Opinion

Hughie Fury – Pariah or Prospect?

  • Is Hughie Fury being avoided by the world's best heavyweights or is he perfectly placed for a 23-year-old prospect?
Hughie Fury

Hughie Fury claimed the British heavyweight title in impressive fashion on Saturday, May 12, dispatching champion Sam Sexton in the fifth round of their Bolton Whites Hotel clash, televised live on Channel 5. Fury needed to look good and dispose of the likes of Sexton with the minimum of fuss. There could be no perceived boxing lesson, no back-foot master class, it had to be devastating and conclusive.

The lesser-known Fury did exactly what was required and his overall performance no doubt excited a bumper audience watching at home. The TV ratings recorded that the show had reached a total of 2.9 million viewers across the night on Channel 5 and 5Spike in the UK. Fury needed to rediscover his ruthless streak and look explosive in order to capture the attention of the peripheral boxing viewer, and he managed to do just that. When Hughie fought for the WBO heavyweight title against New Zealand champion Joseph Parker in September 2017, he left too much to chance, gave the judges decisions to make in many of the later rounds and simply failed to throw enough heavy shots to convince many observers that he had resoundingly snatched away the belt.

Straight after the Sexton fight, I saw an IFL interview with Mick Hennessy, which was interesting, to say the least. Let me be clear, I have no axe to grind with the Furys, no agenda, I consider myself neutral in their journey. I like Mick, and this is just me saying what I see – some of the post-fight talk was plainly delusional. They paint Hughie as this pariah of the world scene, too dangerous for the champions to speak of. However, the champions don’t mention his name because he’s irrelevant on the world scene, at present. He may well go on to be a very relevant world championship fighter, but this constant push towards world level is just reckless.

Indeed, Fury’s promoter Hennessy has had a rough ride over the past few years. Once providing staple boxing content on the BBC, flirting with Sky Sports and eventually finding a regular home on Channel 5, Mick has seen TV contracts, and star names like Carl Froch fall by the wayside. After Hughie’s defeat to Joseph Parker, Mick was widely derided for making the by now infamous comments that not only was Fury’s loss a travesty but his young fighter had been so dominant that he displayed “shades of Ali” in his performance. This was nonsense, but Mick was raw, emotional and uncut, speaking to media outlets in the immediate aftermath of a fight that he had pumped significant personal financial reserves in to make happen. Hennessy, for all of his faults, is a boxing man through and through. He loves the sport, believes in his fighters, and Hughie Fury is undoubtedly one of the last strings of hope dangling from a threadbare stable. Beating Parker was a gateway back to the big time.

Now they are intent on pushing him straight back in for eliminators and fringe belt shots in an attempt to fast-track a path towards a title mix where big money flows. Hughie is only 23; let him breathe. He’s British champion now, so make a defence, push for the European title if you want to, but the main thing is to keep him active and let him mature against solid opposition. Don’t try to furiously shoehorn him into the gap left by Tyson Fury’s departure. He may well turn into an excellent fighter, and he has skills but give him a chance to develop to such an extent that next time he gets his shot he is fully prepared and ready to grasp the opportunity with both hands – no excuses, no falling short, no shades of Ali.

Let Hughie’s fists do the talking, and the names build up to such an extent that his resume is the thing people point to when mulling over the heavyweight mix.

When Hennessy speaks of Hughie Fury he describes a proven world-class talent who’s being suppressed by the ‘man’; stunted by boxing politics intent on shutting down his chance of glory at every turn. Hughie got his shot at the WBO title because they worked the rankings system, which they are perfectly entitled to do, and Mick put up the cash to bring Parker over to Manchester – all standard procedure and all well manoeuvred.

Fury did not beat up a string of contenders to finally get a shot. He’s never beaten anyone remotely close to world level, and his record contains no names of any note. Why not give him a Carlos Takam, let him defend against a Nathan Gorman or push him towards an eliminator if need-be, but the narrative that Hughie is reminiscent of an awkward Henry Akinwande type, who’s being grossly avoided, is false. He’s not Marvin Hagler desperately knocking over world-class challengers while patiently waiting for a shot.

Prior to getting the Parker chance his best win was possibly the seventh-round technical decision success over Fred Kassi (BoxRec #113) which was for the vacant WBO Inter-Continental heavyweight bauble that helps fighters vaunt up the rankings. That was 2016 and Kassi arrived in the Copper Box having not registered a win since 2013. The African has engaged in two fights since and lost them both. Kassi is not a bad fighter at all, don’t misunderstand me, but we are talking about the best win on a potentially world-class fighter’s record here.

Not happy with Kassi? Try Andriy Rudenko then instead. The Ukrainian is BoxRec #38, was 24-1 when he fought Hughie, in Monaco in 2015. After losing to Fury, he went seven unbeaten before conceding a decision to Alexander Povetkin. No shame there and probably a sturdy case for Rudenko being the best opponent of Hughie’s career if you were looking to make one.

The third best win is Sam Sexton. The Norwich man won the title against Scotland’s Gary Cornish and is a solid, veteran heavyweight who has taken his lumps over the years before finally realising a Lonsdale belt dream. Fair play to Sexton, he’s a decent scalp on Fury’s record and exactly the type of test for a 23-year-old to be passing in impressive fashion. Sexton was beaten for the fourth time, and Hughie made sure that all four have been by knockout. The British title is a perfectly appropriate belt for Hughie Fury to be winning and defending right now in my opinion. Hughie is a good mover, clearly has talent and Peter Fury is an excellent coach. The seeds are definitely there for this boxer to flower into a championship competitor worth talking about; a name worth mentioning in conjunction with the likes of Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder.

But for now, slow it down a bit and ease off on the hyperbole. Let Hughie’s fists do the talking, and the names build up to such an extent that his resume is the thing people point to when mulling over the heavyweight mix. Forget about the big ones for now and start flipping this narrative into “shades of Fury”.

Steve Wellings
Honorary graduate of the Prison Canteen. Covering boxing since 2005 ~ Wolves fan ~ wannabe boxing raconteur.

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