Boxing needs characters like Tyson Fury
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