Showboating did not cost Tyson Fury the fight – it is just what he does

Tyson Fury
Tyson Fury tries to wind Oleksandr Usyk up - Action Images/Andrew Couldridge

Tyson Fury’s showboating worked both for and against the Gypsy King in his epic encounter with Oleksandr Usyk as the fight of two halves illustrated his tactics in the ring.

It is part of Fury’s cloak, or smoke screen in the ring. It did not pay off this time, for the first time in his 16-year professional career, and in a fight that was elite level boxing chess.

Fury taunted his opponent in a number of ways during the undisputed bout but ultimately came unstuck in a torrid ninth round which swayed the fight in favour of Usyk.

Part of Fury’s armoury is his confidence and showmanship – all part of his style – and it was to the fore in this contest and critics may be quick to find fault with his tactics after he lost by split decision in what was a sensational, epic 12-round battle at the sold out Kingdom Arena.

Had it been a victory, Fury’s tactics would have been regarded as genius. The fallout on the first loss of his career will centre on his tactical approach – belief that he was ahead in the fight going into the last three minutes, and that over-confidence may have ultimately cost him dearly.

Tyson Fury reacts after being punched by Oleksandr Usyk
Fury reacts after being punched by Usyk - Getty Images/Richard Pelham

Indeed, as his promoter Frank Warren remarked in the post fight conference, it looked as if Fury was on the way to stopping Usyk at one point.

Up to round seven, Fury had enjoyed dominance in the contest. But it all went awry in round nine, when he was hurt by a
long assault of mainly left hands, and was counted by referee.

The tactics from Fury, full of bluster, began with the ring walk, dancing his way to the ring, taking his time, soaking up the adulation of the fans, and dancing with his team, as Usyk waited in the ring, having walked first, and once into the ring, moved into his opponent’s corner, as if to goad his foe.

It was a display of confidence from Fury, and not unusual. Fury enjoyed a magnificent first half of the fight, and in the opening round made a face to the crowd, another display of pleasure and braggadocio.

Indeed, as Fury told a packed gallery at the post fight news conference, “I actually really enjoyed
myself in there.”

There is a saying in boxing about “not getting too greedy” in a fight, and as the 6ft 9ins tall, almost 19st fighter grew in comfort and confidence, he began to play, turning away as he approached his foe, playing rope-a-dope at times, and even dropping his hands.

There was even a moment when he put his gloves behind his back and goaded his rival. As much as tactics, it is founded on skill, and a unique style.

None of this is out of character, or unusual, for the Gypsy King, yet it will be intriguing to observe whether Fury will do anything differently in this way in their second encounter, in October.

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The ring walk

Fury seemed to bounce around for an age as he took his time getting to the ring. He looked relaxed and light on his feet as he danced with his entourage, taking the applause of the fans while his opponent waited for him. When Fury entered the ring he made a move towards Usyk before being ushered away.

Round one – the face

The fight was around a minute old when Fury backed towards the corner of the ring and made an exaggerated, open-mouthed face at the crowd. It was a moment of slapstick that scarcely seemed as if it could have happened, with the Briton turning away from his opponent as he advanced towards him. It wasn’t quite clear what the purpose of the moment was, but it was extraordinary to see with Fury’s pantomime style approach within the ring.

Round four – the wind-up

Usyk was on top in the first couple of rounds before Fury got back into it, and you could tell the Gypsy King had regained his confidence when he did ‘the wind-up’ – twirling his hand as if gathering the power to unleash a particularly powerful punch. He failed to land a punch at that stage but as he got on top it seemed unlikely to matter.

Rounds five and six – the rope-a-dope

Fury had a new tactic for rounds five and six, on occasion sitting back and resting with his hands up on the ropes – before unleashing a vicious shot as Usyk came towards him. It was showboating but with a purpose.

Fury on the ropes
Fury retreats to the ropes … to mock Usyk - PA/Nick Potts

Round 12 – one last rope-a-dope

As the fight changed the showboating stopped. But Fury had one last attempt, finishing the fight with one final rope-a-dope, perhaps in a bid to convince the judges he had won. It was in vain, and the question now is whether the showboating was too much. Joseph Parker, speaking as a pundit on DAZN, said: “Tyson does what he does. But in a fight of this magnitude you need pure focus in every second of every minute of every round.”

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