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Tyson Fury: The good, the bad, the ugly, the undisputed?

By primenewsghana
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On Saturday evening in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, heavyweight boxing’s bureaucracy and politics will fizzle into insignificance.

Tyson Fury v Oleksandr Usyk is pugilism’s World Cup final. The best versus the best. A cliffhanger episode to draw the eyes of the world.

Barring a draw, for the first time in almost a quarter of a century one man will stand tall as the undisputed champion of boxing’s glamour division.

For Fury, a man born into a fighting traveller family and named after former champion Mike Tyson, it could be his crowning moment as arguably Briton’s greatest export to the sport.

A Netflix reality show and appearances in the scripted world of wrestling entertainment – combined with a compelling comeback story after battling addiction and depression - have long since established Fury as a mainstream figure.

His rise, however, has been far from meteoric.

From a leisure centre in Wigan to a Norfolk showground, the slow-burning superstar has worked his way through smaller venues into the starkest of spotlights.

Over a 16-year-professional career, the only predictable thing about Fury has been his unpredictability.

Could Saturday be the climax of a career that has produced the good, the bad and, on occasions, the ugly?

Fury’s first coach, Steve Egan, knew he was on to a winner the moment he first laid eyes on a young Gypsy King.

At just 14 - standing 6ft 4in tall and weighing 14st – Fury towered over almost every adult in Egan’s gym in Wythenshawe, Manchester.

“This guy is going to be champion of the world someday,” Egan prophesied in 2006.

Gold medals at the 2006 European Junior championships and the 2007 English Nationals signalled Fury’s potential as Great Britain’s Olympic selectors began to take notice.

Liverpudlian David Price, who would later become a fierce rival, recalls meeting an 18-year-old Fury for the first time.

“I had just won gold at the Commonwealth Games and was in a training camp in Sheffield before the European Championships,” Price tells BBC Sport.

“My team-mate Frankie Gavin came into my hotel room and said there’s a young kid here saying he’s here to take your place in the Olympics. He says his name is Tyson Fury.

“I was like “what?” – I’d never heard that type of talk in the amateurs. It was always so respectful, never had I come across someone that brash.”

When Price sparred Fury just a few weeks later, he saw signs that his fellow Briton had the bite to back up his bark.

“He was really young, just a raw novice, so I can’t say I knew he’d go on to become a two-time world champion,” Price says.

“But I’d sparred with other upstarts at the time and you could always land big shots to let them know but it wasn’t as easy to do so on Tyson. He was always switched on. “

A few months later the pair faced each other in the north-west finals of the Amateur Boxing Association finals. Price noticed considerable improvements in such a short space of time, but his experience, pride and a burning desire to shut Fury up prevailed.

“Fury had written a letter to the Boxing News magazine that he was going to knock me out in the ABA Championships,” Price explains. “As soon as I heard that I had a bit between my teeth and wanted to teach him a lesson.”

Price won their bout on points and would go on to take bronze for Great Britain at Beijing 2008.

After a failed attempt at making the Ireland team, Fury’s Olympic dream was over.

His amateur career ended with an impressive 31 wins from 35 fights. However, without the profile of an Olympic podium, it was Price who turned professional amid hype of being Britain’s next big heavyweight hope.

On size alone, Fury should be a clear favourite against former cruiserweight king Usyk, however a lacklustre performance and controversial points win against boxing debutant Francis Ngannou in October has tightened the odds.

Fury has been here before though; his ability has consistently been questioned and each time he has come up with answers.

It wasn’t seven straight stoppage wins that attracted attention in the early part of his career. Instead an uppercut that glanced off journeyman Lee Swaby’s guard and into Fury’s own face became an unwanted viral moment.

In his eighth bout, Fury was fortunate to be awarded a points win over John McDermott – who Price later knocked out in the first round - for the British title.

“McDermott definitely should have won,“ Price says.

“After that performance people were leaning towards me as the Brit to go on and do better things. Tyson just didn’t appear to be very technically well rounded. He seemed a bit clumsy.”

Fury’s unbeaten run continued but his credentials to challenge at the very top appeared lacking when he was dropped by the unknown Neven Pajkic in 2011 and by blown-up cruiserweight Steve Cunningham two years later.

“Nobody back then thought Tyson could win a world title,” Northern Ireland’s Carl Frampton – who knew Fury from the amateurs and was well on his way to winning the first of his two world titles at the time – says.

But Fury’s defensive skills, elusive agility and remarkable power of recovery have kept him rising and his record running. He has 34 wins from 35 professional fights, with a 2018 draw against Deontay Wilder the only slight hiccup.

When Ngannou’s overhand left sent Fury crashing to the canvas for the seventh time as a professional in October, he rose to his feet, regrouped and did the job.

Just as he did against Pakjic, Cunningham and on four occasions, across three fights, against Wilder.

Price believes Fury performs best when his back is up against the wall.

“That close call against Ngannou was probably the best thing that could have happened to Fury at this stage,” Price says.

“He has that chip on his shoulder again. The one he had early on his career when he wanted to prove people – including me - wrong.”

Fury’s twin wins over Wilder have defined his second coming after two and a half years out of the sport wrestling with personal demons.

For purists however his greatest achievement was the win that immediately preceded his stepping away from boxing – a November 2015 success over Wladimir Klitschko in Dusseldorf.

“People forget about the Klitschko fight,” Frampton says. “For me that is one of – if not the – greatest wins for a British fighter ever.”

Fury’s showmanship stepped up in the build-up. Dressed as Batman in a news conference, he told Klitschko that he had “as much charisma as my underpants”.

World champion Klitschko was a clear favourite, unbeaten in 11 years and fighting with home advantage in his adopted Germany.

But Fury’s unrelenting mind games continued right up to fight night.

Just hours before the opening bell, Fury complained about the softness of the ring canvas, arguing it would hinder his footwork and that Klitschko had begun wrapping his hands without a member of Fury’s team present.

A layer of foam was removed from the surface, Klitschko rewrapped his hands, and, having had his demands met, Fury shone in the ring.

“He boxed Klitschko’s head off. He took him to school,” says Fury’s promoter Frank Warren.

The victory handed Fury the IBF, WBA and WBO world titles – three of the belts that Usyk is putting on the line in Riyadh this weekend.

“Tyson changed the landscape of the heavyweight division,” Warren adds. “And if he hadn’t vacated the belts because of his personal problems after the Klitschko fight, he would still have all those belts today.”

Aesthetically, Fury does not resemble a typical elite-level athlete.

“You couldn’t beat a fat man,” he mocked Klitschko before a scheduled rematch which never happened.

Taking his top off and proudly parading his paunch is a regular occurrence in Fury’s news conferences.

In many ways the lack of bulging muscles or six-pack has endeared him to the British public.

He has been lauded as the peoples’ champion, taking phone calls from fans when his mobile number was leaked online by his wife or buying shots for England football fans at Euro 2016.

But not everyone wants to be represented by him. Controversy and, occasionally, apologies have been a constant throughout Fury’s career.

Fury has made disparaging comments towards women, the Jewish community and homosexuals during his career.

After beating Klitschko he tested positive for a banned steroid – blaming it on consuming uncastrated wild boar.

He has links to suspected Irish gangster Daniel Kinahan, who had worked as an advisor to the boxer.

But Fury, has been nimble outside of the ring as well as inside, slipping on to the next thing.

A Christmas single with Robbie Williams and numerous appearances on prime time talk shows have kept him front and centre as one of boxing’s biggest stars.

“I think people identify with him because of the ups and downs of his life,” Warren says.

“He’s gone through a lot of what other people go through. Everybody knows somebody who's had problems in their life. Everybody knows someone who's had a drug problem. Or a booze problem.

“They have seen how he's dealt with it, come back from it.”

With his global fame, Fury has become less open with the media at times.

But he has found other avenues for his trash talk.

Fury has directed expletive-laden social media posts at Usyk before their meeting, repeatedly describing his fellow champion as a “foreigner”.

Price, who has seen Fury slowly back up all his teenage bravado, sees a common thread that leads all the way into the ring in Riyadh.

“Deep down he is probably the same Tyson he has always been,” Price says.

“If he’s got it in for someone, the old, nasty mouth will come out.

“He gets personal. If he’s threatened by someone, he will get a bit nasty.”

Fury may not be able to break the iron-willed Usyk – a man who defended his native Ukraine against the Russian invasion five months after becoming champion.

If he does however, securing a career-defining win and a full house of heavyweight belts, some have suggested the 35-year-old may retire.

The man himself has suggested otherwise, promising a rematch against Usyk, and two fights against Anthony Joshua before another meeting with Ngannou at least before he hangs up his gloves.

Predicting Fury’s next move is as tricky as ever. However long he has left in the sport though, you can expect the mix of the good, bad and ugly to continue.