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Myth, Mirth And Miracles- Fury Finished Or Unfocused?

Tyson Fury Reveals Agreed Plans for Heavyweight Division

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Myth, Mirth And Miracles- Fury Finished Or Unfocused?

Mikey Williams- Top Rank

Myth, Mirth And Miracles- Fury Finished Or Unfocused?

(A commentary from boxing historian/writer, David, Payne, on Tyson Fury’s disappointing showing Saturday night. Find David’s work at

Muhammad Ali turned 36 a few weeks before his loss to novice professional Leon Spinks. A man with as many gaps in his smile as fights on his ledger. Tired and compromised, Ali was a poorly coordinated confection of numb defiance and flickering memory by the early Spring of 1978. The shuffle, the rope-a-dope all danced and lumbered into view. No more than crowd-pleasing catchphrases from what had once been masterful soliloquies.

Spinks’ victory, following a paltry 7 wins and a draw from a little over 12 months as a professional by way of preparation, remains one of heavyweight boxing’s greatest upsets. Ali would win back the title in a rematch later that same year of course but it was a last flourish from the grand thespian and the final triumph of an unrivalled career. Forged in the embers of Ali’s gargantuan ability it revealed more about Spink’s lust for the abundance he found in the months between the two encounters than any notion the first fight was merely a blip.

The loss to a novice, one selected in the knowledge Ali was not the fighter of ‘74, let alone the pristine zenith of ‘67, stunned the world and revealed the extent of his irreversible decline. It had been a long and punishing career; decorated by wars with Frazier, Foreman and Norton to name but three of a slew of luminous nights he’d dazzled us in.

This weekend, Tyson Fury, two months on from his own 35th birthday and with 11 months of inactivity wrapped around his waist, sailed close to defeat to Francis Ngannou. A fight where most boxing betting sites had him as a 15-1 or greater favorite faced professional debutante who hadn’t fought in his original discipline of Mixed Martial Arts for almost two years, and was himself, 37 years old. The two events, Ali’s loss and Fury’s Split Decision win, are not the same.

Fury isn’t Ali.

Hear Dan Rafael and T.J. Rives give their breakdown of Fury’s shaky night in Saudi Arabia off the “Fight Freaks Unite Recap Podcast,” by clicking play below,

And yet, he does wallow in the mirth of his predecessor and sits atop the division with a slew of contenders eager to take his crown. That much is eternal in the heavyweight division. The Spinks and Ngannou fights are different in a multitude of ways but they may prove to be revelatory for both the viewing public and Fury. Certainly, as the now famous shot of a fallen Fury staring into middle distance with Ngannou looming into view, a stark realisation that all is no longer as it once was appeared writ large on Fury’s face.

Ali would retire. Albeit temporarily.

Ego and money, the twin sirens of boxing’s oft rocky shores, would tempt him to return to fight Larry Holmes in 1980. A futile exercise, Holmes would pound on his old master’s head and flanks for thirty excruciating minutes. Larry being the younger, fresher, quicker, stronger and more active fighter extracted no joy from the beating he inflicted. Ali’s demise toward the disability of his dotage was accelerated still further by another needless encounter with Trevor Berbick a year later.

When Ali trooped back to the dressing room in 1978, the courtiers and sycophants fell silent in the darkness of defeat. His verbal responses stiffened by age and accumulated damage. His light dimmed. He knew. Everyone knew but the pitiless nature of money making dragged him back.

Fury faced the questions usually preserved for defeated favourites in the ring. Pre-fight proclamations of 12-week camps placing the salve of flawed preparation excuses beyond even his extended reach. The truth of whether Fury was merely rusty, out of shape and had wildly underestimated his opponent can only be revealed in his next bout.  It would be simplistic to assume he considered this Ngannou bout a paid weight loss plan ahead of the confirmed encounter with Oleksandr Usyk.

Because amongst the mirth and merriment of Fury’s career, many birthdays have now passed. Fury is no longer the Enfant terrible of the division. He is another of the elder statesman capitalising on the last seasons of his physical prime, one that may be shortened further by the errant pastimes of his youth.

He has travelled fewer ring miles than Ali. But he may be at the penultimate stop just the same. Twenty months with only Derek Chisora and Francis Ngannou to contemplate has eroded the edges of his form and underneath these fleeting examinations of his best lays the decline the mid-thirties of fighters always brings.

Inactivity accelerates. But then, for Ali, so did busyness.

Much was changed on Saturday, but the march of time remains undefeated.

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David has been writing about boxing, sport’s oldest showgirl, for almost twenty years. Appearing as a columnist and reporter across print and digital as well as guest appearances with LoveSportRadio and LBC in the UK and, of course, The Big Fight Weekend podcast. Find his unique take on the boxing business here and at his site;

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