Pain and deep disappointment have no hiding place. The churning in your stomach, the incredible sense of emptiness and dreams unfulfilled can swallow you whole, if you let it. Clearing your mind of obsessive thoughts and countless what-if’s, only saps your remaining energy.
It takes a certain strength of character to scrape yourself from the canvas and face the music. Or the media. Or the equally expectant fans, in their thousands. Fortunately, by birth-right, Hughie Fury (20-1, 10KOs) has that strength in abundance.
As we chatted on a miserable Wednesday afternoon, it was evident that he’d been working hard on his optimism. He opened up on his defeat to World heavyweight champion Joseph Parker in detail, finding the time to extract the positives.
“I’ve watched the fight back a hundred times. I thought I won the fight, I dunno where them judges got their scores from but, it’s one of them. Looking back, at the end of the day, it’s a boxing match, it’s not anything else. From the boxing side, obviously I could have done more… I dunno if it was ring-rust.”
It was exactly 511 days since Hughie’s last contest. Inactivity as a result of health concerns, UKAD issues and promotional complications when negotiating the Parker fight had all contributed. At only 23-years-old, a certain sense of regularity is key.
“I didn’t let me’ shots off how I wanted to, but from what I could see, I still won the fight but you gotta just crack on to the next one. I just gotta get on with it and put it behind me. Whatever don’t kill you, makes you stronger that’s what I believe and you learn from them mistakes fight-by-fight and you can always improve.”
“So, I’ve just gone back to the drawing board and we’re looking forward to getting back out again. I’ve been training all over Christmas, just staying in shape and I can’t wait to get back in the ring!”
The controversy surrounding the heavyweight clash was amplified by the judging in a mega-fight the preceding week. Gennady Golovkin, perceived a worthy winner by many, had managed to salvage only a draw when facing Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez. The now infamous ‘118-110’ scorecard had reared its ugly head again. Amongst claims of corruption, discrimination and outright incompetence in Manchester, the Fury camp felt cheated.
The dressing room after a fight is a place of palpable tension. To stand amongst men or women putting everything on the line, only to be seperated by a digit in a column, can be overwhelming. Hughie told me he visited Parker post-fight in his dressing room, with the visiting champion heard during a private conversation, all-but-conceding-defeat.
“I overheard him on the phone saying, ‘I dunno how I got that fight!’ He definitely didn’t want the fight (rematch). You know when you can see a beaten man. If you look at the end of the fight, he knew he lost that fight. But, you can’t just keep moaning about it, you gotta get on now and make sure it makes you better.”
I couldn’t help but picture an altogether different scene in Hughie’s dressing room seven years previous, celebrations in Yerevan. The capital of Armenia, it had hosted the AIBA Youth World Championships, with Hughie emerging a gold medalist. Only the beginning of a young man’s journey into boxing, it seemed the recent defeat to Parker was only the beginning of his participation at the sport’s upper echelons.
Having the sole focus of father/trainer Peter Fury, it was clear that he was determined to make a dent in the heavyweight division in the coming year. With massive fights lined up involving Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder, Hughie’s ambition was to cement himself amongst the top five.
I asked his thoughts on Joshua, particularly around a potential clash between the pair in the future. Hughie dissected the commercial powerhouse’s in-ring attributes, “I believe he’ll come short eventually, 100% I do fancy Joshua. He’s a bit stiff for my liking, I believe I’d run rings around him so that’s a fight I’d love.”
“There’s some big fights out there, some exciting fights especially in the heavyweight division. Hopefully these fights get to happen and hopefully I get to be a part of them. It’s the right time to be a heavyweight. Listen, it doesn’t matter to me, one day I believe the belts will all be mine anyway! It doesn’t matter if it’s one after the other, whatever belt is available, I’m going for it.”
British boxing currently finds itself in awe of the natural ability of proud fighters from the Travelling community. Billy-Joe Saunders produced a faultless masterclass in Canada when destroying the highly-touted David Lemiuex, whilst Hughie and his cousin Tyson have received plaudits for their slick movement and counter-punching at heavyweight. Boxing is in their blood, harking back to the days of Tony Sibson in the late 70’s and long since.
I was keen to gain an insight into modern life as a member of the community. Tight-knit and protective, they look after one another and see themselves as ordinary citizens, something I fully agreed with, whilst being aware many narrow-minded idiots may not.
“I don’t live on a site now, I live in a house. Everyone lives different, you know, we live like everyone else. We’re just like normal people and I don’t see myself as no better than anyone else, at the end of the day we are what we are! It’s all about sport (for me) really, live, breathe and eat boxing. That’s all it is. That’s our life, it’s like everyone elses but we just train boxing.”
We did discuss Hughie’s current physical state and pre-existing health concerns. He had publicly suffered with extreme acne, causing him great pain and resulting in a much-reduced physical performance. This was cited as one of the reasons for his 511 day absence, as well as his rescheduled WBO title challenge.
I had heard father Peter say he was recovering from these issues, but asked the younger Fury to clear up any misinformation. He told me, “I’m over the worst of that. That’s gone now, my body has recouperated from all of that and like I said, I feel a different person from that. Being out of the ring for two years, that didn’t help me as well but hopefully this year I’ll be keeping busy and keeping active – that’s what I want. Now all of my problems are gone, the fitness is there, the health is there so let’s just move forward.”
Moving forward. After a damaging defeat, albeit not a physical one, the key was progression. The youngest of the Fury boys had arrived on the World stage, announcing himself to thousands of fans both at home and in New Zealand. The future holds endless opportunity for Hughie as he sharpens his tools for another tilt at glory. Younger than every man inside BoxRec’s heavyweight top-forty, he sits at number twenty-three.
Boxing as he does, longevity is inevitable. He takes minimal damage, fighting almost as an elusive middleweight on the backfoot, using his stinging accuracy to confuse opponents.
Following his defeat to Joseph Parker, people will question his output. They will question his power and his ability to beat the existing champions… that’s boxing, folks. Given his background and the obstacles he has already overcome, they cannot doubt his heart. Made from tougher stuff with violence and anger in his name, his future in the sport shall be impelling.
“What I want people to say is ‘You have to go through the bad times to get to the good times’. You have to experience these things and this is what you do now. By me, losing the World title, you can’t let it put you down. That fight made me more hungry and people will see that in my upcoming fights. People haven’t seen the full me or the full potential, I believe that. I honestly think I will have all of them belts, truly I believe that.”
Written by Craig Scott