Tyson Fury: Clown Prince or Rightful King?

By Paul Magno on November 26, 2017
Tyson Fury: Clown Prince or Rightful King?
Is Fury a wildly overrated buffoon or an underrated boxer who is a master provocateur?

Maybe he’s like the Donald Trump of boxing—someone whose success has less to do with mastery of a craft than with titillation and playing to his base… 

There are two schools of thought when it comes to Tyson Fury. One has him as a wildly overrated grand buffoon, buried in self-indulgence and sabotaged by his own character flaws. Another has him as an underrated boxer who is a master provocateur and the rightful king of the heavyweight division.

And, in this one case, it might not be a cop-out to claim that both schools of thought are correct.

The 6-foot-9 Fury has been anything but a giant since he defeated Wladimir Klitschko via unanimous decision in November of 2015 to take the IBF/WBA/WBO world titles from the long-reigning defending champ. Within months of his greatest professional achievement, however, The Irish “Gypsy King” appeared to implode under the weight of his own stardom.

Claiming mental health problems and working through substance abuse issues, Fury was also forced to deal with a positive test for a banned substance by UK Anti-Doping (UKAD), a suspended license by the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC), and all of the tedious, life-stalling bureaucracy involved in dealing with both British entities.  Plus, of course, he may or may not be guilty of the offenses that saw him get “in the system” in the first place.

But this piece isn’t about Tyson Fury: Clean or Dirty or even Tyson Fury: Mentally Ill or Not. It’s about whether Fury was ever all that good to begin with.

Was his high water mark victory over Klitschko, all by itself, enough to earn him elite-level status? The résumé before Klitschko was not exactly the stuff of legends with two wins over Dereck Chisora and a stoppage of cruiserweight import Steve Cunningham accounting for his most credible accomplishments. And one can even poke plenty of holes in the Klitschko effort, which was less masterful boxing exhibition and more fumbling one’s way to victory against an opponent unable and/or unwilling to extend himself even slightly to solve the marginal riddle before him. Truly and honestly, Fury’s “Ali-Style” boxing against Klitschko was pretty ugly, even if it did prove to be effective. And, given Klitschko’s odd lack of gumption that night, it’s hard to regard it as a win that carries as much weight as the dethroning of Wlad Klitschko should carry.

Then again, Fury DID dethrone a dominant heavyweight champ who had been at the very top of the division for nearly a decade. And even if it wasn’t a very pretty, elegant, or even all that athletic effort, he still got the job done—and before Anthony Joshua, who got much more acclaim for a much more difficult run past Klitschko.

But maybe it all doesn’t matter anymore—Legitimate or not; King or pretender; Knight or jester.

Maybe Fury is the perfect fighter for this modern era where media manipulation is every bit as important as accomplishment. Maybe he’s like the Donald Trump of boxing—someone whose success has less to do with mastery of a craft than with titillation and playing to his base.  It certainly seems as though Fury can be a money-making entity with or without actually doing anything in the ring.  And in a heavyweight division where there is always a desperate need for marketable, bankable characters, money and opportunity will be tossed at the freewheelin’ Fury’s feet for as long as he chooses to bend down and take it.

There’s no real indication that Fury can be anything more than that one guy on that one night with the right style and right physical dimensions to beat a flawed and faded long-reigning champion. Whether or not he gets a chance to prove himself as something more than that depends on his ability to get his career back on track.

Looking at the self-proclaimed “fat mess,” currently one hundred pounds overweight, as he clowns for the cameras and fills boxing websites up with ridiculous quotes, one has to wonder whether Fury even cares about the fighting part anymore. You can’t blame him if he doesn’t. The actual boxing has become the most difficult and, oddly enough, most unnecessary part of his life as a boxer.

His recent signing with boxing management company MTK Global will help smooth out the rough edges—to a degree. But, ultimately, Tyson will be Tyson and this comes with a shrewd understanding that the big money is in having his rough edges.

If there’s good money to be made in petulant buffoonery and in being an attraction rather than a competitive athlete, Fury would be foolish to opt for the harder, more unsecured road of doing things the traditional way. Boxing be damned…Tyson Fury is Show Business now.

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  1. The Beast of Bodmin 03:17am, 11/28/2017

    It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if the Klitschko that fought Joshua was the Klitschko that fought Fury.
    Come to think of it, it would have been more interesting if Klitschko fought like that against any of his opponents of the past 10 years.
    As for Fury, overrated in my opinion. Moves well for his size, yes, but not a fan of his style. Doesn’t seem to throw many punches, doesn’t punch his weight and just fiddles his way through fights.
    My fear is that if he ever comes back he could frustrate Joshua, wait for his stamina issues to show up and bore his way to victory.

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