By Tris Dixon
THE mack is back, but he’s not back back.
After dethroning Wladimir Klitschko to become world heavyweight champion at the tail end of 2015, Tyson Fury cashed in his chips and drifted.
He drifted into a career oblivion that saw his weight spiral out of control, his living habits deteriorate and the gym become a distant, hazy memory.
It is little wonder that the knockover opponent he was brought back against in Macedonia-born fallguy Sefer Seferi was a good few rungs down the ladder from Dr Steelhammer, Fury’s previous opponent.
Because Fury is an up and comer again and once more he needs to work his way up the proverbial ladder.
He needs to be trained, managed and promoted as a prospect once more, up to contender status. Only then will he have a shot at the glory he walked away from having stunned Klitschko.
Against Seferi, in a timid and scrappy affair, he lacked timing and precision. His concentration was amiss. He just did not need all the tools in his old toolbox to dismiss such an overmatched opponent. What he had was more than enough and in some ways that’s an encouraging sign, that at such an embryonic stage of his comeback, with weight still to shift and rust still to shed, he was multiple levels above what he was in the ring with.
Fury, flanked by friends Ricky Hatton and Billy Joe Saunders on the night, kissed Seferi during the pre-fight instructions. The unpredictability remains.
It took him more than 30 seconds to throw a jab after the bell sounded but this return is no sprint, it will be a marathon.
The clowning and goading Fury is still there. He tried to entice Seferi in by raising his arms, waving his hands, leaving his chin unprotected, but Seferi did not fall for it.
It was not the visitor’s job to make an impression; it was up to Tyson to make a statement. Nor, by the way, was it within Seferi’s capabilities to do anything with Fury in what amounted to a good-tempered exhibition.
In the second round, referee Phil Edwards warned Fury to focus on the job at hand, not to mess around or interact with the crowd.
The highlights were minimal.
Rust was being shed.
Later in the second session, both fighters broke what little engagement there was to watch a scrap that had broken out in the crowd. It did not take long for thousands on social media to say there was more action in the audience than there was in the ring.
Seferi was forced to lunge in from range in his reluctant bids to engage but the size disparity was so great that if Fury took just a half step back Seferi fell ridiculously short.
It was reticent stuff. The fight did not merit the occasion nor the build-up but what did you expect? What should we have expected?
Whether you still regard Fury as the linear champion or not – and for many that title expired during his 1000 or so days in the wilderness – he did not need to come back and face a destroyer, a terminator who after three years could have caught him cold.
Fury opened up in the fourth and the writing was quickly on the wall. Seferi became more ungainly as he took shots to the top and the side of the head. His equilibrium soon deserted him and, already looking unsure, he appeared even more ungainly.
He called it a day to boos from the crowd at the end of the round. He had started to suffer. Yet there were still some smiles afterwards. Cynics would say they were smirks, but Fury’s short uppercuts had landed and the gulf in class was beginning to broaden, as we had anticipated.
If you were satisfied by it or not it does not matter. The heavyweight division is a richer place for Fury’s return and it will be a richer place if he continues to improve throughout his comeback, not if he rushes it.
If you want a division with Fury, Deontay Wilder, Anthony Joshua, Big Baby Miller and others fighting one another then you will have to wait a little while on Tyson because he is clearly not ready. That is not criticism but an assessment and an agreement with how he will be rolled back out to the boxing world.
Unfortunately after some long layoffs, precedents have been set where world heavyweight champions have returned at a high level. Muhammad Ali defeated Jerry Quarry after his exile, Vitali Klitschko scalped WBC champion Sam Peter following his sabbatical.
But neither of them went up to around 400lbs in between fights and endured public wars with depression and drugs. They also did not start again with new teams.
This is not just a reincarnation. It is not a rebirth either. It is a reconstruction, a rebuild of a 29-year-old who is now 26-0 but who needs ‘match practice’.
“It felt fantastic,” said Fury, who is sure he will be a world champion again by the end of the year and will next box on August 18 at Windsor Park in Belfast.
“It was like I was having my debut again. It’s been a long time out of the ring, I wasn’t in a rush but when I started to get going they pulled him out.”
Promoter Frank Warren said it would be three to four more fights before the heavyweight is back in contention and, by the end of the year, in line for a big fight.
“I’m going to take my career seriously this time,” continued Fury, who reported that he would be back in training camp on Monday.
The names of David Price, Manuel Charr and Tony Bellew were all mentioned post-fight. Bellew is in form but small at the weight. Charr hols a WBA belt and Price and Fury could have sold out Anfield (Liverpool’s soccer stadium) years ago when they were both up and coming prospects. All three make sense for different reasons. But patience is the key all round for this Tyson Fury comeback.
And if we find ourselves with rewarding contests at the end of it then it will be worth the wait.