By Alan Hubbard
It was dear old Frank Bruno who is credited with remarking that boxing is show business with blood.
Well, there was plenty of showbiz about the much-anticipated comeback of one of Bruno’s successors as a British world heavyweight champion last weekend, if an absence of the old claret.
Probably just as well for the sake of the comparatively pint-sized opponent from Albania via Switzerland, hand-picked for target practice, who took a few late lumps and duly departed after four rounds.
But perhaps the greatest curiosity surrounding Tyson Fury’s welcome renaissance was the frenzied welcome he received from the fans which was almost reminiscent of the popularity accorded to Brooo-no himself.
Indeed there seemed more genuine affection for Fury than there ever was even when he became champion almost three years ago, suggesting that absence really does make the heart grow fonder.
Next time out at Belfast’s Windsor Park on 18 August we will see a different Fury – and certainly a different type of opponent than the stumpy Sefer Seferi who, was one wag joked, was so bad they named him twice.
Not that it really mattered.
This was boxing’s verson of ’Get Shorty’ and I doubt if many in the 15,000 crowd inside the Manchester Arena or those watching on BT really expected to see Fury in a competitive punch-up after such a lengthy lay-off from the real rigours of the ring.
Like me they turned up or tuned in to see how the Gypsy Giant shaped up, in every sense.
This was simply a pugilistic prologue for the fascinating road show drama that is to come before a conclusive attempt to reclaim the world crown he considers rightfully his.
Personally I quite enjoyedit even though I am an old school boxing buff; and there were plenty of other decent scraps on the bill top keep the purists happy.
As the Sunday Tines put it, it was not so much a fight as an event. A heavyweight happening.
You can be sure Fury will be leaner and a good deal meaner in Belfast to demonstrate that he really is taking things seriously.
A little less clowning and rather more clouting is now required.
But as Steve Bunce rightly pointed out, nobody really expected anything other than the choreographed pantomime Fury delivered. The former world champion has not fought since November 2015 when he brilliantly deposed Wladimir Klitschko in Germany to acquire three world championship belts, and it showed as the rust slowly dripped with the sweat from Fury’s massive frame.
There was plenty of slapstick until about thirty seconds into the fourth round when Fury finally seemed to find his range and started to let his fists fly.
But he needed a few sharp words from ringside from his father, the former British heavyweight title contender Gypsy John, and promoter Frank Warren, to prompt much-needed incisiveness.
New young trainer Ben Davison has done a great job in getting him back into reasonable condition bur there seems to be a lack of sound technical wisdom in his corner, which needs to be addressed if he is to recapture the ring-craftiness which so mesmerised Wlad the Impaler.
But I suspect he can do it and boy, is it going to be fun watching him try.
What is not in doubt is the interest Fury’s return has created, not just in boxing but among the public generally.
Both Sky and ITV led their Sunday breakfast time bulletins on Fury’s comeback even though there was a fair bit happening elsewhere in the world of sport.
SO, ONWARDS AND UPWARDS for Tyson Fury. Well, perhaps not so much upwards as there is no-one taller in boxing that the 6ft 9in Mancunian can fight.
At least not since the 7ft 2in Nicolai Valuev retired to take up a seat as one of Vladimir Putin’s political henchmen in the Russian parliament.
Indeed the only boxing figure who towers over Tyson is BT ring interviewer Ronald McIntosh, who stands around 6ft 11”.
Big Ron, as inevitably he is known, is a former amateur boxer and pro basketball player now an all-rounder with the mic both for TV and radio.
As well as boxing, he has commentated at World and European Athletics championships, Wimbledon Tennis, four Olympic Games, two Olympic Winter Games, two Youth Olympic Games, three Paralympics Games and Asian Games.
He is a trustee of the charity “Fight for Peace”, which uses Boxing and Mixed Martial Arts along with education and personal development to help fulfill the potential of young people. A really nice guy, too.
Talking of commentators, it is good to see that BT have retained the BoxNation duo of John Rawling and Barry Jones, who call it as they see it, unlike certain cheerleaders on another channel.
THE SCORING OF RINGIDE judges never ceases to amaze. How two of them could decide that Maurice Hooker had a clear six rounds majority (117-11) over Terry Flanagan in their world super-lightweight title fight confounds all reasoning.
But at least they can’t be accused of bias.
The American judge actually scored it in favour of Britain’s Flanagan while the British adjudicator Phil Edwards marked it down to American Hooker.
The more realistic deciding card provided by the South African judge of 115-113 for Hooker corresponded with mine.
While obviously a disappointing result for a not fully re-charged Turbo after a telling 14 months out of the ring, it was surely close enough to warrant a return.