By Alan Hubbard
How many mums and dads, when their young kids ask “What can we do now?” as they run out of ideas and and games to play during this enforced spell of self-isolation because of this fast-spreading coronavirus respond in exasperation “use your imagination”.
Use their imagination? Well, why not, it’s a pretty good thought for we adults too in in these dire circumstances. Especially those of us who love boxing.
With no shows to go to and no live boxing on the box what I am doing is re-running in my mind some of the fabulous fights I have seen over the years, such as the Rumble in the Jungle the Thrilla in Manila and a host of others. I also find it entertainingly therapeutic again in my own mind, to imagine some of the fantastic contests that might have been among boxers from different generations.
Dream fights, in other words.
Such as Joe Louis v Muhammad Ali, Marvin Hagler v Carlos Monzon (what middleweight mayhem that would’ve been), Rocky Marciano v Joe Frazier, or Sugar Ray Robinson v Sugar Ray Leonard – with the winner meeting and beating Floyd Mayweather Jnr.
Pairings that would make the mind boggle and the mouth water.
No sport is more steeped in nostalgia than the noble art. There are so many great fights and great fighters, past and present to occupy our imagination for days on end. But you know what? The one clash of the Titans I would love to have been ringside for would be Tyson versus Tyson: Gypsy King Fury against his phenomenal namesake Iron Mike Tyson.
Fury’s ex-fighter father, former heavyweight Gypsy John Fury named his tiny first born after his boxing hero, little knowing the lad he held in the palm of his hand would grow up to be a future heavyweight champion of the world.
What an incredible feat of matchmaking it would’ve been had fistic fate brought the two Tysons together.
I have done so in my own mind. The scene is set for this make-believe match a packed Madison Square Garden in New York.
Pre-fight speculation had centred on whether the ridiculously smaller Mike Tyson, just 5ft 10in, could cut the giant Fury (6ft 9in) down to size or whether the similarly unbeaten Brit would be too big and too elusive for the brutal finisher from Brooklyn.
And could Fury, who I would give a fighting chance against any heavyweight in history – except Ali – a master at the art of winding up opponents, psyched out Tyson even before the first bell had rung?
For the purposes of this theoretical punch-up both fighters would be at their peak – the 22-year-old Mike Tyson who blasted out Michael Spinks and Larry Holmes in double quick time and the 31-year-old Fury who had skilfully bewitched Wladimir Klitschko and surgically dismantled Deontay Wilder.
This is how I see the make-believe match up panning out:
The ever innovative Fury would zoom into the ring seated on the a throne hung from on a trip wire à la Boris Johnson. Tyson would follow on foot. Never one for flamboyant ring walks he would already be stripped to the waist wearing plain black shorts, boxing boots without socks and a white towel slung over his shoulder.
The pair were called together by the American referee Mills Lane, the disparity in size, with the towering Fury just short of a foot taller than Tyson would seem farcical, especially as Fury had a weight advantage of some three and a half stones.
”Let’s get it on!” snapped the diminutive lawyer Lane, a district judge, as they impassively touched gloves.
From the bell Fury would be keeping his distance, jabbing, dancing and neatly fending off the clubbing Tyson, aware that that only fools rush in against a young and fresh opponent with such brute strength in his fists.
Fury’s tactics would keep working with him piling up the points and taking every round until the midway stage of the 12 rounder. Then an angry Tyson looking bewildered and frustrated suddenly, got lucky with one of those savage hooks finally catching Fury flush on the jaw. The big fella fell backwards and lay on the canvas looking up at the referee tolling the count. He rolled over on to his knees, rose at six and nodded to Lane that he was ok. As the referee reached the formal eight count he wiped Fury’s gloves clean on his shirt and leapt back as Fury immediately went on the attack himself, a glancing right-hand bouncing off Tyson’s own jaw. Iron Mike’s legs wobbled unsteadily but he managed to stay upright. The round ended with an aggressive Fury, who had turned southpaw, still blazing away.
His assault continued in the eighth with Tyson very much on the defensive. Fury was looking good again and once more took the round. It seemed that Tyson needed a knockout to secure the victory most had anticipated.
In the ninth and tenth Fury evidently had decided to keep out of harm’s way, especially as blood was now seeping from a widening cut on his right eyebrow. How this had happened was obscure. It was certainly not a head-butt as Tyson was too small to even chew at Fury’s ear in the clinches, as he was later to do against Evander Holyfield.
At the end of the tenth round the referee signalled to the three ringside judges that the wound, by now gushing blood, had been caused by a punch.
The cut was expertly treated in the corner and Fury seemed unfazed as he went back again into the old routine jabbing at Tyson’s own bloody nose and circling to his left If away from that venomous hook.
Alas, he was unable to do so for long and in the 11th Tyson caught him again. Fury dropped to his knees but again he was up before the ref reached eight and muttered an affirmative ‘yes’ when he was asked if he wished to continue. Such was his points lead he still seemed assured of victory if only he could keep on his feet. Tyson’s corner knew the score and at the end of the round told him he had to ko Fury to win.
He needed no second budding, launching himself from his stool and bullying Fury on to the ropes, something he had vainly tried to do all evening.
Only now did he manage it, with a now flat-footed Fury looking tired and startled. This time it was a short right which exploded on his temple, twisting him sideways and halfway through the ropes.
Fury covered his face with his gloves, tucking his elbows protectively over his midriff as Tyson’s double fisted attack continued relentlessly. Tyson rammed right uppercut through his guard which sent a shower of blood and water cascading over the BT’s ringside commentators John Rawling and Barry Jones.
The blows were still pummelling in with Fury obviously dazed but still bravely attempting to fight back when the referee jumped between them, waving, his hands to signal that it was all over. There were just 30 seconds to go.
Fury protested, angrily remonstrating with him, but to no avail. Iron Mike had come from behind to win this epic battle of the Tysons.
Fury’s co-promoter, Frank Warren climbed into the ring to console him, promising a rematch.
Did it happen? In my imagination it certainly did, some three months later before an 80,000 crowd at Wembley Stadium with a revitalised Fury avenging his only defeat with a unanimous points decision over a Tyson who did not look as if he had trained for the return as thoroughly as he should.
So the Gypsy Giant was king of the ring again.