As heavyweight “contender” Tyson Fury lurched and lunged and stumbled around the ring on Saturday afternoon in front of those in attendance at Madison Square Garden and watching on NBC, I was struck by a myriad of thoughts, all of them decidedly negative. “So this is what passes for a top heavyweight now,” I thought. Just moments before Fury went crashing like a tall pine tree in round two, I texted to a friend: “He’s going to get his ass knocked off. Every time he throws a looping, roundhouse arm punch, he is off-balance and wide open for a counter.” Boom. Ass knocked off.
I’ve matured enough to realize that it’s never really fair for armchair analysts like me to criticize those who have, first and foremost, the courage to enter a boxing ring, and secondly, the athleticism and (maybe?) ability that we can only dream of. But, I figure, Fury has talked enough that he is right deserving of the criticism and invective I am about to hurl his way. Here is how bad Tyson Fury is: Watching him fight Steve Cunningham made ME want to get in the ring with him.
Fury promised to bring a world of pain to Cunningham, but it was the undersized former cruiserweight that seemed destined to make it “curtains” for the big Brit in round two. Fury ultimately managed to maul and mug, bully and (in my opinion) cheat his way to victory, forearm shoving Cunningham’s head into position as though he were bracing a heavybag for a finishing whack. Then, amazingly, he had the gall to dance and parade around the ring like he had just knocked out Sonny Liston. To his credit he did stop short of proclaiming himself the greatest, and oh, but he wasn’t quite finished. Then he had to prove to everyone that he can sing just as well as he can fight, which is like saying Helen Keller could see as well as she could hear.
Fury has proved himself to be just another big white stiff from England, just like David Price, though that may not really be fair to Price as he showed leagues more in the way of ability than Fury even in an abbreviated win over Audley Harrison. Price got caught with a punch that has discombobulated quite a few top fighters, one behind the ear. Fury left himself open time and time again and had it not been Cunningham in the ring but a Klitschko, one seriously wonders if they might not still be peeling Fury off the canvas in sections.
Surely, I thought, the press will tear Fury apart for this showing. But this is how far our standards have fallen in the past 10 to 15 years or so. For the most part, what I read in the immediate aftermath was that the win was treated as a good, come-from-behind learning experience. The last time I checked, Fury was a top ten contender in The Ring ratings. Fighters of that caliber 20 years ago included Evander Holyfield, Riddick Bowe, Lennox Lewis, Razor Ruddock, Michael Moorer, and the like. Guys like Frank Bruno, Oliver McCall, and Bruce Seldon were considered also-rans even though they would all hold portions of a fractured title. Any one of those guys would have rained nine kinds of mayhem over Fury’s upright, exposed, and overconfident noggin. Even Alexander Zolkin would have cleanly knocked Fury out in three. You don’t remember him, do you? Exactly. Twenty years ago Fury would have been roundly mocked and anyone hinting at the mere suggestion that he could challenge for a heavyweight championship laughed out of the room.
Can anyone really, seriously now get excited to see Fury against either Klitschko? This is a fight I don’t need to see, even a year or two down the road. No amount of seasoning is going to make Fury an appetizing opponent against Drs. Ironfist and Steelhammer.
One thing the big guy has going for him: Fury can sure talk. He does it before, during, and apparently, even after the fight no matter how disastrous the outcome might turn out to be. So, to use an oft-repeated boxing cliché, tack this one on to Fury: He can talk. It’s too bad he can’t fight.