By Terence Dooley
Tyson Fury has enjoyed yet another understated, controversy free fight week as he heads into his grudge match with Belfast’s Martin Rogan at the city’s Odyssey Arena later tonight. Only joking, as per usual the colorful 23-year-old has made a number of bold claims in recent days and topped the build up with the strongest statement he has ever made by weighing in somewhat svelte ahead the shamrock showdown.
It all started when Fury revealed that he had brought in Martin Breen, Rogan’s former trainer, at the eleventh hour to assist him in his final preparations, describing Breen as his “secret weapon”. The Mancunian also used the final pre-fight face-to-face to jokingly reveal that Rogan is the first step on Fury’s very own “Bum of the month” campaign, telling the assembled press that he will be knocking someone over every five weeks for Channel 5, who broadcast Fury’s fights and must be bemused by his choice of words, before honestly admitting that he cannot fight domestic rival David Price as Price is tied to Sky Sports.
Crazier still, Fury weighed in at 17st 7lbs 2oz yesterday, the lightest he has weighed during his professional career and all against the backdrop of yet another change to his training circumstances after Peter Fury took up the reigns following a parting of ways with former trainer Hughie Fury.
There was also the small matter of the change of billing at the eleventh hour after promoter Mick Hennessy revealed that the vacant Irish heavyweight title would not be on the line and instead revealed the bout would be a ‘12-round International contest’. Hennessy told Leonard Gunning of Boxing-Ireland.com that Rogan doesn’t want to “fight for the Irish title” as the Irishman refused to contest it over 12 x 3 despite receiving permission to fight for the belt over the full distance rather than 10-rounds, the regular duration of Irish title fights.
Still, there is always a certain amount of sound and fury surrounding Tyson’s outings. The 2008 ABA winner at super heavyweight admitted to struggling with depression before being floored and warring to a third-round stoppage over Neven Pajkic last time out. However, the Rogan build up has showcased the circus surrounding Fury while overlooking one thing – Fury has whipped himself into the best shape of his career so certainly respects his 40-year-old opponent.
One thing is for sure, boxing fans and many casual viewers will tune into Channel 5 tonight to see what Fury, 17-0 (12), does next. Like Dereck Chisora, Tyson has become one of the most flamboyant figures in a traditionally colorful division and the two are a nice – or gaudy depending on your perspective – counterbalance to the sterile dominance of the Klitschko brothers.
Showtime and Channel 5 analyst Al Bernstein has seen plenty of heavyweights come and go during his long and distinguished career. The veteran broadcaster is part of Channel 5’s big fight coverage and he believes that when it comes to boxing in general, and heavyweights in particular, boxing has traditionally blazed a trail in the hype stakes.
“Muhammad Ali changed the sporting landscape,” said Bernstein when speaking to BoxingScene.com about heavyweight hype. “After Ali, people just didn’t say what people expected them to say, they became a little bolder. It started in boxing and has stayed in boxing. What bothers me is when people role-play, and they are encouraged to sometimes. If someone is really flamboyant, and I sense that is who they are, then it is what it is.”
Fury’s spiel is certainly exaggerated, but the 6’ 9’’ former British champion has handled the chaos that surrounds his fights with such aplomb one suspects that he is not faking. Fury knows that the fans will flock to see him fight, talk and, in one of the press conferences, sing so can remain true to himself while creating the buzz needed to enliven the division.
Unfortunately, though, Fury’s performances have dipped since he beat Dereck Chisora by decision for the British and Commonwealth titles in July of last year. A routine win over Nicolai Firtha was followed by an up-and-downer against Neven Pajkic last November. Fury looked awful in that one and Hennessy’s claim that it was akin to “Hagler and Hearns” only held water if you stripped away all of Hagler and Hearns’s skills and forced them to spend three-weeks at an all-day buffet.
Indeed, the fact that Fury has dropped some weight for the clash with Rogan would suggest that the fighter knows he has to produce. Tyson is smart enough to understand that the hype generated by his words and press conference displays now needs to be backed up in the ring with a dominant performance, which he is likely to produce given Rogan’s age and the fact that his “Rogie” has fallen a long way from the form that saw him defeat Audley Harrison Matt Skelton in 2008 and 2009 before twice losing to Sam Sexton later that year.
Rogan, 14-2 (7), has posted two wins since losing his Commonwealth title to Sexton, but his opponents, Yavor Marinchev and Werner Kreiskott, both held losing records, 5-20 and 8-14-1 respectively, and were cannon fodder for the 6’ 3’’ “Iron Man”, who has been renamed “Yogie Bear” by Fury. Rogan’s fighting pride is likely to bubble to the surface given Fury’s furious verbal onslaught yet the cab driver’s desire may have made cheques that his body can no longer cash and lead to an early stoppage defeat in front of his hometown fans.
As for the Fury hype machine: many are wondering what now, what comes next? Will he do something erratic during the fight, will he make an outlandish statement if he wins or will the big man treat his defeated opponent like a long lost cousin? You would not be surprised if he did all three because when it comes to Fury, and to paraphrase Bernstein, he is what it is.
Channel 5 televise from 10pm tonight.
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