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Why Tyson Fury exceeds Joe Calzaghe and Ricky Hatton as Britain's modern great

Danny Flexen believes Tyson Fury is the best British fighter of the last 15 years and explains his reasoning

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Tyson Fury celebrates his astonishing victory over Deontay Wilder (Mikey Williams/Top Rank)
Tyson Fury celebrates his astonishing victory over Deontay Wilder (Mikey Williams/Top Rank)

Tyson Fury, the "Gypsy King", may only have two truly world-class wins on his ledger but the significance of those victories and the context surrounding them sets him apart.

 

Going into what appeared an audacious challenge to long-reigning champion Wladimir Klitschko in 2015, Fury had won British, Commonwealth and European titles, twice defeated an on-form Dereck Chisora and flirted with fringe world class. It was, however, a huge leap to unified king Klitschko, who had reigned for over nine years and was unbeaten in 11. Add that the challenge was in Germany, Wladimir’s adopted home and location for 15 of his previous 21 contests, and Fury’s task appeared virtually insurmountable. The giant gypsy did not care about odds, though, bewitching and beffuddling the usually imperious Klitschko, under expert guidance from uncle Peter Fury, to take an historic decision on away turf.

 

That Fury then totally fell apart only enhances the accomplishment that followed. During a two-and-a-half-year hiatus, Fury blew up in weight, drank too much, used cocaine liberally and it was revealed he had failed a drug test for nandrolone after an early 2015 win over Christian Hamner. As his whole world imploded, Tyson considered suicide before embarking on a long road back.

 

Just three fights into a comeback, he challenged dangerous and unbeaten WBC champion Deontay Wilder on the American’s native turf in December 2018, rising from the canvas twice - including an hellacious knockdown in the final round - to finish on top. Fury was afforded only a draw after a thrilling fight most had him winning. He signed a huge deal with ESPN, joining UK promoter Frank Warren, that many observers felt would make a Wilder rematch unlikely. Fury smashed an overmatched Tom Schwarz before struggling with a spirited Otto Wallin, suffering a severe cut in the latter gruelling battle. Confounding the doubters yet again, Fury agreed the Wilder sequel and then shocked observers by changing trainer again, leaving Ben Davison who had famously helped him back from the brink, to join old friend SugarHill Steward, declaring he wanted a more aggressive style to ensure he could KO the champion.

 

Fury ventured into enemy territory once again and did indeed fight off the front foot, dominating and ultimately bullying Wilder, scoring a pair of knockdowns before the towel flew in during round seven.

 

Given everything he had overcome - the long layoff, changing trainers, the cut and his own considerable demons - to defeat an unbeaten huge puncher on away soil in such one-sided fashion may even have topped the Klitschko win, and no other British fighter of the last 15 years has two such impressive victories over elite competition.

 

Welsh wizard Joe Calzaghe has a larger volume of work and retired undefeated, but of his most celebrated triumphs, Mikkel Kessler had yet to reach his impredsive prime, Jeff Lacy was in hindsight significantly overrated and Roy Jones over the hill. Outscoring Bernard Hopkins, given what the Philadelphian still went on to achieve, is perhaps his best win, and accomplished in America, though could have gone either way.

 

Ricky Hatton built a huge travelling fanbase and well beat an elite opponent in Kostya Tszyu, plus had good wins over world-level fighters like Jose Luis Castillo and a prime Paulie Malignaggi, both in America. The "Hitman" was rather unfortunate in that his two biggest matchups came against the finest fighters of his generation in Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. He lost inside schedule to both, lending a tinge of failure at the highest level to an otherwise stellar career.

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