When I think of greatest upsets in sport that I have seen in my lifetime so far, then there are a few that immediately spring to mind. Little Wimbledon Football Club beating the mighty Liverpool in the 1988 FA Cup Final was a huge shock for example. I can remember the all-conquering Australia cricket team once losing a T20 game against the cricketing minnows of Zimbabwe. There was also that massive shock in this years Rugby World Cup when Japan of all nations beat the mighty Springboks. Nevertheless, none of these compare to the boxing upset that I witnessed last Saturday night. Tyson Fury shocked the entire world by becoming the new heavyweight champion of the world. He beat the champion of ten years Wladimir Klitschko, a man who in his second reign as champion had successfully defended his belt nineteen times up to this fight. SPORTING SHOCKS DO NOT COME MUCH BIGGER THAN THIS!
Before the fight I had been tweeting to people how I thought Klitschko would easily finish Tyson Fury inside six rounds. I had seen both men fight many times before and there was just no way on earth could I see Tyson winning. Much smaller opponents than Klitschko had put Tyson down on the seat-of-his-pants for instance. I thought once the Ukrainian fully connected with Tyson’s chin then it would be goodnight-vienna. Klitschko was this supreme athlete who had developed a boring style of boxing that had proved to be unbeatable. I cannot remember the last time I saw him look unruffled in a fight, never mind get hurt or come close to losing. His ‘safety first’ approach with his massive left spearing jab had been beating all comers for the last ten years.
I was not alone though in thinking Fury no chance of beating Klitschko. Almost everybody in the media and on social media seemed to agree with me too. Boxing writer Tris Dixon tweeted how it was hard too see Tyson winning when he had only faced one top twenty heavyweight before this fight. Even a friend of Tyson’s in the form of boxer Paul Smith Jnr, thought that Fury would end up the loser. The only person who I had read tipping Tyson to pull off the massive upset was boxing trainer Joe Gallagher. I love Joe Gallagher but I thought his view here was more based on the fact that he knows the Fury’s well, rather than on any actual boxing reality. Amir Khan also tipped Fury to win but I quickly disregarded this opinion because I think his boxing punditry is about as good my needlework skills i.e dire.
Tyson Fury up to this fight had been something of a Marmite figure, meaning boxing fans either loved or hated him. He has acted the clown a lot and said some really unsavory stuff on social media at times. I was massive David Haye fan when the two were lined up to face each other in the past and some of his banter in their pre-fight press conferences was BRUTAL. I found him more on the nasty than funny side. However, as time has wore on I have grown to like Tyson. He has made me really laugh with some of the stuff he has come out with. Once I realised the stuff he was saying ‘is just for effect’ and a character he was playing, then I formed a much more favourable impression of him. He is this crazy charismatic character that boxing needs right now. Wladimir Klitschko may have been a great role model for the last decade(clean living etc) but gees what a boring one.
The ‘fight week’ leading up the Klitscko vs Fury bout had been an eventful one between the two rival camps. Firstly, there was an argument about the gloves which saw Mick Hennessy(Fury’s promoter) have a heated row with Bernd Boente(Klitschko’s manger) during a press conference. Team Fury were not happy with the gloves due to them not fitting Tyson’s thumb properly. They had agreed on a second pair however there was then the possibility that they might not be made available to them in time for the fight. I read rumours that the fight could be in danger due to this issue.
There was then a big row over the state of the canvas some twenty-fours hours before the fight. Team Fury were that aggrieved that this put the fight potentially in jeopardy once again if left unsolved. When I initially read this story I thought it was Tyson Fury just trying to play mind games with the Klitschko camp. I saw it as an attempt to rile the champ. However, as I looked further into this story then I realised that the Team Fury grievance over this matter was completely justified. The photos and TV footage looked very damning. There was this mass of foam that had been under the ring but had now been removed on the insistence of Team Fury. It looked like the champion had been trying to seek an advantage by having the ring very soft with all that foam underneath it. The BBC Sport’s Ben Dirs stated how Wladimir’s ring in his training camp in Austria was very spongy and that is how he likes it. It reduces the opponent’s mobility and gives him extra purchase, a champion’s prerogative according to Dirs. Boxing journalist Steve Bunce commented how it smacked gamesmanship from the Klitschko perspective. They will have known Tyson planned on being extremely mobile in this fight he said.
With ‘glovegate’ and ‘canvasgate’ now behind them, there was then yet another problem for Team Fury which threatened the fight from going ahead. It is standard practice to have a member from the opposing team present when a fighter wraps his hands. Indeed, Asif Vali from Team Fury said on camera that these are the rules. Subsequently, when they found out that Wladimir Klitschko had wrapped his hands without a person from Team Fury observing him, quite rightly they kicked up a big fuss about this. For the life of me I cannot understand with Klitschko behaved this way. He has been in fifty-odd professional fights so clearly knew the official protocol when it came to wrapping his hands. Was his team trying to play mind games by doing this? You can only speculate as to why he acted this way but to me it seemed really strange behaviour. Was it a sign that Tyson Fury had got under his skin perhaps? Was it a sign the pressure had finally got to Wladimir maybe? The issue was soon resolved however and he was forced to re-wrap his hands with a member of Team Fury present this time. Now it was on the to fight………FINALLY!
I would best describe the fight as a sort of ‘spectacle within an non-spectacle’. By this I mean the overall action and boxing skills on show were poor, yet at the same time what Fury did was brilliant. In a nutshell, Klitschko gave the worst performance that I have seem him ever give. You would think with all his experience that he could have coped with any style presented to him by an opponent, but remarkably he could not handle Fury’s. Fury came out bobbing and weaving, ducking and diving, hardly ever did he present Klitschko with an obvious easy target to hit. Fury’s movement was the key to this fight. It was shocking in a way to see Klitschko look so ordinary, to be so CLUELESS. He seemed totally outfoxed by Fury’s gameplan. Klitschko was slow, ponderous and for some unfathomable reason he hardly threw his powerful right hand throughout the fight. His ‘punches thrown’ stats must have been horrendously low because he hardly seem to throw anything at all. To compare it to other sports, his reluctance to throw the right hand was like watching a golfer or cricketer with the ‘yips’. Yips are associated with performance anxiety and are involuntary wrist spasms which cause say a golfer to putt the ball incorrectly. In cricket ‘the yips’ happen to bowlers only, causing them to release the ball out of their hand at the wrong time(thus bowling a bad ball).
From a boxing purist’s point of view it would not have made for great viewing, nevertheless you have to congratulate Team Fury for getting their tactics spot-on. Whilst I was watching it I thought to myself that surely Klitschko will snap out of this awful performance soon, but he never did. In fact from rounds six to rounds twelve Fury looked the much better fighter. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would see such an established champion dismantled in such a manner as this. It was like Klitschko had suddenly aged about ten years from the start to the end of the fight, he looked way past his best on this showing.
I thought the referee was good until he very controversially docked Fury one point for consistent ‘hitting behind the head’. Yes Fury had been warned about this earlier in the fight but it was poor decision by the referee. It was poor because the incident that triggered him to dock a point was not correctly ruled. In my opinion Klitschko turned his head on this occasion which meant Fury hit him behind the head. Therefore, Klitschko was at fault here not Fury and so the point should not have been deducted. I just prayed this incorrect decision was not going to cost Fury becoming the champion.
As the fight ended the Klitschko camp look worried. The commentators all had Fury winning by a few rounds at least so it was looking promising(from a British fight fan perspective). HBO in America also had Fury as the clear winner but this was Dusseldorf, Germany remember, Klitschko heartland. Fury had won in my mind yet he had not decisively ripped the belt away from Wladimir. I was concerned that the earlier deducted point might mean it was going to be announced as an infuriating draw. Fury deserved better than that though in my view, he deserved to become the new heavyweight champion of the world.
Hall-of-fame Master of Ceremonies Michael Buffer read the scorecards out from the judges. One judge had it 116-111 with the other two scoring it 115-112. Surely this meant Fury had won I thought because no way could you argue Klitschko had it won by such a margin. “AND THE NEW……..”. This told me Fury had won and then cue the pandemonium in the ring. Thanks heavens the judges had all scored it correctly in favour of Fury. The sport of boxing on this massive stage needed this contest to be scored correctly. If Klitschko had have been the deemed the winner instead, then it would have been a massive blow to the integrity of boxing. Fury shocked the entire world by winning but he was the fully deserved winner.
I cannot end this blog without mentioning two bizarre musical performances that took place in the arena before the fight started. Firstly, we saw Rod Stewart nearly commit career suicide by performing a song in the ring that only somebody with Superman exceptional type hearing could have heard properly. The sound system was wonky and so two thirds of the song was impossible to decipher for the majority watching. I have since read that the sound issue was due to a planned sound check having to be cancelled due to the fallout of ‘canvasgate’ , i.e no time for it. I would also like to know which right-minded person thought booking Rod Stewart was a good idea for a boxing event anyway? He looked out of place there even before he started singing………..muffled.
The other somewhat bizarre musical performance came when the British national anthem was sung. It was sung perfectly well by this young chap, but he looked absolutely hideous. He had this black mask partially over his face which made him look like Adam Ant’s sinister older brother. It was a relief when he started singing ‘God Save Our Queen’ because I half expected to him to start singing the theme from The Phantom of the Opera looking the way he did. Whoever was in charge of ‘wardrobe and make-up’ that night might need to start thinking about an alternative career path very soon.
That is my review then of one the biggest sporting upsets EVER. I have since read that Wladimir Klitschko wants to activate the re-match clause in the contract. I can only hope this does not happen because I dread the thought of him ever becoming the heavyweight champion of the world again. He was a good role model for young kids but as dull as dishwasher as a boxing personality. Tyson Fury may never be the most talented boxer to have ever laced up a pair of gloves, but at least he generates headlines whenever he speaks. It is about time we had a charismatic world heavyweight champion once again and in Tyson Fury we now have this thank goodness. A heavyweight boxer who thinks he sings like Frank Sinatra but in reality sounds more like comedian Frank Skinner…………FUN TIMES AWAIT US ALL!!