“Reality is that which , when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”
– Philip K Dick
Tyson Fury is world champion.
The build-up was prolonged and at times, bizarre. There were lambos, batman suits and un-politically correct rants, then shenanigans with gloves, hand wraps and a spongey ring, threatened pull-outs and months of back-and-forth analysis, but at the end of it all Tyson Fury actually beat Wladimir Klitschko. He beat him hands down.
The enthralling spectacle that unravelled over 12, fairly strange rounds in Dusseldorf at the weekend was not some sort of elaborate hoax. It really happened. An era was ended and a new one begun.
For ten years Wladimir ruled stiffly, like an imperious Olympic fencer, spearing smaller men with the jab then smothering them with his bulk when they charged in, leaning-on and tiring them out. After several rounds of this royal treatment most were ready for a mercy killing and only at that point, when he sensed their potential threat had been expunged, would he step in with the right hand and finish them. It was risk-averse and never very pretty on the eye, but it always worked.
Did he ever have a plan B? We don’t know. He never needed it.
There were a significant minority who felt the height and reach advantage the enormous Lancastrian held over Wlad would be significant. So it proved. Yet there was more to Tyson’s victory than that. Mariusz Wach had size over Klitschko in 2012, but was too much of a plodder to capitalise. Tyson Luke Fury brought speed. At 6ft 9 and 18 ½ stone, he brought speed.
Fury said he would be too fast for his near 40 year old opponent and the prophecy came true. On the night he bristled with energy, all manic ticks and body movement. His head twitched around like a man with neck spasms, his feet danced in and out, round and round. Fury may not be balletic like a peak Ali or cute like Money May, but he sure moves well for a giant.
Wlad was unable to employ the jab-and-grab that worked on all the Mormecks and Leapais and Pianetas. He couldn’t tire Fury out and because he couldn’t do that, he never felt comfortable enough to commit himself. Tyson retained his threat potential until the end, meaning Wlad kept that right-hand pistol in its holster.
After round 10 on the Sky commentary, Carl Froch remarked, “Klitschko is boxing like he’s gun-shy.” But hasn’t he always done? Since Brewster and Sanders? Wasn’t that the whole basis of the strategy Emmanuel Steward devised for him? Not to tee off unless in a position of security?
Fury still has critics. It is impossible to escape them in the modern world, but Uncle Peter Fury, who deserves huge credit, read Klitschko perfectly and devised a beautiful strategy. His 27 year old nephew executed it with discipline and flair. Make no bones about that. Who puts their hands behind their back and waves their chin at Klitschko? Who smiles at him and talks to him throughout the fight? Who dares pat him on the arse? The impression from the very early rounds was that impudent young Tyson had the old guy’s number. The Furies said they would do it. And they did.
What now for both fighters? The deposed king has said he will exercise his right to a rematch, an option to which he is entitled. Those close to him should perhaps wait for the wounds to heal and the ego to unbruise and have a quiet word. There is very little point.
Wladimir is a wealthy man with a beautiful wife and now a baby. He will forever be remembered as one of the longest serving champs of all time. Ending a ten year reign at the age of 39 by losing to an undefeated challenger 12 years his junior will not look bad in retrospect. There will always be those who will claim he would have won the fight if it had been held five years ago.
But another defeat would stain his legacy, particularly if Fury enhanced his dominance and forced a stoppage. There were moments it appeared possible this time. Leaving boxing humiliated would be hard for Wlad to bear.
He will tell himself he can win the return, but what on earth can Klitschko do differently if they fight again next year? Fury won’t be any shorter, his reach won’t shrink. If Wlad wants to beat him he would have to abandon every instinct that has served him for years and get inside, but then he has never looked comfortable fighting on the inside and has even deployed tactics to avoid it. Tyson, meanwhile, can love a tear-up.
The reality is this. And it is one that most great champions have faced at the end. Klitschko met his nemesis on Saturday night.
Fury is his stylistic nightmare. He can’t bully him physically, he couldn’t control him psychologically, he can’t out-jab him. It is not a fight he can win.
For Tyson, the celebrations will be hard and long. In the post fight presser he claimed to have given up the booze. This must be a recent decision. If true it means that with Christmas approaching he will avoid the temptation to add inches to his waist and strain his liver. But if he did have a few, who could blame him? He has more than deserved that.
Its fascinating to wonder what sort of champ he will he be. There are so many paths he can follow. It’s in his hands.
People are already comparing this win to Buster Douglas’ defeat of Mike Tyson in 1990, while those with longer memories might allude to Leon Spinks dethroning 37 year old Muhammad Ali in 1978. But there are lessons to be learnt from such comparisons. Both Douglas and Spinks enjoyed their position as world champ a little too much, indulged their dark sides, went to a few too many parties, too many fancy restaurants. Both turned up for their first defences out-of-shape and lost. Neither ever won the title again.
Fury has his own dark side, we know that. The penny-a-line hacks at the Sun, Mirror and Telegraph are filling their boots on it, revelling in the opportunity for vilification. It’s what they love. We know he has flaws and we’ve seen him fight half-fit and reckless. Uncle Peter will need to rein in his lad’s natural exuberance, make sure he stays within limits. His career best performance coincided with his career best shape and that’s no coincidence. Winning the title is a one-off, all-be-it a mighty and historic one. Keeping it for a while is something else. If Tyson takes himself and his newfound status seriously he could be there long term. Many people underestimate what powerful tools his height and reach are when allied to focus and determination.
Despite the impression given by some awful, ignorant and embarrassing articles in British newspapers over the last few days, respect is due and talk of the future should be left for the new year. For now, lets enter the festive season by hailing the gypsy king – the boxing, brawling, fleet-footed, crooning, Jesus loving, oddly endearing, tabloid-arousing, travelling, family man. What a story he has. And what a shock he caused!
Tyson Fury is world champion.