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Hughie Fury: Swimming against the tide of obscurity

A convincing win against overmatched Chris Norrad could be the first step on a long road back for Hughie Fury.

Boxing at Copper Box Photo by Alex Morton/Getty Images
Lewis Watson is a sports writer from London, UK, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He has been a contributor at Bad Left Hook since 2018.

Hughie Fury — cousin of the self-titled “Gypsy King” — has been bubbling under the surface of the heavyweight pool for what has felt like a lifetime. The 24-year-old turned over six years ago following success at the Youth World Amateur Championships, however, life in the paid ranks hasn’t, as yet, gone to plan.

After climbing to 20-0 during three years of regular action, Hughie made his first step up in challenging for the WBO world heavyweight title. Joseph Parker was his opponent, with Team Fury bringing the champion to their backyard in Manchester, expectant of a title-winning success. This was supposed to be Hughie’s crowning night; his coming-out party in the land of the giants. All didn’t go to plan, with the Kiwi champion retaining his belt in a majority decision victory.

Invisible asterisks on boxing records are important indications of the bigger picture inside the ring where a controversy could easily be brushed aside. Often limited to a footnote on a BoxRec entry or half a paragraph in a biography, remembering the intricacies of a certain fight can allow your opinion to waver when dissecting the career of a fighter.

In my subjective opinion, two asterisks accompany both of Hughie Fury’s losses — two losses that have stunted his growth in the competitive division, limiting his opportunities to land the big marquee fights; Fury has since found himself swimming against the tide of obscurity.

His loss on the cards against Joseph Parker came in the form of 114-114, 118-110, and 118-110 scorecards. In truth, it was a horrible fight to watch. Fury looked to utilise his defensive capabilities in boxing on the back foot against the champion, with Parker having limited success in landing on the challenger. Fury’s lack of aggression made it hard for him to steal rounds in front of his home crowd, however, to suggest that Parker won that fight ten rounds to two is nothing short of scandalous. I had Fury just nicking it; I also had no problem with the 114-114 card.

Fury’s promoter, Mick Hennessy, was vocal post-fight expressing his belief that corruption is rife in the sport. “I’m going to get that overturned. I’m going to find out who’s behind boxing [decisions] like that. I know [corruption] is a strong word, but I tell you now, there are forces at work around this game,” Hennessy bellowed in the high-tempered aftermatch.

The CEO of Hennessy Sports said there was “100%, definitely” an agenda against the Fury family, with the team proving unsuccessful in their bid to get the result overturned.

Nine months passed, and Hughie made his return to the ring at domestic level. A fifth-round TKO of Sam Sexton for the British title confirmed his standing as one of the best UK-based heavyweights, with another step-up in opposition being born out of this victory: a trip to Bulgaria to face one of the “boogymen” of the division in Kubrat Pulev.

In a final eliminator for the IBF title — currently being held by Anthony Joshua — Fury suffered a nasty cut to his right eye in the second round, hampering him for the rest of the fight, which failed to catch fire. Pulev was comfortable in keeping Fury quiet throughout the 36 minutes, but with Fury’s plan out of the window from early in the fight, it was a case of survival for the away man, with limited, sporadic attacks.

Speaking to Boxing News after the fight, Fury’s trainer and father Peter Fury outlined the issues surrounding a disappointing night in Sofia: “Not a single thing went right, he got a really bad cut on his left eye in round two (a sparring injury that opened up). At the weigh-in, the day before our cutsman Kerry Kayes saw it and straight away said: ‘I think that will open up quickly so we will just have to deal with it.’ That knocked Hughie’s confidence a bit going in. Kerry just you gives the straight facts.”

“What is disappointing is that we were told something different by the doctor we saw weeks before, which is disgusting, really, and if we’d have gone to Kerry earlier and he’d seen it then we’d have cancelled the fight,” he added. “We just had to go ahead.”

It’s a case of going back to the well for Hughie, with his team chasing redemption on the world stage and another shot at a world title. At just 24, the heavyweight still has time to grow further into a division which continues to offer up opportunity after opportunity; a marquee win on his record is of the highest priority as we look towards the back end of 2019.

The rematch with Parker or an Alexander Povetkin showdown has gained the most traction when discussing Fury’s next step, with a win on Saturday against the overmatched Chris Norrad acting as nothing more than a reminder of Fury’s presence in the division. He has stayed loyal to Mick Hennessy and his appearances on the unfashionable, yet free-to-air Channel 5 in the United Kingdom, however, Fury needs to make a splash on the big stage instead of treading water, clinging onto the “what ifs” of past performances.

Fury’s slimmer build in comparison to previous outings proves he is making changes in camp to combat his previous shortcomings. Now, the right guidance and a slice of luck are all that stands between him and a third climb of the heavyweight mountain. A sleeping giant of the division, Hughie Fury has time on his side in his quest for glory.

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