Good, bad, worse: Tyson Fury put on unforgettable show in London

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A critical look at the past week in boxing

GOOD

What a moment.

Tyson Fury returns home to England after three-plus years away, dominates Dillian Whyte for five-plus rounds and then knocks him out with a mammoth right uppercut in Round 6 to retain his heavyweight title Saturday before a U.K.-record 94,000 adoring fans at Wembley Stadium.

Could it get any better than that?

I don’t know whether it can be described as the greatest performance in Fury’s career given Whyte’s obvious limitations. But he’s unlikely to top the drama he served up on an unforgettable night in London.

And it gets better when you consider the bumpy path Fury took to get to Saturday night.

In November 2015 he gave arguably his most impressive performance, a dominating unanimous decision over long-reigning, seemingly untouchable heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko in Germany.

Then the bottom fell out of his life, as he left boxing for 2½ years, ballooned to a reported 400 pounds and entered a pitched battle with his demons, including substance abuse and depression. Things got so bad that he contemplated suicide.

The notion that he would return to face Deontay Wilder in a classic three-fight series, reclaim the distinction of being the No. 1 heavyweight in the world and then do what he did on Saturday would’ve been unthinkable.

Yet here we are.

Fury is the best heavyweight of his era (yes, better than Oleksandr Usyk as things stand now). A 6-foot-9 man has no right to box or move as lithely as he does. And trainer Sugar Hill Steward has turned him into a formidable puncher, as Whyte learned.

He has evolved into one of the sport’s most engaging personalities, which is saying something given crude early-career comments that were widely criticized. He’s good fun now.

And in light of the obstacles he has overcome he is nothing short of an inspiration to many people.

Fury, having worked himself back into fighting shape, once posted on social media a photo of himself when he weighed 400 pounds. The caption read: “When someone says you can’t do something, look at this and remember anything is possible.”

 

BAD

Have we seen the last of Fury in a boxing ring? I doubt it.

The 33-year-old Mancunian said repeatedly after his victory over Whyte that his intention is to retire. I don’t believe he’s lying. I just feel, based on so many other fighters who “retired” and then returned, that the call of the ring is immensely powerful.

I’m not talking only about money, although the many millions he stands to make will serve as motivation to return. No, I would ask: What could Fury do that can top performing at the highest level of his profession in front of millions of people worldwide?

Fury is a fighter, but he’s also an entertainer. And an entertainer needs an audience.

A hybrid fight against MMA star Francis Ngannou would generate a fortune and serve as a stage for Fury but it wouldn’t be the same as a boxing match. Fury vs. Ngannou would be gimmicky, akin to a Mike Tyson senior exhibition and fights involving YouTuber-turned-fighter Jake Paul.

Fury is a boxer through and through. I believe he’ll engage in the sweet science as long as he can do it at a high level. And let’s be clear: He’s at the absolute peak of his abilities, as we saw on Saturday.

How could he walk away now?

It happens. Rocky Marciano, Lennox Lewis and Carl Froch are among those who retired as world champions and never returned. Fury could join that group if he’s truly determined to begin a new chapter in his life and that of his family.

I’d bet against it, though. The opportunity to fight the winner of the tentative Usyk-Anthony Joshua fight for the undisputed heavyweight championship will be too tempting for him to pass up, in terms of both the money to be collected and a chance to further enhance his legacy.

I’ll be shocked if the uppercut that stopped Whyte is the last punch Fury will have thrown as a boxer.

 

WORSE

Other prominent boxers have engaged in silly events. Muhammad Ali “fought” wrestler Antonio Inoki while he was still an active boxer. George Foreman once took on five men in one night. And Floyd Mayweather play-acted with wrestler Paul “The Big Show” Wight.

Fury would be following in their footsteps if he takes on Ngannou, who was invited into the ring after Fury’s victory and later said a meeting between the two will take place next year.

I wouldn’t blame Fury for taking part in such an event from a business standpoint. Most people would take advantage of an opportunity to make a fortune in what would amount to a workout.

And if they fight under boxing rules – MMA gloves or no MMA gloves – Fury would be taking next to no risk. It would be as absurd as the Mayweather-Conor McGregor matchup, in which that popular MMA star – with limited boxing skills – had no chance to win. Small (read: no) risk, big gain.

I’m a capitalist. I get it. That said, I didn’t like the Ali, Foreman and Mayweather events. And I don’t like this one.

Fury fighting Ngannou would be akin to Bob Dylan writing a jingle for a product on television or Steven Spielberg directing a TikTok video. It’s beneath Fury to face an opponent who doesn’t have the ability to compete with him, which would create a circus atmosphere.

So will it happen?

Well, I thought it was interesting that Ngannou said the fight will happen sometime next year, not sooner. Maybe Fury just wants to take a long rest. Or maybe he remains open to fighting Usyk or Joshua before he engages in events outside boxing.

There will be time for such things later.

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