By Alan Hubbard
Normally it is question that could be argued among boxing fans over a few pints down the pub. But of course these are not normal times, rather the new normal, or so we are told. But to most of is more like abnormal.
So we must swirl the argument around in our own minds – and the big question is whether Tyson Fury is now the greatest British fighter of all time. Well it’s perhaps not fair to say of all time because modern boxers have the benefit of vast improvements in training.
Technique, sports psychology and of course diet for starters.Just let’s discuss whether the Gypsy King is the greatest of British post-war fighting men?
Many believe the WBC world heavyweight champion certainly is. Not least his proud father John. Well, he would, wouldn’t he and he is entitled to.
“My boy is not only the greatest heavyweight in the world right now but the best British fighter ever,” declared Tyson’s 55 year-old dad after Fury’s demolition of Deontay Wilder. You can’t argue with his first sentiment but I have an open mind on the second, preferring to wait until the end of Tyson’s career before making a final judgement. But he is certainly very high in the list of front runners.
Fury snr surely knows his boxing, as a former heavyweight himself who, while never a champion or contender won more than he lost in his 13 bouts as a pro having established a hard man reputation among the Travelling community earned in his days as a respected exponent of the bare knuckle fighting brigade.
He was around when Mike Tyson was at his spectacular zenith and was such a fan of the ‘baddest man on the planet’ that he named his first- born lad after him.
John Fury ma be understandably biased in believing in just how great his son might be. But he is a shrewd analyst of fights and fighters, as we have observed not only in his comments on his son’s contests but others on Queensberry’s BT-televised shows. When boxing resumes it would be good to see him as a regular pundit.
This is why his views on Tyson are not to be sniffed at. In arguing that Fury is the best of British we should take into account his unbeaten record, the manner of his totally unexpected conquest of long running champ Wladimir Klitschko and similarly shock slaying of Wilder, hitherto unbeaten and allegedly the heaviest single punch hitter in boxing history.
Plus, of course, winning his personal battle with mental illness and his amazing, Lazarus-like last round comeback from the canvas in their previous fight to earn a dubious draw which virtually everyone save those around Wilder and two seemingly myopic ringside judges (one, like Fury, from Lancashire), deserved to win.
And remember all Fury’s world title fights were away fixtures fought in his opponents’ backyards in Germany and the United States.
Yes, Fury is brilliant, but Britain has produced more than a fistful of outstanding fighters in post-war years who are also right up there in the pugilistic Premier League.
The 6ft 9” Fury stands among several other Giants of boxing, though those not in the literal sense. But among the Britons who achieved the heights of their careers are Joe Calzaghe. Ken Buchanan, John Conteh Howard Winstone, Lennox Lewis, Lloyd Honeyghan, Carl Froch, Frank Bruno, Nigel Benn, Chris Eubank and Duke McKenzie.
Nor should we overlook Randolph Turpin, for his fabulous victory over Sugar Ray Robinson, Barry McGuigan, Anthony Joshua, Ricky Hatton, James DeGale, Amir Khan, Chris and Kevin Finnegan, John H Stracey, Alan Rudkin, Wayne McCullough, Walter McGowan, Carl Frampton, David Haye, Sir Henry Cooper, Josh Warrington, Freddie Mills and my personal favourite Dave Charnley. All have strong claims to be included among Britain’s fistic elite.
A galaxy of greatness indeed.
At the moment Fury is in the very top bracket among them but leaving him aside I would put Calzaghe as my present Numero Uno, followed by Buchanan and then jointly by Conteh and Lewis.
But my hunch is that given the next two years or so, during which Tyson Fury may have beaten Wilder again and then Joshua (a no brainer in my opinion) he will be definitely and deservedly hailed as Britain’s best.
Think about it, that’s all we can do at the moment of course but it does help while away the tedious hours until we can see gloves touched and noses punched again.
One other intriguing question concerning Fury I was asked repeatedly before our lives went into Lockdown was how he might have fared against Muhammad Ali, the boxer he admires above all others.
Most will say not a chance in hell. And even his doting dad has not been so bold as to suggest that he would beat him.
Yet even as a committed Ali-phobe I actually think Fury could cause a momentous upset – with one major proviso. It would need to be the Fury will beat Klitschko and Wilder against an Ali in his declining years, after he had taken such a shellacking in winning his war with the thunder punching Earnie Shavers.
But if Fury had faced an Ali at his peak, when the great man was forced into exile at 27 following his victories over Cleveland Williams and Zora Foley it would’ve been Goodnight Nurse. That Ali would have been too fast, too slick and far too canny. At his peak, I believe Ali would’ve beaten any heavyweight in the world – past or present.
Ah well, it’s all in our mind’s eye. Meantime here’s looking forward to getting on with the show as soon as it is safe to do so – even if it is behind closed doors.