The Comeback of the Century: Fury Rises

Don’t you love an underdog?

Tyson Fury was a big, fat underdog when he challenged the longest reigning heavyweight champion on his fighting turf in Germany in November 2015. Wladimir ‘Dr Steelhammer’ Klitschko reigned supreme for over 12 years, methodically and predictably beating down opponent after opponent in an efficient fashion that could only be enjoyable and sellable to a German audience, not surprisingly his biggest market.

What could be more sweet to a fan of the sweet science, than seeing a giant gypsy dance and flick that jab like Muhammed Ali, bob and weave with hands behind the back like Roy Jones, and ultimately dethrone a longstanding heavyweight champion like, well, like no-one else before him?

Dear reader. I will be relating to you what could be more sweet in this little ditty…

Tyson Fury flew off the rails after this beautiful, balletic win over Dr Steelhammer. Bloated with beer, reaching a staggering 28 stone; chockful of cocaine, partying with a bad crowd; spiralling down and out, plagued by suicidal thoughts and behaviours.

He metaphorically, and literally, drove 100mph toward a bridge, so little did he care whether he lived or died.

But then, from rock bottom, Fury rises.

He pumped the brakes, as an inner voice told him to stop: you have family to care for, a wife and four children – don’t do it!

He pumped the brakes, and he turned his life around.

Fury was so fat and unfit he could barely bend over to tie his running shoes, yet still, lace them up he did, and hit the road to recovery, again literally and metaphorically. He didn’t get far at first, and must have thought of giving up immediately, yet he persevered. After losing the first few stone, he could be seen hitting the pads and sparring, shaped like a buddha but still shimmying like a slimmer man.

Tyson Fury and Deontay “Bronze Bomber” Wilder traded good humoured jabs on social media at that time; Fury’s claims he was making a comeback dismissed by Wilder, who egged on the elephantine Fury to come at him.

Boxing is only partly a competition to physically incapacitate your opponent. It is, at its deepest level, a dramatic representation of humans individually fighting through adversity.

There are few boxers without sob stories. Why they are sob stories worth telling is that boxers – great boxers – don’t sit around and sob about their circumstances. They stand up and they fight.

And so it was. Tyson “Gypsy King” Fury and Deontay “Bronze Bomber” Wilder fought in December 2018 for a version of the heavyweight title. Out of 40 fights, only one time had Wilder not knocked out his opponent. He arguably has the greatest one-punch power of any heavyweight boxer in the history of the sport. He wields the sort of freakish power that just ends fights, at any point, with either hand. Like Wilder said after chopping down Luis Ortiz in their rematch: “These guys have to be perfect for 12 rounds, I only need to be perfect for 2 seconds.”

After two warm-up fights, Fury stepped up against boxing’s biggest boogie man – whom Anthony Joshua notably hadn’t stepped up to face – and boy did he perform. Dancing, bobbing, weaving, feinting, showboating; arms behind his back, tongue out, baiting, making Wilder miss, expertly countering. It was an out-and-out boxing lesson.

Round 9, Wilder worked out Fury’s rhythm for a split-second – all he needs – and interrupted it with a shot to the top of the head. Fury went down, not hurt, not fazed; rose and fought on, returning to his rhythm and winning the next two rounds convincingly.

Then, Round 12, the most memorable round, the round we will all remember and recount, is where the magic happened. Round 12, the final round. Within living memory, championship fights were fought for 15 rounds. Muhammed Ali fought a similar underdog fight, returning from a three-year enforced lay-off for refusing to be drafted into the US Armed Forces because he “ain’t got no quarrel with them Vietcong.” He fought valiantly against the wrecking-ball that was Joe Frazier, and in the last round ate a left-hook which would have rendered most unconscious.

Watch that fecking blow. Ordinary human beings, after being laid out on their back, after fighting 14 hard rounds, after a three-year lay-off, don’t arise immediately and finish the last two minutes of the fight on their feet still throwing. It is testament to the inhuman ability of some humans to persevere. Ali had an indomitable will, laser focus and always retained his intention of making this comeback. He wasn’t supposed to get up, but he did, and he fought on bravely to lose ‘The Fight of the Century’.

Final round of our century’s fight, our generation’s great heavyweight throw-down, and Fury’s flown out of reach on the scorecards. Wilder needs a knockout.

Ding! Ding! Ding!

The round begins, settling back into the family rhythm. Bam-BAM! Fury lands a right. Wilder responds immediately, cracking him in the side of the head with a right, sending Fury towards the canvas, but before he gets there, a vicious left-hook whips into his jaw and sends him there that bit faster. Fury’s big fat gypsy cranium crashes off the canvas.

Like Ali in The Fight of the Century, Fury was cracked by a massive puncher, at the start of the last round, after a long lay-off; he fell flat on his back. His eyes were closed. Wilder shimmies off, pouting and posturing; but it’s not over until the fat gypsy sings. Wilder pout gives way to disbelief as he side-glances Fury, whose eyes open to the bright lights; he rises when he shouldn’t, like Ali before him, to stand and fight when most would have remained in oblivion. Fury rises. The ref calls time in – he’s cracked again! He should fold, but he holds, he circles, he dips, he puts his hands behind his back, baiting the wrecking-ball – he cracks him back! Turns him onto the ropes, lands a combination!

The fight draws to a close with Fury triumphantly raising his arms, whilst Wilders’ hang by his sides, dejected and defeated by the better boxer, an Ali-level superhuman. Unbelievable scenes of heavyweight drama the likes of which we haven’t been blessed by in many, many, many a year.

No boxing commentator or sane person argued that Wilder won that fight, or even deserved the decision – a draw. Fury, in his own words, was robbed of the greatest comeback in boxing history. It was at least on a par with Ali’s, only he both got up and won the fight.

After the burning blatancy of the boxing judges’ corruption cooled down for me, the performance became something greater than its result: it was Fury’s ode to bravery and boxing prowess, to the endurance and tenacity of the human spirit, despite all that went before, defying and defeating the odds which once seemed stacked against him. Indeed, a dramatic representation of humans becoming superhuman, our generation’s fight of the century: ‘The Comeback of the Century: Fury Rises’.

This week, though, this fight is none of those things, just a prelude to the Fury v Wilder rematch.

Will Wilder land another wrecking-ball right-hand? If he can, does Fury defy the odds again, to rise again, and to defeat the boogie-man? If he can’t, will Fury risk trying to out-point the beast, knowing that a corrupt call may be on the cards? Or will Fury do what he is saying he will do: take the decision our of the judges hands and knock him out?

This Saturday, February 22nd, we will find out.

I’d like to know who you fancy in the fight.

My money’s on Fury.

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