• Steve Bunce

The other Fury

Steve Bunce February 11, 2014
Hughie Fury, right, is taking a similar but quieter path in the heavyweight division compared to cousin Tyson © PA Photos

Hughie Fury fights this Saturday at the Copper Box, a venue left behind after the 2012 London Olympics, and it will be the unbeaten teenager's 13th fight in 11 months.

Hughie is a heavyweight just like his big cousin, Tyson, and he has been in gyms and training camps with his cousin for a few years now, learning his trade the slow and painful way. However, as an amateur he won the World Youth Championships in Armenia in 2012, fighting five times. The Cubans and Russians were relieved when he turned professional shortly after winning the gold medal.

Buncey's Vaults

Michael Ayers would go on to become a world champion © Getty Images
  • Michael Ayers won a Lonsdale belt outright in a record 95 days when he stopped late-replacement Charles Shepherd in the third round of their British lightweight title fight in Potters Bar. 'The end was awful to watch,' I wrote.
  • Shepherd was caught and hurt by a right, lost control of his legs and fell into the ropes. 'After 50 seconds the referee finally called an end.' Ayers wanted a fight with Luton's Billy Schwer. It 'would be the domestic fight of the year.'
  • The fight report also contained a paragraph about the end of Wire TV and that meant Lennox Lewis would need a new broadcaster for his planned fight in Dublin against Australian chef Justin Fortune in July. It was a mad world where a fight in a leisure centre in Potters Bar is bigger news than a former world heavyweight champion losing his broadcaster.
  • As reported in The Daily Telegraph, May 24, 1995

Hughie, who is still only 19, has fought in five different countries so far, often in obscurity and buried on an undercard. He also has had the responsibility for paying his opponents in fights that have not been televised. How many heavyweight prospects learn their trade in venues as diverse as the basement at Madison Square Garden in New York and the Olympic Hall in Timisoara, Romania? It's a golden apprenticeship and similar to the first year of Mike Tyson's fighting life, which we forget was totally obscure.

The fighting Fury boys are travellers but Hughie's punching itinerary has been excessive by any standards. "It's not about getting knockout after knockout," Hughie told me. "It's about getting the rounds and learning to take punches and go the distance. That is really what it is all about." Tyson Fury served a similar apprenticeship but had to do it under the glare of growing publicity, which meant that his every flaw was scrutinised, criticised and exaggerated in equal measure.

Hughie can just get on with winning and learning and hitting big lumps on the chin. "There is no pressure on Hughie right now," said Peter Fury, his father and also Tyson's coach. "Look at the pressure on Anthony Joshua. He's under tremendous pressure and he still has so much to learn about the pro business." Last week Eddie Hearn, Joshua's promoter, suggested that his heavyweight, after just four fights, was ready for either of the Fury boys. "Some people just don't understand the way the business works," Peter Fury said.

On Saturday, Hughie fights alongside Tyson and meets American Matt Greer, an opponent with losses on his record to some of the world's best prospects. Greer is a human measuring stick, a gauge of a boxer's progress and a man much in demand on the world's top boxing circuits. Greer has lost in the last couple of years to unbeaten fighters Andy Ruiz Jr, the fearsome roly-poly Mexican-American, and Deontay Wilder, the American with the biggest mouth and largest profile; Wilder has also managed to stop or knockout every one of his 30 victims, which means that he is allowed to shout a little. Hughie's progress will be measured by the fight's outcome.

There are many natural British contenders for Hughie's future fights and the looming spectre of a showdown with Joshua, who is five years older, could and should develop nicely during the next 12 months. There is, make no mistake, no rush and Joshua, who has not broken a sweat yet, has to first get hit as a professional before he even dreams of moving up a level. The argument used by all managers, trainers and promoters of unbeaten, untested heavyweights that their boxer gets hit in the gym is fully bogus: it only counts in the ring in a proper fight, trust me.

The learning process continues this Saturday and there will be no bold claims from Hughie or Peter. It's just another fight, another part of the essential heavyweight business, another step closer to becoming a real fighter. Hughie leaves the shouting to his cousin, which is sensible, and gets on with hitting and getting hit. Simple, really.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Steve Bunce Close
Steve Bunce has been ringside in Las Vegas over 50 times, he has been at five Olympics and has been writing about boxing for over 25 years for a variety of national newspapers in Britain, including four which folded! It is possible that his face and voice have appeared on over 60 channels worldwide in a variety of languages - his first novel The Fixer was published in 2010 to no acclaim; amazingly it has been shortlisted for Sports Book of the Year.