(A commentary from our colleague David Payne in the U.K. on the state of Tyson Fury’s heavyweight career and whose work can be found on his site www.boxingwriter.co.uk)
Its a little over 35 years since Mike Tyson threw his arms wide and shrugged his shoulders, Michael Spinks splayed out behind him like the contents of a mobile home in the wake of a hurricane. Socks and dreams cast asunder.
Thousands of miles away, in another mobile home in another world, a traveller by the name of John Fury, 6-1 with no knockouts, was contemplating the arrival of his first son. If the idyllic assumption can be indulged. Luke Tyson Fury was born a few months later, weighing about the same as one of the gloves Iron Mike wore the night he blew through Spinks and confirmed his undisputed status as the preeminent heavyweight. The naming of his son was no coincidence.
Those images from 1988, grainier in film than they are in the confines of the memories of those who bore witness, speak of a fighter at his zenith. It was a peak Tyson could only ever hope to cling to. In truth, he began his descent in the aftermath, and despite fleeting moments in the years ahead, and a physical prime as yet unutilised, he could never clamber back. From them on that dominance was only ever a promise, a fantasy. Perfection, if it exists at all, is hard to replicate or sustain. Even for Tyson.
The absence of new challengers beyond Spinks did little to encourage Tyson or those around him to focus too intently in, or out, of training camp. Riddick Bowe, Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield were not yet ready, George Foreman and Larry Holmes, too old and the latter already demolished six months earlier. As he spread those arms wide, head cocked to one side, with just 91 seconds elapsed in the first round of the biggest heavyweight title fight of the decade – what now? Is that it? Have you nobody else, seemed to be the questions he was posing.
With the revelation that the consensus King of today’s heavyweights, the fully formed, soon to be 35-year-old Tyson Fury, will fight a debutant in his next bout it is easy to contemplate how the then 21-year-old Mike Tyson of 1988 would have relished the availability of quality competition his namesake enjoys. Whether it would have kept the troubled champion on the ‘straighter’ path depends on how much you wish to indulge your heroes. To excuse the choices they did, and do, make
It is a sadness that the opportunity to unify the titles by boxing Oleksander Usyk has been missed and that the all-British clash with the flawed but capable Anthony Joshua continues to elude.
Instead Fury Is Mainly Looking To Be Paid
In Francis Ngannou, Fury faces a man with bulk and star power in the world of MMA. A man who has never boxed. His frown, physique and form in the Octagon will be as useful as Michael Spinks long socks and knee support were 35 years ago. The fight will be a farce, contested between a clumsy novice who looks intimidating on the scales and a heavyweight fighter with the ability to dumbfound experienced, world class boxers.
A fun sideshow, easier to tolerate in the busier schedule predecessors like Tyson, Ali and Joe Louis adopted and the economics of the boxing business then insisted upon. Ali had Frazier, Foreman, Norton, Liston, Patterson and a few more beyond and fought them all. For better or worse. Joe Louis would’ve relished the competition and renown of Usyk and Joshua to measure his greatness against. The best fighters of Louis era were Light-Heavyweights.
Fury suffers from no such compunction to face the best, his trilogy with Wilder may have exhausted his appetite, but added to his apparent difficulty in fighting on US soil fights appear to be getting harder to make.
Whether regret grows among the weeds of his inactivity and this latest oil funded abomination remains to be seen. As does his ability to perform. For the peak he reached in the demolition of Wilder in their trilogy bout in October 2021 will be hard to cling to.
That much Fury is likely to share with the man who’s name he was given in 1988.