Boxing survived the retirements of Jack Dempsey, Sugar Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard and Floyd Mayweather, so there’s a pretty good chance it will survive when Tyson Fury finally decides to walk away from the sport for good.
Fury, the WBC heavyweight champion, hinted at a news conference Monday to promote his April 23 title defense against Dillian Whyte that he’s ready to walk away from the sport he’s dominated for the last decade or so.
There’s likely to be at least one more after Fury disposes of Whyte, particularly with a chance to become the undisputed heavyweight champion, but Fury has largely been a man of his word. So it shouldn’t come as a shock after he stops Whyte at some point next month that he announces he’s going to take his boxing winnings and live a life of luxury.
Fury reminded us at his one-man news conference why he’ll be so badly missed whenever he does walk for good. Whyte didn’t show up, complaining about his pay, when he’s going to make $8 million. This is, remember, a guy who was knocked cold in the fifth round less than two years ago.
It was incredibly tone deaf for Whyte to stage a protest about an $8 million payday with all of the poverty in the world.
Genius, isn’t it?
Tell me how he deserves this shot at the title? Let’s be honest: He doesn’t, no matter how long he had been the mandatory challenger. He’s a solid heavyweight and he’s gotten some good wins, but it’s not as if he’s done so much that Fury had to fight him. Fury could easily have skipped a Whyte bout with zero harm to his legacy. But it’s a fight that will fill Wembley and will captivate all of the United Kingdom, so Fury went forward without hesitation.
Fury’s been the entire package, too. He is engaging, charismatic and, befitting the world’s best and most recognizable heavyweight, eminently accessible. He’s funny, he’s poignant and he always grabs your attention.
That, though, is just the window dressing that gets you to the show. When the curtains go up and the bell sounds, Fury delivers every time in the ring, as well.
He’s 31-0-1 and most of his fights have been highly entertaining. His most recent knockout of Deontay Wilder is an example. Fury had little to gain by beating Wilder again, a guy who is far better than his critics give him credit for and who hits as hard as anyone since at least Mike Tyson and maybe before that.
Fury had knocked him out in seven previously and fought to a hotly disputed draw that most felt Fury had won. So he had little to gain by beating Wilder again, but he went in and took risks, fought an aggressive fight and put on a Fight of the Year contender battle.
He’s well aware of the show business aspect of this business, which is why he’s so popular and why he’s made so much money.
And while Whyte hasn’t done much recently to earn a fight against him, he’s doing his part to sell it to the world.
“If I can’t look like Muhammad Ali against this guy, then I’m in the wrong [profession],” Fury said. “I will chop him to bits. Not a problem. I will smash his face right in. You’re going to see a boxing masterclass. You’re going to see the difference in levels.
“This man is a big, old, strong fellow who swings a big old punch in and knocks a man spark out if he connects. But if I’m daft enough to get hit by him and knocked out, then I don’t deserve to be heavyweight world champion.”
Because Fury’s 6-foot-9 and very thick, he often looks lumbering. Looks, though, are deceiving. He’s quick for his size, he’s more agile than he seems and he understands the game as well as anyone in it. He knows how to create openings and set traps where he can land his shots.
He’s able to assess the risk he faces and minimize it while at the same time enhancing his chances of victory.
He’s also smart enough not to take anyone lightly. A little over a week ago, Fury made a post on social media in which he said he was signing off until after the fight. He will be consumed by nothing but his preparations and thoughts of Whyte for the next two months.
That’s the difference in him. And he is smart enough to know that this is Whyte’s one big shot and that he’ll probably see the best of whatever it is that Whyte has on April 23.
“I know Dillian Whyte is going to come in prepared,” Fury said. “He’s going to come in rugged and rough and game and aggressive. And he’s got a big left hook and a big right hand. Who knows? It could be me chinned on the night. I think both fighters are going for the knockout on the night.
“I just think when I land a ‘Lancaster Bomber’ on his jaw, it’s going to be over. That could be in Round 1, or it could be in Round 6. I don’t see it going past that. I’m looking to put on an excellent [fight] and showcase knockout boxing for the U.K. fans and then sing a load of songs afterwards and have a good time. Party on down in the big smoke!”
Enjoy this guy while he’s around, because it’s not going to be for much longer. Boxing will survive, as it always has, but it will be a bit lesser when Tyson Fury walks away for good.