FOL­LOW THE LEADER

El­liot Worsell in­ves­ti­gates how Tyson Fury has bucked the trend of his fight­ing roots

Boxing News - - Contents -

In­ves­ti­gat­ing how Tyson Fury has in­spired fel­low Trav­eller fight­ers

TYSON FURY is many things to many peo­ple. When look­ing in the mir­ror, he is The Gypsy King. He is The Mack. He is Big Poppa. He is the for­mer un­de­feated world heavy­weight cham­pion. He is the cur­rent lin­eal heavy­weight cham­pion. In the eyes of Deon­tay Wilder, mean­while, the so-called “dosser” he frus­trated and held to a draw on De­cem­ber 1, he is a night­mare, all lan­guid pos­ture, lat­eral move­ment and long limbs. And Wladimir Kl­itschko, if asked, would likely say the same.

Then you have his crit­ics. Ac­cord­ing to them, Tyson Fury is an un­ruly loud­mouth whose che­quered past over­shad­ows an other­wise re­mark­able re­turn. He is charis­matic but flawed. To quote Sa­muel John­son, he makes a beast of him­self to get rid of the pain of be­ing a man.

Yet, for many, Tyson Fury, whether beast or man, is the most un­likely of role mod­els. His 2015 win over Wladimir Kl­itschko was one small step for the heavy­weight divi­sion, and one gi­ant leap for trav­ellers, while this year’s draw with Wilder was lauded as a vic­tory for any­one bat­tling men­tal health is­sues, obe­sity or sim­ply strug­gling to over­come ad­ver­sity.

“He’s a mas­sive in­spi­ra­tion,” said 22-yearold heavy­weight prospect and fel­low trav­eller Nathan Gor­man. “When you look at what he has achieved, not just in the ring but out of the ring, he’s a role model for many peo­ple. He over­came men­tal health is­sues and de­pres­sion and that is an amaz­ing achieve­ment. In fact, I re­mem­ber him walk­ing into the gym not only ago weigh­ing 30 stone. He said to me, ‘I’m go­ing to come back and I’m go­ing to beat Deon­tay Wilder.’ I thought not a chance in hell, to be fair. But look what he did. He lost 10 stone, had two come­back fights and, in my opin­ion, beat Wilder and should be the WBC heavy­weight cham­pion.”

Trav­eller Isaac Lowe, a Bri­tish, Com­mon­wealth and Euro­pean feath­er­weight cham­pion, is of­ten seen ac­com­pa­ny­ing Fury on fight night. The 24-year-old doesn’t ex­actly rub shoul­ders with the gypsy gi­ant – the lit­tle-and-large pair are sep­a­rated by over a foot in height – but he cer­tainly fol­lows his lead.

“Be­ing around some­one who is an elite-level fighter ob­vi­ously helps a lot,” said Lowe, 16-0-3 (6). “The main thing he teaches you is the im­por­tance of men­tal strength and be­ing calm on the big oc­ca­sions. Those are life tools.”

The emer­gence of Fury, 27-0-1 (19), as a role model for the trav­eller com­mu­nity is as timely as it is im­por­tant. In stick­ing it out as a pro for 10 years, and re­bound­ing from the brink of re­tire­ment, he has shown stay­ing power young trav­eller box­ers have his­tor­i­cally seemed to lack when turn­ing pro, and now earns the kind of money that goes to show box­ing is a vi­able ca­reer op­tion if a trav­eller is pre­pared to go that ex­tra mile.

“If you go to any school­boy cham­pi­onship or ABA fi­nals in the last 10 years, 80 per cent of the box­ers will be trav­eller kids in fi­nals and box­ing each other,” said Lowe. “Sadly, they get to the age of 16 or 17 and go to work or worry about dif­fer­ent sides of life.

“They get the urge to go to work. Trav­eller kids fend for them­selves. We go to work as soon as we can. We then get money and we’re in­tro­duced to the night­club life.

“I think now they’ll see the rest of us do­ing well and tak­ing our suc­cess into the pro game and it will give them the con­fi­dence to stick with it and look at box­ing as a ca­reer. Over the next few years you’ll see a lot more com­ing through the ranks and a lot more trav­eller world cham­pi­ons.”

In many ways, the Tyson Fury story serves as a mi­cro­cosm of the trav­eller boxer story. Far from plain sail­ing, Fury has bat­tled dis­trac­tions, con­tro­versy, un­der­gone a sab­bat­i­cal, had trou­ble with the au­thor­i­ties and al­ways claimed to be a fight­ing man ca­pa­ble of beat­ing the rest ir­re­spec­tive of the shape – both phys­i­cal and ➤

men­tal – in which he finds him­self. Cru­cial to the crown­ing of him as a role model, though, is this: whereas plenty of trav­eller am­a­teur box­ers over the years have taken time off never to re­turn, Fury did – and then some.

“Trav­eller kids usu­ally marry young and make their own way and start a fam­ily, or they just go off the boil and don’t want to do it any­more,” said Gor­man, 14-0 (11). “But Tyson and Billy Joe [Saun­ders] and all the other lads have shown these young am­a­teurs that it can be done. If you want it badly enough, you’ll get your­self in the gym ev­ery day, like me and Tommy Fury [Tyson’s younger brother], and you’ll try and per­fect your craft.”

Tommy Fury, Tyson’s younger brother, is per­cep­tive enough, even at the ten­der age of 19, to ac­cept he wouldn’t be mak­ing his pro­fes­sional de­but this Satur­day [De­cem­ber 22] if it wasn’t for the im­pact of the ‘Gypsy King’.

“I wouldn’t be sit­ting here talk­ing to you with­out Tyson,” he con­ceded. “I thank him very much be­cause Tyson’s suc­cess has paved the way for me, opened doors for me and I ap­pre­ci­ate it.

“There’s go­ing to be a lot of at­ten­tion be­cause of my sur­name. When you in­vite some­one down to the gym they want to test them­selves against me purely be­cause of my last name. Ev­ery­body watch­ing me will be think­ing, ‘Okay, let’s see how good he re­ally is.’ It’s all pres­sure. But I’ve learned to live with it and I’m not putting any pres­sure on my­self or think­ing I need to live up to Tyson’s name or Hughie’s [Fury, Tyson’s cousin] name. If I fin­ish my ca­reer and know I gave it my best shot, I’ll be happy.”

Back when young Thomas Kin­don was pre­par­ing for the CYP (Clubs for Young Peo­ple) Cham­pi­onships in 2012, the trav­eller box­ing land­scape was dif­fer­ent. Tyson Fury had yet to win a Euro­pean ti­tle, let alone the main prize, Billy Joe Saun­ders was a Com­mon­wealth cham­pion, and Saun­ders’ his­toric world ti­tle fight with Andy Lee, a fel­low trav­eller, wouldn’t take place un­til 2015. Kin­don was 17, with de­signs on turn­ing pro, but strug­gled to pin­point too many ex­am­ples of fel­low trav­ellers go­ing all the way.

“You don’t see many good trav­eller boys in the pros,” he said. “It’s strange, too, be­cause you see more ti­tles be­long to trav­ellers than non-trav­ellers in the am­a­teur game. Maybe they want it more. But when it comes to the pros, they don’t seem to go for it as much. The thing with trav­ellers is they love to party. If there’s a party hap­pen­ing, they’ll want to be there. If I’m box­ing, I won’t go out. I just won’t do it. But if I’m not box­ing, or if I’ve got a week be­fore my fight, I’ll go out, no prob­lem. You can get away with that in the am­a­teurs, but you can’t do it in the pros.

“Also,” Kin­don con­tin­ued, “you find a lot of trav­eller boys just turn­ing pro for the money and not re­ally car­ing about the sport or their ca­reer. They just want the cash. It saves them work­ing a nor­mal job. The prob­lem with that is when they go off the rails and lose, they haven’t got any­thing to fall back on. That messes a lot of them up.”

Kin­don told me he his school days ended pre­ma­turely in year nine – at the age of 14 – but said this was hardly un­com­mon in the trav­eller com­mu­nity. He be­came em­broiled in a vi­o­lent squab­ble with a teacher, one that ended with a foun­tain pen plunged into a hand and a chair wrapped around a head, and he de­cided to walk be­fore he was pushed. He took to do­ing man­ual work with his fa­ther in­stead and, though un­able to read, has never re­gret­ted the de­ci­sion.

“Each year I had about six or seven fights,” he said. “They’d just call me ‘pikey’ and it would go from there. I’m re­ally not a trou­ble­maker, but if I have to stand my ground and fight, I won’t run away, ei­ther.

“There was one boy at school who was a half­trav­eller and he was all right, and me and him used to go about to­gether, but most of the non-trav­ellers were dif­fer­ent. They’d go divvy over the small­est things and I could never un­der­stand it.”

So ex­treme was the sense of us and them, Kin­don didn’t want his younger sis­ter go­ing to sec­ondary

IT’S NOT EASY, BUT I BIT MY TONGUE AND STOOD UP FOR WHAT I WANTED”

school and be­ing ex­posed to all he had seen and heard dur­ing his ad­mit­tedly brief time at Ash Manor.

“Peo­ple would be say­ing a lot of stuff she didn’t need to know,” he said. “Sex talk and stuff like that. She doesn’t need to be hear­ing any of that at her age. It’s dif­fer­ent for us. Trav­eller boys and girls don’t talk like that in front of each other. Boys and boys will say bad things to each other, but when you’re around girls, you just don’t do it. It’s not on. You’ll ei­ther get your lips took off or you’ll find they’ve got a brother ready to fight.”

Plenty of trav­ellers con­sider them­selves fight­ing men, born and bred to ex­cel with their fists, yet the de­mands and ex­pec­ta­tions of their cul­ture – to grow up quickly, fin­ish school early, find work, marry, re­pro­duce – can some­times sab­o­tage any progress they hope to make in a sport like box­ing.

“Of course it’s hard,” said Lowe. “We all have to work and put bread on the ta­ble. But if you want some­thing you’ve got to be pa­tient and sac­ri­fice. That’s what I did. I bit my tongue, stood up for what I wanted, and hope­fully it will pay off for me. Some­times you won­der if it is go­ing to be worth do­ing it. You ask your­self, ‘Will I get the op­por­tu­ni­ties to fight on the big shows?’ But luck­ily I’ve had a few chances and have grabbed what­ever has come my way.”

Few will have it harder than young Tommy Fury, of course. As well as over­com­ing the typ­i­cal teenage temp­ta­tions, he also finds him­self both helped and hin­dered by a fa­mous fight­ing sur­name.

“There have been a lot of chances for me to go off the rails and let it get to my head,” he ad­mit­ted. “I could have been bounc­ing around Manch­ester town cen­tre go­ing, ‘Oh yeah, I’m Tyson Fury’s brother. I’m this, I’m that.’ I could have been act­ing the big boy. But any­one who knows me knows those words never leave my lips. At the end of the day, just be­cause Tyson’s good at some­thing doesn’t mean you’re go­ing to be any bet­ter. I am very lucky to be in the po­si­tion I am in and I’m not go­ing to let it slip. I’m go­ing to show ev­ery­one I de­serve to be in this po­si­tion.”

In the end, Thomas Kin­don turned pro in 2014 as a ban­tamweight, box­ing on low-key shows in Portsmouth ini­tially, and showed early prom­ise. He raced to 10-0 with lit­tle dif­fi­culty, found greater dif­fi­culty se­cur­ing spon­sor­ship and fi­nan­cial back­ing, and then, in May 2017, lost to Ash­ley Lane in what was his 11th fight. Ear­lier this year, Kin­don, still only 23, an­nounced he was re­tir­ing from box­ing. “It’s been a long 18 years’ worth of box­ing,” he wrote on his Face­book page. “I’ve got to take a dif­fer­ent route now.”

Ca­reer cut short, Kin­don is no longer close to his fight­ing weight but seem­ingly graft­ing hard, earn­ing his keep, and en­joy­ing life. Tommy Fury, on the other hand, about to turn pro at the same age Kin­don turned over, is just get­ting started.

“I’ve al­ways been around sen­si­ble and knowl­edge­able peo­ple,” he said. “I was around proper men grow­ing up. So, I’ve al­ways got time for peo­ple and I’m pre­pared to lis­ten be­cause there’s al­ways some­body who knows more than you. If I can learn from what they tell me, and take it in my stride, I’ll be more than happy to. Life is a game and the key to it is gain­ing knowl­edge. That’s what helps you go for­ward.” Tyson Fury is of­fer­ing many things to many dif­fer­ent peo­ple. But to those who need it, and those who un­der­stand his unique jour­ney bet­ter than the rest, he’s of­fer­ing knowl­edge, in­spi­ra­tion and, best of all,

a blue­print.

FURY AND SAUN­DERS HAVE SHOWN US HOW IT SHOULD BE DONE”

PROGRESS: Lowe proves his qual­ity against Ryan Walsh [be­low] Pho­tos: OCTION IM­AGES/ AN­DREW COULDRIDGE

Photo: AC­TION IM­AGES/ADREW COULDRIDGE

TRAV­ELLER: Saun­ders’ suc­cess serves as in­spi­ra­tion

TOP PROSPECT: Big things are be­ing tipped for Nathan Gor­man

Photo: AC­TION IM­AGES/LEE SMITH

TOP CLASS: their bat­tle for the WBO ti­tle

CLASS: Fury and Wilder at the end of their ԴJKW Pho­tos: OCTION IM­AGES/ AN­DREW COULDRIDGE

Photo: AC­TION IM­AGES/ED SYKES

IT’S OVER: Kin­don is now re­tired af­ter a ca­reer

PRES­SURE: Tommy Fury is de­ter­mined to make his own name

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