of a fighter to sur­vive. Pull through he did and Fury main­tains that his hard­est fight ever was when he was a new­born baby. The Man­cu­nian was born into a fam­ily of box­ers; his fa­ther was a pro­fes­sional boxer and he is a cousin of WBO mid­dleweight cham­pion Andy Lee and heavy­weight Hughie Fury. Yet per­haps the most in­ter­est­ing as­pect of Fury’s up­bring­ing is that he was born into the trav­el­ling com­mu­nity and main­tains close links to them to this day. The boxer was of­fered the use of a lux­ury spa re­sort in which to hold his prepa­ra­tion camp for this fight but de­clined it, pre­fer­ring to re­side in a car­a­van in the mid­dle of nowhere to make sure he got back to ba­sics. His trainer, who is also his un­cle, Peter Fury, ex­plained this de­ci­sion to pre­pare in ut­ter sparse­ness as a ne­ces­sity to make sure that he re­tains the req­ui­site hunger. “We don’t want him hav­ing lux­u­ries like cen­tral heat­ing,” he said.

At the pre-fight press con­fer­ence ear­lier this week, Fury ad­mit­ted to feel­ing more ner­vous than ever prior to pre­dict­ing that his vic­tory over Kl­itschko will be one of the eas­i­est of his ca­reer. Fury does not al­ways give smart an­swers though – also this week he claimed that dop­ing was rife in box­ing and so the so­lu­tion was to le­galise it com­pletely. While this is a fool­ish and ig­no­rant sug­ges­tion, it re­mains refreshing to hear an ath­lete give un­cen­sored and un­ex­pur­gated re­sponses to ques­tions.

The vast ma­jor­ity of ath­letes give an­swers that are of so lit­tle value to any­one that the ques­tioner could have writ­ten them be­fore the in­ter­vie­wee opened their mouth.

The prime ex­am­ple of this is last year’s in­ter­view with NFL run­ning back Arian Foster, who re­peated the line, “I’m just out here try­ing to be the best team­mate I can be,” eleven times in a 90 sec­ond in­ter­view. Foster is a phi­los­o­phy graduate and an af­ter-hours poet yet felt the best op­tion was to re­peat this an­o­dyne state­ment. That bland­ness is now the op­tion cho­sen by many ath­letes is not only te­dious, it is sad.

Th­ese are men and women who have a unique per­spec­tive on things yet choose not to share it. Love him or hate him, Fury has proven that world-class sport can be com­bined with charisma and per­son­al­ity.

He may be a long shot to de­feat Kl­itschko tomorrow but for the sake of ev­ery sports fan, lets hope he is around for many years to come.

TOMORROW Hugh MacDonald

Fury ar­rived in a yel­low Bat­mo­bile, did a lap of the room with his cape bil­low­ing be­hind him be­fore wrestling The Joker to the ground

KNOCK­OUT CHARM: Tyson Fury has reignited in­ter­est in box­ing’s heavy­weight di­vi­sion

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