• Steve Bunce

Why silence like Fury's may be golden

Steve Bunce September 23, 2014
Buncey's Boxing Podcast: Chisora, Galahad, Taylor

When Tyson Fury arrived at his press conference to announce his November 29 fight with Dereck Chisora he had tape across his mouth and for sixty minutes he never said a word. He used some comic hand gestures and they said all that was needed.

Last month Fury was fined £15,000 by the British Boxing Board of Control for a series of foul-mouthed outbursts in the days before his scheduled fight with Chisora collapsed in July. Fury is just one of dozens of British boxers, men holding BBBofC licences, that routinely swear, make bold claims and utter stupid things in the weeks and days before fights. Some, like Fury, abuse their opponents with a sparkle in their eye but others spit out hate.

Buncey's Vault

Herbie Hide shows off his WBO Heavyweight Championship belt after defeating Tony Tucker in 1997 © Mark Thompson/Allsport
  • Herbie Hide was in the news. He was planning to defend his WBO heavyweight title against 'former middleweight, super-middleweight and light-heavyweight world champion Roy Jones before June'. Hide, 26 at the time, was due to meet with his promoter Frank Warren 'to agree terms for a fight that Jones is close to accepting'.
  • Jones expressed an interest in winning a world heavyweight title and initially 'thought that Michael Moorer was the least daunting champion, but now firmly believes it is Hide'. What a fun fight that would have been. Jones decided instead to win back his light-heavyweight title, made 10 defences before winning the WBA heavyweight title in Las Vegas in 2003 when he beat John Ruiz. Jones, by the way, has his 67th fight this Friday (September 26 in Russia). Hide, meanwhile, made two defences in 1998 and lost his WBO title to Vitali Klitschko in 1999. Hide is currently in prison on a drugs charge.
  • As reported in the Daily Telegraph, January 3, 1998

Boxers in Britain routinely talk now about their opponent leaving the ring in an ambulance or how they will never quit and will only leave in an ambulance of their own. On social media people inside a boxer's entourage often circulate pictures that have been changed to include the head of a fighter on the naked torso of a porn star - the comic but graphic stuff that circulated before the Froch v Groves rematch was golden. That was a fight, by the way, with genuine hate.

As for swearing and claims to "hurt" somebody, well that has now become so common that nobody seems to flinch when a British champion tells a reporter or some fool with a camera and immediate access to the Internet: "I ******* hate him, I'm going to ******* kill him - there is no way that **** is taking my title". I don't want to sound like an old man, a man that has failed to move with the times, but when I started in the 80s there was not one single boxer that would dare utter anything like that to any type of reporter or broadcaster. Not one and, this is important, not one of the journalists would have let him!

Just a few ŷears ago I had a row with some of my so-called colleagues in the so-called press about something truly dumb that David Haye had said. I had missed the actual interview but Haye talked about how Audley Harrison will think that he had been gang raped by a group of gorillas after their fight. I suggested to the reporters that we just drop the line, it's offensive and there are times when people need to be protected from their own stupidity. My plea was rejected and the rape quote ran. I never wrote it and my editor at the time at the Independent never complained. In my opinion the fight was going to be a great financial success, which it was, and there were a lot of other lines to write about.

Fury swears a lot and is very creative with his swearing. During the last 12 months he has cruelly been denied not one but two million-pound fights; the fight with Chisora was also for a lot of money. When the Chisora fight collapsed just a few days before the first bell, and with emotions running high, there was a strong case for silencing Fury, finding the gag that was used on Monday across his mouth; it never happened and he got to speak - it rightly cost him 15 grand.

Boxing gyms have always been packed with men that could swear, men that over exaggerated their ability and made ridiculous promises. They did it in the gym and that was that. Fights have always taken place between men that hated each other, came close to scuffling in private and made no secret of the mutual hate. The difference between now and 25 years ago is that today every utterance finds an outlet, every word by every fighter becomes news for a few seconds. It's not proper news but somebody will report it, post it online somewhere and that is that.

The Board needs to send a simple letter to everybody holding one of their many licences and remind them all that swearing, death threats and talk of killing in the ring are simply not acceptable in any type of interview. There is a boxer, just out of a coma, in Sheffield and he serves as a reminder why no talk of death, stretchers and ambulances have any place in modern boxing stories.

I can sense the hate when boxers are together and I don't need to be told about it. Let's hope a few fools keep their big mouths shut in the coming months and the men that they pay to say 'yes' also show some restraint.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
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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.