By Alan Hubbard
The very thought of ‘taking the knee’ would be an anathema to Tyson Fury, a true-born fighting man brimming with fire and fortitude, but strange things happen in sport, particularly these days. So who is to say that in some time to come the Gypsy Giant will be bending his right leg and resting it on the velvet cushion as he kneels before Her Majesty or whoever has been designated to make the traditional sword’s tap on the shoulders?
No I have not lost my marbles nor am I being facetious. Boxing has only ever had one knight of the realm, the late and much loved Sir Henry Cooper, a solitary recognition when he was dubbed in 2000 for services to boxing and charity.
One K only for the Noble Art? This is way out of proportion considering those dished out almost willy-nilly to the great and the good (and sometimes not so good) personalities in other major sports.
Boxing deserves more as a sport which consistently brings home the bacon and the world championship belts to these shores. It is also recognised as playing a significant role in society by teaching wayward kids discipline and respect, and by and large boxers are better behaved outside their environment than other sporting types, notably footballers and rugby players. Cricketers too, these days.
There are currently several fistic candidates for knighthoods in my view – and I will come to them later. But let’s look at Fury’s credentials first… Something In thought I would never be writing!.
He may seem an outlandish choice so why ennoble him?
My theory is that his backstory, a self-admitted one of rogue to riches and redemption is right up the street of those who compile the honours list for sports people, including boxing fan Lord Sebastian Coe.
A year so ago when Tyson’s only title was the bad lad of boxing the very thought of this would be laughed out of court. But his transformation into a beacon of hope and an icon for those who suffer severe mental disturbances embracing, as his did depression, alcoholism and drugs as did is one of the most remarkable in the anals of spot.
He has turned his life around and should not only be claiming the WBC belt that would be rightfully buckled around his waist today, when he again faces Deontay Wilder and go on to unite it with the three others that were confiscated from him. Then when he decides to call it a day I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get the call to Buck House. Fanciful?. We’ll see. But wouldn’t it be a wonderful story?
Arise Sir Tyson?
First of course he has to secure the right to that return by overcoming the unbeaten but unheralded Swede Otto Wallin in Las Vegas this Saturday night. There is little doubt he will do so but, as I say, strange things happen in boxing, Ask Anthony Joshua. It may be quick, but it will be entertaining as always.
Again, as I said earlier, considering the number of great moments and world championships it has brought to Britain, boxing is ridiculously under-represented among the knights.
Leaving aside any prospect of Fury becoming the first Gypsy Knight, surely fellow former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis must be overdue a royal tap on the shoulder?
Not only was he the first man to unify the world heavyweight title since Muhammad Ali, but he’s kept his nose clean and works hard fir for charity. Even though he may reside outside the United Kingdom, so do a host of others who have received gongs.
True, he did win his Olympic title for Canada, but he was a British citizen when he became world professional champion and was born in West Ham.
Frank Bruno, who could surely vie with Cooper as the most revered character in British boxing, is a fine example of someone who also who also fought his way out of the depths of depression and mental illness to become the lovely man he is now. Know what I mean?.
I suggest that John Conteh, the former world light heavyweight champion and arguably our best post-war boxer, has done almost as much to raise money for charity as the likes of Sir Ian Botham. Conteh would make a great knight and ambassador for boxing.
And had Joe Calzaghe been a cricketer I reckon he would have been Sir Joseph by now.
Boxing deserves a break as it is back up there among Britain’s most popular and successful sports. Yet cricket, for example, has an astonishing total of 49 knights, home and overseas. The latest being, controversially, Sir Geoffrey Boycott who has a criminal conviction and a suspended jail sentence, albeit in France, for allegedly assaulting a former lover.
This proves that past indiscretions do not necessarily the bar such an award, though one suspects largely because of his jail term we will never be greeting ‘Sir Naz’ He’ll still have to settle for a plain Prince.
Athletics has eight knights and half a dozen dames (the ladies are fast catching up in the top honours league); cycling three knights and two dames; football of course has a proliferation of knights since the World Cup won by Alf Ramsey, 15 in all, rugby has 14; horse racing eight, motor racing eight. and mountaineering four with rowing’s is famous pair Redgrave and Pinsent supplemented by Dame Katharine Granger who now heads UK Sport.
Indeed there seem to be as many Dames around in sport as there are in the panto season at Christmas time.
And hard-done-by boxing must be hoping they will have one of their own in the New Year Honours if the queen of Queensberry, two times world amateur champion Nicola Adams can confirm her status as a pro world champion later this month, after becoming the first female to win Olympic gold in London – a feat she repeated in Rio four years later. Nicola faces experienced Mexican southpaw Marina Salinas on the Royal Albert Hall bill headed by unbeaten heavyweight sensation Daniel Dubois on 27 September.
As they say, there’s nothing like a dame. But as far as boxing is concerned, one knight is surely not enough.
HARDCORE FANS– and there are plenty of them as boxing escalates in popularity – should tune in to BT or turn up at British boxing’s most atmospherics arena, York Hall in London’s Bethnal Green this Saturday evening before hopefully, Tyson Fury lights up Las Vegas.
It is a corker of a show, which Frank Warren reckons could be the best he has held there with brilliant youngster Sunny Edwards continuing his path towards a full world title challenge by switching to flyweight and taking on the Mexican Rosendo Hugo Guarneros for the vacant IBF and WBO International titles.
Among other exciting match-ups, Brad Foster defends his British and Commonwealth super bantamweight titles against Lucien Reid in what is sure to be fascinating clash of styles between two unbeaten and ambitious fighters.
Tyson Fury v Otto Wallin is live on BT Sport Box Office.Watch all the drama from York Hall live and exclusive on BT Sport 1 from 8pm on Saturday.