In what Tyson Fury is calling his last fight, does he still have the fire to beat the best?

By Sports Desk April 21, 2022

Tyson Fury is set to defend his WBC world heavyweight title against Dillian Whyte on Saturday, and while all logic points to smooth sailing for the champion, there may be more factors at play than meets the eye.

Fury is arguably the top pound-for-pound talent in boxing, and at six-foot-nine with a seven-foot wingspan, he is one of the sport's toughest puzzles to crack.

The 33-year-old sports a record of 31 wins and one extremely controversial draw against Deontay Wilder, which he avenged twice with back-to-back finishes of the heavy-handed American.

In a vacuum, 'The Gypsy King' by unanimous decision seems like the overwhelmingly likely result as his physical gifts and boxing skill should allow him to rack up rounds on the judges' scorecards as he picks apart the slower, smaller Whyte from the outside.

Whyte, at six-foot-four, is the shortest opponent Fury has faced since Sefer Seferi in June 2018.

But fights are not fought in a vacuum, and there are some familiar storylines clouding over the head of the reigning champion that could mean the Fury we see on Saturday may not be the same animal that dominated Wilder.

 

Fury's last dance

First and foremost, Fury is adamant that this will be his last fight, and he will retire in the ring this weekend – win, lose or draw.

Fighter retirements must always be taken with a grain of salt, given the fact that it has now become a common tactic among top attractions in order to drum up massive interest in their eventual return. 

However, Fury's feels different. This week he has been outspoken with the media about his desire to retire after his last fight with Wilder, but the prospect of returning home and fighting in front of 94,000 at Wembley convinced him to go around one more time.

"It's been a long old ride, it’s quite emotional to be honest," he said.

"All this, the ride of starting as a little kid and wanting to be heavyweight champion, and then to finally be hanging up the gloves. 

"And I know nobody believes me, because they all think I'm after money or whatever else – there's only a certain amount of people who know that money doesn't mean anything to me."

Simply put, Fury is only fighting for the honour of retiring undefeated, and the biggest fights of his career – taking the world championship off Wladimir Klitschko, and coming to America to take on Wilder – are behind him.

Fury will still have his skills, his size and his experience when he steps into the ring against Whyte, but the history of combat sports is littered with examples of fighters who have fought with one foot out the door, and that desire to continue to be great, and dominant, is something that can fade.

'Marvelous' Marvin Hagler once said "it's tough to get out of bed to do roadwork at 5am when you've been sleeping in silk pyjamas", and there is no heavyweight alive with silkier pyjamas than Fury right now.

Whyte, on the other hand, is heading into the fight of his life, and his last real opportunity to propel himself into the realm of boxing royalty.

At 34, with two losses on his record, the only way someone at Whyte's level can leap into the next stratosphere as a prize-fighting main attraction is to win a marquee fight against someone currently wearing the crown. 

Add in the fact that he is an Englishman, raised in Brixton, living out the dream of competing at Wembley in the biggest fight of his career, and from a motivational standpoint, it appears the advantage is clearly in Whyte's corner.

 

Fury the boxer, or Fury the entertainer?

Much has been made of Fury's change in trainers late in 2019, where he began training under the tutelage of SugarHill Steward.

The stylistic changes have been apparent, and in Fury's own words: "I punch a lot harder, I use a more aggressive style, and I'm looking to get people out of there rather than out-box them."

He has only fought twice with Steward in his corner, and both times were against Wilder – a boxer solely focused on landing a knockout, with no interest in stacking up rounds with patient boxing.

Whyte approaches things far differently. He does not head-hunt – a trait that earned him the nickname 'The Body Snatcher' – and he is more than happy to win by decision.

Given Fury's incredible size and movement skills, a game-plan centred around attacking the body – which moves around far less than the head – is the most sustainable way to tally scoring punches.

Whyte has never been knocked out in 52 combined professional fights across boxing, kickboxing and mixed martial arts, so if Fury is in there looking to end his career on a high with one big shot, Whyte can steal three or four early rounds and turn it into a tight decision.

 

Great Whyte hope

Not to get lost in Fury's skill superiority is the fact that Whyte is, obviously, very talented in his own right.

His first loss came against Anthony Joshua back in 2015, and it was the first time Whyte had been faced with an undefeated professional opponent with more than five fights.

Needless to say, he was not ready, but was still able to take multiple rounds off the Olympic gold medallist before his eventual demise in round seven.

Since then, Whyte has successfully dealt with fellow world title contenders Dereck Chisora (twice), Lucas Browne (by knockout) and Joseph Parker, and after being derailed by Alexander Povetkin in August 2020, he responded by knocking him out in the rematch eight months later.

That knockout earned Whyte this shot at Fury, and in his long, winding road to his chance at the taking the throne, he has proven his ability to respond to adversity, win close fights and do damage to elite heavyweights.

If Fury is truly done, Whyte could be the man tasked with carrying the torch for British heavyweight boxing going forward, and a win could set up another English mega-fight – this time with Joshua.

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    Tyson Fury voiced his frustration after suffering the first defeat of his career to Oleksandr Usyk in their undisputed world heavyweight title fight in Saudi Arabia.

    Usyk won by split decision to become the first undisputed heavyweight champion since Lennox Lewis, and the first to unite all four belts.

    The scorecards read 115-112 and 114-113 in favour of Usyk, while a third judge scored 114-113 to Fury.

    After an even start, the momentum shifted in a brilliant ninth round for the Ukrainian as he caught Fury with a left hook, forcing the referee to give him a standing count before the bell saved him from a further onslaught.

    A defiant Fury was not happy with the result, suggesting that Usyk received a sympathy vote from the judges.

    "I believe I won that fight," he said in the ring. "I believe he won a few of the rounds, but I won the majority.

    "His country is at war, so people are siding with the country at war. Make no mistake, I won that fight, in my opinion.

    "It was one of the daftest decisions in boxing. We run it back in October. I'm not going to sit here and cry and make excuses."

    Usyk remained undefeated as he took Fury’s WBC belt to add to his WBA, WBO and IBF collection.

    "Thank you so much for my team. It's a big opportunity for my family, for my country," an emotional Usyk said afterwards. "I'm very happy.

    "My people will be very happy. I think it's a big win, not only for me, it's a big win for my country, for soldiers who now defend my country.

    "I think my father now is watching over me and is very happy. Dad, I love you. I can, you told me I can."

  • John Fury appears to headbutt member of Team Usyk ahead of undisputed bout John Fury appears to headbutt member of Team Usyk ahead of undisputed bout

    Tyson Fury's father John Fury was left with a nasty cut on his face after appearing to headbutt a member of Oleksandr Usyk's entourage at a pre-fight media day on Monday.

    WBC belt-holder Fury will face Usyk for the undisputed world heavyweight title in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Saturday, with both men defending undefeated professional records.

    With both fighters and their camps present at a hotel in the city for media duties on Monday, the build-up to their bout – the most eagerly anticipated in the heavyweight division in recent years – got off to a chaotic start.

    Fury's father was pictured with blood running down his forehead after becoming involved in an altercation with a man wearing a Team Usyk tracksuit.

    Widely shared footage on social media appeared to show him headbutting the man, who then had to be restrained by other members of Usyk's entourage.

    It was later reported that the Saudi Arabian authorities were aware of the incident but did not plan to take any action.    

  • Joshua expects to fight at Wembley in September with Zhang or Wilder lined up Joshua expects to fight at Wembley in September with Zhang or Wilder lined up

    Anthony Joshua expects to return to Wembley Stadium for his next fight in September, with either Zhilei Zhang or Deontay Wilder lined up as his opponent.

    Joshua stopped Francis Ngannou in the second round in March, his fourth straight win since suffering back-to-back defeats to Oleksandr Usyk in 2021 and 2022. 

    His last two fights have been held in Saudi Arabia, but as he inches closer to a shot at regaining the titles he lost to Usyk three years ago, he is eyeing a return to his native London.

    "It'll be some date between September 20 and September 25. Whenever they tell me there's a date, you know I'll be ready 100 per cent," Joshua told TalkSport of his next fight.

    "It's going be in London, Wembley Stadium, this is what I'm being told. If this is what they say, they usually stick to their word."

    Pushed on possible opponents, he said the result of Zhang's upcoming bout with Wilder – who was scheduled to face Joshua in March only for those plans to be derailed by a shock defeat to Joseph Parker – will be decisive.

    "On June 1 in Saudi Arabia, they've got Filip Hrgovic versus Daniel Dubois and Zhilei Zhang versus Deontay Wilder. Out of that pool, that's who I'll be fighting."

    On Wilder, Joshua added: "If he looks good, that'll reignite that flame that he had. Boxing is all about perception, so I pray he does his thing and Zhang does his thing, and I'm ready."

    There has also been plenty of talk about Joshua facing Tyson Fury in an all-British tussle in recent years. The WBC heavyweight champion faces Usyk in a huge unification bout next month, and with a two-way rematch clause present in their deal, they are likely to face off twice before the year is out.

    When those obligations have been met, Joshua will be waiting, saying: "I know the fans want that big fight with Fury, but he's got his obligations with Usyk. 

    "They're working on it but I've just got to stay focused, stay disciplined, steamroller through opponents and get closer and closer to having a fight with Fury. Hopefully that'll be in London as well."

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