By Terence Dooley
Hughie Fury (20-0, 10 KOs) faces a date with destiny at the Manchester Arena tonight when he meets New Zealand’s Joseph Parker (23-0, 18 KOs) for the WBO title. It is the first fight at the arena since the Manchester bombing in May and Manchester-born Fury’s first fight in the city, it will also be televised live on Youtube as part of a new pay-per-view model that promoter Mick Hennessy hopes will take off.
In another first, Fury is entering the fight fully fit for what he believes is the only time in his career after overcoming fatigue and general ill health that was caused by acne conglobata, which can poison the blood and lead to severe illness. The 23-year-old has been training in and around Lake Windermere, where his father and trainer, Peter, lives and has even swam in the lake as part of a back-to-basics pre-fight training camp.
“This has been different from previous camps,” confirmed Fury when speaking to BoxingScene. “My dad lives in Windermere so we thought we’d base the training camp out of here to do some proper hard-core, old-school training.
“Between training I’m just sleeping, trying to recover. It is constant the whole time. I don’t get bored, we train three times a day: eat, sleep, train and repeat. I’ve done plenty of rounds in sparring.
“I’m learning every single day. I’ve been boxing longer than most people my age. Age doesn’t come into it, I’ve been through a lot, seen a lot and have learned a lot. This is my time, I’m going to prove myself one fight at a time.
“Previous camps have all been terrible, I’ve not been able to complete a full one without fading or having to recover my body—I’d feel faint and have no energy left. I’d have to recover from them then jump into the ring and try to have a fight. I’d have cold sores and ulcers all over my lips, I was rundown so it was tough. It is nice to be fit, ready and the best I’ve ever felt.”
He has not had an official outing since a six-round Technical Decision win over Fred Kassi last April, in which he was badly cut over his eye from an accidental clash of heads and felt fatigued from the first bell. It led to a long layoff that was ended in July with an exhibition fight, and win, over Kamil Sokolowski (W6).
“A cut is a cut, you are going to get cut in the fight game,” said Hughie when recalling the Kassi fight. “It was a bad cut, they had to stitch the inside and the outside as well. I had about a year out, which was frustrating, and I was taking medication for my illness, which made me sleep most days and makes you feel depressed. We’ve been through, it, that’s for sure. I’ve had all my battles outside the ring, not inside the ring.”
Peter took up the story, saying: “We had a specialist doctor there who specialises in skin stitching, he is affiliated with the Boxing Board of Control as well he took it over instead of the usual doctor. He is a hand specialist and does skin grafts too so he stitched it up, it took about 16 stiches and has repaired well because he’s been applying oil to it.”
He added: “In boxing, cuts and bruises are part of the game. A sparring partner got cut the other week, he got split right open, so it happens.”
Now, though, that is behind the contender and he feels that he will put on a show against Parker. Despite a few pre-fight flare-ups, including a shove at yesterday’s weigh-in, the challenger respects the visitor yet has vowed to put him away then go on a run of fights in a bid to secure an all-British showdown with WBA Super World, IBF World and IBO holder Anthony Joshua.
“I believe I am going to knock him out,” he declared. “He seems a nice, civil kid, but when the bell goes it is business. I’d fight every week if I could, it doesn’t bother me, and my main concern is Parker. I don’t care who it is next, line them up and I’ll knock them down. The heavyweight division is exciting now so it will be nice to be the mix for those titles.”
His cousin Tyson is on sabbatical until he can put to rest the UKAD charge hanging over him and Wladimir Klitschko retired after his 11th-round KO loss to Joshua, leaving “AJ” as the dominant force in the division.
Fury, though, believes that the former world Champion played into the young fighter’s hands.
“Klitschko has got nothing else to prove, he’s 41 in a young man’s sport, he could have done a lot yet has more than enough money and achieved all his goals, there is nothing left for that man to achieve. He didn’t show his previous style, he came out and tried to make it an exciting fight, win or lose, and I think he knew that was his last fight. Credit where it is due, the man is a legend and a class fighter.”
His father concurred, telling me that Klitschko had one fight too many yet went out on his shield. “He’s an old man, he’s not a young man, and this is a young man’s sport,” he reiterated.
“Who wants to go in there with someone like Joshua at that point? People can ask why he couldn’t detonate at times, he’s over the hill and youth won that fight. Move on and leave it to the young men.
“There was a load of mistakes from both fighters, but that doesn’t matter because Joshua got him out of there. He took chances, took shots, went down and turned it with a big punch. Styles make fights, especially in heavyweight boxing, so the main thing is that he won, won it in style, and is the heavyweight champion of the world.
“It is always good to have that British rivalry. All of these fights are possible down the line, you are in this to prove that you are the best, so why not prove you are the best at home? I like to see history making fights, world title fights that people can look back on. There is no easy, short route to them: Tyson had to travel to Germany to fight Klitschko and we’ve got to fight a man that no one wants in Parker, there is no easy route to the world title.”
As talk turned to their training regime, he joked about his son’s lake swims before explaining the thinking behind it all. “He has a wetsuit on, he doesn’t jump in their in a pair of shorts!” he said.
“We have all the right gear, he is properly warmed up and, let’s face it, this is the best time of year to do an outside camp because it is still summer. There might be the chance of rain, but it is not cold and there is no chance of him catching anything. He is in a very good place after training very hard and dedicated, good things come to good people so he should do very well. I’m quietly confident.
“You can never be too sure, which is why I say I’m quietly confident, and Parker is a very good heavyweight who has been widely avoided. Don’t listen to what people tell, you, they’ve all shouted his name then avoided him. Parker isn’t over the hill, on his last legs and at the twilight of his career: he is young, hungry and doesn’t want to lose this fight.
“He has fought some good opposition, [Andy] Ruiz and [Razvan] Takam can both fight and he came through those tough fights. He has done 12 rounds, is used to being hit and is a good fighter. We were down to fight Ruiz, but he pulled out two or three weeks before the fight. They must have got wind that they were getting Parker, so you can’t blame them for that.
“He is a young man, a world champion and I won’t say anything derogatory about him. If anything, I’d say that this fight has been underplayed as you’ve got two of the best in the division who will put it all on the line and should produce fireworks.”
“I do think that we haven’t got an old man versus a young man, we have got two young, undefeated heavyweights. Everyone is going to wake up to Hughie after this fight, they will see what I’ve been on about and that this kid can fight. No excuses, it has been a perfect camp, he is firing on all cylinders, so the best man will win.”
Home advantage could prove crucial if this one goes to the cards. Duco Events campaigned to have Terry O’Connor removed as referee. Their appeal was a success, Marcus McDonnell will now be the third man, with O’Conner one of the judges. Something that Peter is philosophical about.
“It just unfolded like this, we offered to go out there and they said they’d prefer to come here,” he revealed. “I respect him for that. I respect all boxers as it is a tough job. Looking at it as a trainer and as a father, all world-level fighters deserve respect because they go into a training camp and have to work hard then spar and get bashed up three or four times a week. Boxing is heavy going, a massive commitment.”
Should his son win, he will return to an active schedule rather than the stop-start routine that was forced upon them by health issues in recent years. “Absolutely, I don’t want things to run as they’ve been running,” said Peter when asked if Hughie will be active in 2018.
“Hopefully he gets past Parker and we’ll look for another meaningful fight. He’ll start training again at the end of January for another fight. We’d look at around April or May.”
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