Despite great size, some hyped boxing skills, and a last name you can sell, pro boxing has not quite taken off for Hughie Fury, certainly not the way it has for his older cousin Tyson.
Hughie, now 26, returns to the ring on Saturday’s Joshua-Pulev card, facing Polish veteran Mariusz Wach in a matchup that has fans preemptively reaching for the remote. That’s being harsh, yes, but it’s also being honest. Fury-Wach, on paper, could be a brutal watch in terms of entertainment, as Fury has a habit of rather “stinking out the joint” against his better foes, and while Wach is far from elite, he is a big, tough, durable veteran who can still hang on for a 10-round distance, as we saw him do about a year ago when he faced Dillian Whyte.
Fury (24-3, 14 KO) hangs on to some hope because of his youth. 26 is young for a heavyweight, and, I mean, jeez — he is 6’6” with an 80-inch reach, and he does show some good skills at times. He’ll never be Tyson, most likely, but there’s a good career and some serious money in being Tyson Lite, if he can get there.
And you have to give the guy some credit for those losses, too, even if he appeared in over his head in every one of them. He lost to Joseph Parker in 2017, Kubrat Pulev in 2018, and Alexander Povetkin in 2019. Does that indicate a low ceiling? Perhaps, yes. Does it also indicate that at a young age he’s been willing to take the shot against quality fighters? Definitely.
This fight with Wach (36-6, 19 KO) is not on that level, but it could give us a little more perspective on what Fury’s future might hold. The 40-year-old Pole has been in with loads of good fighters over the years, losing to the lot of them. He really, really shouldn’t beat Fury; that shouldn’t even be part of the question.
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What is part of the question is how Fury will approach Wach. Will he bring some heat, look to make a serious impression? Or will he box safely and not risk something heavy coming back from the veteran?
“He’s a tough man, Mariusz Wach,” said Fury. “He’s been in with some great fighters, pretty much everyone, including a world title challenge (against Wladimir Klitschko in 2012). I’m looking forward to doing a job on him. This is definitely one not to miss. It’s been a while and I’m ready to show what I’m all about.
“Wach brings power and size, you can’t switch off for a second. I want these kind of fights as these fights will help me achieve what I need in boxing. I’m expecting a tough fight with Wach. I’ve seen a few of his fights and we’ve done our studying, training and sparring.”
Let’s say, for the sake of conversation, that Hughie Fury goes out there and does a good number on Wach, maybe stops him inside the distance. Wach has been stopped three times in his career, by Povetkin in 2015, Jarrell MIller in 2017, and Martin Bakole in 2019. It’s doable, but he’s also a massive guy and absorbs punches really well. At a listed 6’7½”, he’s officially got an inch and change of height on Hughie, and while Fury has fluctuated in weight between 220 and 235 mostly, that’s light compared to Wach, a big-bodied guy who was around 250 in his peak years, and has been between 270 and the low 280s in his last four bouts.
He has shown the flashes, but against truly overmatched opponents like Pavel Sour, a super-washed Samuel Peter, a guy pointlessly pulled out of Canadian small town club fights who may never bother lacing up the gloves again. Wach is in the area between that bunch and the level at which Hughie has come up short.
This is not make or break (unless he loses), but Fury really needs the shot in the arm that an impressive-looking win could give him. If Hughie can look really good for what this fight is, do some damage, get a stoppage, maybe not bore the viewing audience — not boring us is not his job, of course, but it certainly helps marketability — then what? Again, Hughie has shown an admirable willingness to get in there with good, proven fighters already. He was young and he lost a few of them. He’s reaching a point now, though, where if he’s going to show out, it probably needs to start happening.
“I’m ready for all the serious fights out there, I’ve had vast experience and I belong on the world level,” he said. “I expect to be knocking on the door for another shot at world honors again very soon. I’ve been living in the gym, working on a lot of different aspects of my game, perfecting what I needed to do.
“Everything happens for a reason. You’ve just got to stay patient and fight whoever they put in front of you. Boxing is about learning and taking fights. If you believe that you are the best, then you will take on anyone and everyone.”
It doesn’t sound like his mindset has changed. It sounds like, if offered, he’d step straight into an eliminator or the like, take on another top name — even if it were a rematch with someone he’s already lost to, he’d probably take it with confidence.
Fury has the last name. He’s got the right promoter and connections. The size is there. The skills can still develop even more and by themselves maybe have never been the problem. 26 ain’t old. But it has to be proven in the ring, once the bell sounds, that he really can compete and win at the very highest levels.