Fury v Joshua? Not just yet…

By Kane Clarke
Follow Kane on Twitter – @IrishBoxinNews and @KaneClarke

On Saturday Tyson Fury became the new heavyweight champion of the World after fighting to a unanimous decision victory over the long-reigning Wladimir Klitschko, who last tasted defeat over a decade ago.

The Ukrainian was unbeaten in 11 years and 22 fights (19 which were for World titles) before Fury – including a win over Great Britain’s former heavyweight World champion David Haye, who has recently announced he will be making a comeback after 3 years outside the squared circle, and who has also twice pulled out of big money bouts against 6’9″ Mancunian pugilist.

Fury deserves plaudits
I don’t think people quite understand the enormity of what Tyson Fury has just achieved. Sure it wasn’t the prettiest of fights, it never really is when you have either of the Klitschko brothers involved. Nevertheless, Tyson went out there to Germany, to the champions backyard, and took the belts from the 39 year old future Hall of Famer. He did what he had to do, showing great ring craft, head movement, switch-hitting skills, and, most importantly, utilising his superior reach and speed to pick off his advancing foe.

Tyson’s reach, height, speed, and movement were always going to cause Wladimir massive problems. He has never faced anyone of Fury’s stature before. That was the selling point behind this fight for the real boxing fans: they wanted to see how ‘Dr Steelhammer’ would fare against the bigger man – whereas the casuals thought back to how badly David Haye coped with the Ukranian in his attempt to unify the division back in 2011, and made their assumptions from the videos of Fury uppercutting himself that persistently circulate across social media.

Outside of the ring, Tyson Fury is a self-proclaimed entertainer, and that understandably comes with a lot of ‘haters,’ criticism. and people who would like to see him put on his backside.

But that’s what gets people talking.

Tyson knows that, whether people are talking good or talking bad about him, all press is good press. It has been a selling point for many great champions before him, ‘The Greatest’ Muhammad Ali, Prince Naseem Hamed, Floyd Mayweather Jr were all great entertainers in the build up to fights, boxers that people loved to hate. However, regardless of their opinions, people would tune in to watch them fight in the hope of seeing them lose.

Before any of the entertainment or antics which unfold at press conferences or weigh ins, people need to realise that these great champions didn’t just arrive at the World title stages of their careers by talking themselves up. They have got there through years of dedication to their trade, and countless hours spent in the gym honing their craft. Before they enter the paid ranks, years are spent on the amateur scene, fighting domestically and internationally on a regular basis against opponents who are also stepping their way up the ladders with the same dreams and aspirations to become the best.

Tyson Fury is without doubt a fantastic fighter, and a knowledgeable one as well. Yes, he acts the clown which some people don’t like to see, but personally I enjoy that side of the game, I like to see fighters make bold statements and infuriate opponents. It helps build the hype of a fight. It gets the average Joe from the street interested.

There’s a method to the madness.

What I don’t like to see is people criticizing these fighters. The amount of bad press from some of Britain’s leading media outlets since Tyson dethroned one of the most dominant champions in history has been despicable. Here we have a young, brash, confident heavyweight World champion who will transcend the sport. After the past decade he is a badly-needed breath of fresh air that the division, and boxing in general, is sure to benefit from. And yet, people still want to write him off and put him down.

The danger of overhyping Joshua
Anthony Joshua’s name has came up in the past couple of days all over social media, with people proclaiming about how badly he would beat Tyson, and how he is on a different level. Without doubt, ‘AJ’ is a great prospect and has all the potential to become a World beater. But that’s all he is at the moment – a ‘prospect’ who has potential. A 13 fight novice who is yet to take on a credible opponent that is going to take him into the latter rounds and test his chin. Let’s not build him up in the same way that Audley Harrison and David Price were hyped up. When these guys stepped up they were sent crumbling back down in devastating circumstances. These guys were talked about as the next heavyweight champions of the World before they had ever been tested – much like Joshua today.

Yes, Anthony Joshua is an Olympic champion, but it could be argued that he was gifted two of those wins on his road to gold at London 2012 after some dubious point scoring decisions. And yes, he has walked through all of his opponents so far in the pro ranks, but the guys he has faced are not at the level required to be able make such bold predictions.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of Joshua and believe he can go on to be a great champion – but I’ll know better in a couple of years time, when he has passed all the tests and all the step-ups in class that a prospect needs to undertake on his way to the top. Let’s see him in with a Derek Chisora or a David Price first. Let him make the natural small steps that are required to pick up the experience that is crucial for him to excel and become a great champion. And finally, let’s stop with the comparisons to Tyson Fury, a man who has just proved himself to be the best heavyweight on the planet.

Where next for Fury?
The ‘Gypsy King’ now holds 3 out of the 4 main sanctioning belts – The WBA, IBF, and WBO, alongside ‘The Ring’ magazine and IBO titles. The WBC title is currently held by the American Deontay Wilder who is also undefeated and has amassed a professional record of 35 wins with 34 knockouts. But don’t let that record blind you, ‘The Bronze Bomber’ hasn’t fought anybody of a similar level to the Tyson Furys or Wladimir Klitschkos of this world, and has instead hand-picked his opponents and padded his record to get to where he is now.

One things for sure, that fight has to happen. Two fresh new World Champions putting the undefeated records on the line to see who can become the unified and undisputed king of the heavyweight division and, maybe more importantly, win the respect from the boxing world in which they crave so much.

Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: joneill6@tcd.ie