Tyson Fury outclassed Deontay Wilder, became a world champion again, broke into a rendition of American Pie and had 16,000 people in the MGM Arena in the palm of his hand. It is feeling increasingly familiar. The world seems to dance to his tune these days.
Since his return to boxing from a litany of personal issues, each venture, decision and fight he touches turns to gold. He risked a great deal when first challenging Wilder in 2018, and ended up on the canvas. It looked a significant setback until he rose – just – and drew. An eye-watering financial deal with US broadcaster ESPN followed.
He was badly cut in victory over Otto Wallin in September and needed time out to heal. Then WWE rang and gave him the chance to earn big money, win new fans and avoid real punches in the process. His autobiography came out to much fanfare, he did a UK speaking tour, sang a pop song with Robbie Williams and signed for a two-part television documentary on his life.
Saying yes to recovery has served him well. Now he must say yes to facing Anthony Joshua and demonstrate, beyond doubt, that he is the best heavyweight of his era. Of course, he says he already is and clearly he would take that bout.
Fury has now dethroned Wladimir Klitschko and Wilder, who had reigned for a combined 14 years until they faced the ‘Gypsy King’. With such landmark victories, you sense he simply does not care who he shares a ring with.
Money should not be an issue either, given the same Saudi Arabian power brokers who took Joshua’s rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr to the Middle East were ringside for Fury’s destruction of Wilder. They would throw record figures at the British heavyweights in order to stage the division’s first fight for all four major belts. “It has become the biggest fight in the history of the sport,” said Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn.
A fight in Saudi Arabia might not please UK fans, but money talks. It might just be the only commodity that can paper over the politics that would play out between the teams and television networks behind the fighters. Key figures close to Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis thought the pair would fight in 1996. It took six more years, proving how much things can drag on in boxing, however appetising the prospect.Fury must know this purple patch is his time to strike. He knows how things can change.
The troubles that became public in 2015, controversial statements, ugly headlines and struggles with depression and drinking, are only one chapter of Fury’s story. As early as 2012 he had talked of being in a dark place and of having an eating disorder. And in the build-up to the Wilder fight, one of Fury’s team said the Briton still has severe down days.
He has the capacity to charm Americans on glitzy talk shows one day and slip into confusion the next. Keeping him stimulated, his team have said, is critical in maintaining his mental wellbeing.
It is hard to imagine Fury’s immediate future proving more exciting than the 20 months since his break from the sport ended. And yet, as the great and good of boxing fell at the feet of the new champion in Vegas, maybe we learned there are greater levels he can reach.
Dave Coldwell described it as “one of the most amazing nights I’ve watched in my time in boxing” while fellow British trainer Joe Gallagher said Fury was “the number one heavyweight in the world”.
Those tributes came less than two months after Fury joined forces with Detroit-based trainer SugarHill Steward.
Steward’s uncle Emanuel, who trained fighters of the calibre of Thomas Hearns, Lewis and Klitschko, predicted more than 10 years ago that Wilder would become a world champion, and that Fury would be dominant once Klitschko retired.
Fury effectively brought the curtain down on Klitschko and has now dominated Wilder. Steward called it.
But what could Fury achieve under his nephew? A lot, if he can build on his latest win. The decision to take punching space away from Wilder by relentlessly smothering him was genius. A talented fighter backed by a calculated team can create something special.
That is not to take anything away from Fury’s former trainer Ben Davison, who rebuilt the champion at a time of crisis. And Fury’s father John deserves credit for publicly demanding his son find a new team and bulk up after his win over Wallin. Fury listened and acted. The result was devastating.
Whether it’s jumping into WWE or singing with pop stars, he takes a chance, attacks the task with gusto and almost invariably comes up trumps. There is a bravery to his positive choices. He is a maverick, and he deserves immense credit.
A unique achievement is his for the taking if he secures the fight that boxing has longed to see. If anyone can make it happen, it is probably himTop of Form