Tyson Fury can play many roles. The WBC heavyweight champion can be a clown, a boxing historian or a bully. He can be self-depreciating, a showman or uninterested. He is always unpredictable. On February 17th in Saudi Arabia, Fury and WBA, IBF, IBO and WBO champion, Oleksandr Usyk, will finally meet to determine who the best heavyweight on the planet is. When he sat down with Usyk to discuss the fight, Fury was in a reflective, matter-of-fact frame of mind. “For me, he was never in the equation. It was always me, [Deontay] Wilder and [Anthony] Joshua and then obviously he beat Joshua so then he took Joshua’s position. Here we are,” he told Steve Bunce during TNT’s ‘Gloves are Off’ show.
“The belts are one thing but me and him have got to go and fight now. There’s been a big build up and now we’re gonna see who’s better out of me and Oleksandr. And I’m a conqueror. Remember that. He’s Oleksandr and I am ‘The Great’ so we’ll see.” The pre-fight hype machine is about to crank into gear and the winner will be crowned the first undisputed heavyweight champion since Lennox Lewis beat Evander Holyfield back in 1999 but when all the Saudi Arabian glitz, glamour and neon has been stripped away, we will be left with two men, a referee and a boxing ring. The stakes may be higher in Riyadh but all around the world there will be thousands of other fighters climbing through the ropes and putting themselves in exactly the same situation on February 17th. It is a position Fury has been in hundreds of times in his life and one he is extremely comfortable in. Regardless of the attitude he projects throughout the buildup, fight night triggers something special inside of him. In 2013, Fury landed in New York for his American debut. ‘The Gypsy King’ was a bundle of nervous energy before his fight with Steve Cunningham and fought recklessly, finding himself on the floor courtesy of an overhand right from the speedy Cunningham. With his American dream on the verge of ending before it had begun, Fury gathered himself, turned the fight into a physical, rough brawl and clubbed the former cruiserweight champion to a seventh round defeat. Before his first fight with Deontay Wilder back in 2018, Fury worked himself into a lather. Aware of the danger posed by the American, he boxed on his wits and fought beautifully and then – almost unconsciously – found it inside himself to drag himself off the canvas when Wilder floored him heavily in the final round. Against Francis Ngannou, a clearly undercooked Fury quickly found himself in a fight he didn’t expect to be in and on the verge of disaster, he had to rouse himself and figure out a way out of the mess. Fury is obviously underplaying the depth of his preparations, but experience has taught him that when a fight breaks out, he won’t be found wanting.
“Just the same stuff. I’ll bring in some southpaw, left-handed sparring obviously and that’s it. What can you do for a fighter? You can’t really do much for him or me or anybody. It’s a boxing match. If he’s better than me then he’ll beat me. If I’m better than him then I’ll beat him. And that’s it. There’s no more and no less to it,” he said. “I don’t fear a boxing man. I’m not bothered about them at all. I’ve had many fights before and beaten all the people in the world. 35 fights in a row. I’m not really that bothered. I’ve been at this game a long, long time. Professional over 15 years now. He’s an average sized man. He’s 6ft 3in tall. He’s 16 stone. He’s the same build as every other heavyweight that mostly you’re gonna fight. He’s a left-handed man. I’ve got a brother who’s left-handed, my dad’s left-handed so it’s not like I’m not used to fighting people who are left-handed or messing about with them. It is what it is. We’re gonna go in there, punch the —- out of each other. Nothing more, nothing less.”