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Why Tyson Fury is the greatest heavyweight of all time

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4th May, 2022
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Tyson Fury made two claims after his latest victory.

Immediately after knocking Dillian Whyte, he essentially declared that he is a great.

You would have to have emigrated to Mars this past decade to completely disagree that he is indeed a great of the current era and arguably one of the all-time greats.

The thing is many do disagree completely, and I’m not sure inter-planetary travel exists yet. So what is going on with that?

These naysayers are clearly hanging on to nostalgic notions that somehow boxers from yesteryear were super human in comparison to today’s heavyweights. Therefore no one else can be great.

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Might I add that if you are a naysayer, you are not an expert if you only ever watch highlight reels of Mike Tyson knockouts from the 1980s.

If you think that because Tyson Fury doesn’t have a washboard stomach he is not a good boxer, you are also not an expert.

Every time Tyson Fury, with his love handles, defeats another man with a physique of a Greek god, your theory is disproved.

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If you think today’s heavyweights are a poor crop, you are confusing the decline in US dominance in the heavyweight division with its overall decline, and you are not considering the emergence of a predominantly different style in boxing, not a decline in skill.

Over the past couple of decades we have seen heavyweights, in the top ten, from countries that were once not permitted to fight professionally by their Communist governments.

US fighters now have to contend with Ukrainian, Russian and Cuban fighters, something the likes of Muhammad Ali and company never had to face.

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We have also seen the emergence of great UK boxers as well as a much more eclectic array of nations represented in the top ten.

The former epicentre of the heavyweight greats, the USA, is no more.

This current top echelon of heavyweights is not a diminished one. It is just different.

The current heavyweight division is a golden era and it is sad if you do not see this.

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If you do not see this, well, you have not been paying attention.

Currently there are three or four heavyweights that either are considered greats or might be, namely Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder, Oleksandr Usyk and potentially Anthony Joshua.

Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder exchange punches.

(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

That number goes up to five when we consider that Wladimir Klitschko also fought in this era.

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This era also has had very good other former world champions and contenders.

The recently retired Alexander Povetkin, as well as Joseph Parker, Andy Ruiz Jr, Dillian Whyte, Joe Joyce, Tony Yoka, and Luis Ortiz are all very powerful, good boxers in their own right. The average size of these men is unbelievable.

This is the age of giant heavyweights, so much so that George Foreman would be one of the smaller heavyweights if he rose to prominence today.

In regards to skill, I hear a lot about how today’s heavyweights have no skill. We have to remember that there have always been different styles of boxers.

It is not accurate or relevant to make statements that a particular boxer isn’t as skilful as another, if indeed they have a different style.

I recall recently someone stating to me that Deontay Wilder is not great because they saw Muhammad Ali fight once, and he was much more skilful.

Of course they fight with completely different styles. Muhammad Ali had better footwork, mobility and a better jab than Deontay Wilder.

But Wilder has the most powerful right-hand knockout punch of all time. Which variant of boxing skill is more important?

We may as well be saying that Dennis Lillee wasn’t as good as Shane Warne because he never bowled anyone around their legs with a leg spinner. Warne wasn’t as good as Lillee because he didn’t bowl as quick.

Steph Curry is better than Michael Jordan because he scores more three pointers. Curry isn’t as good as Jordan because he doesn’t slam dunk.

It’s okay to make comparisons of greatness but we can not just say that one was more skilful than another, unless they are a similar style.

For those that are curious here is a list of the four main categories of boxers and arguably some of the the best in those categories.

Swarmer: Jack Dempsey, Rocky Marciano, Mike Tyson
Pure boxer: Muhammad Ali, Wladimir Klitschko, Tyson Fury
Slugger: Joe Louis, George Foreman, Deontay Wilder
Boxer puncher: Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, Anthony Joshua

Mike Tyson stands dazed in the middle of the ring

(Photo by Sean Dempsey – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)

Now of course boxers will not exactly fit into categories and some will morph into another category during their career.

What we can do is realise that comparing some fighters based on skill levels is ridiculous when we consider the various capabilities and categories they may fit into.

So if we can have a better understanding of the styles of fighters, we are better informed when it comes to making judgements on who fits where amongst the greats and why.

I will talk a little more than the previous article about each style and how they generally match up against other styles. Of course there are exceptions in all cases where a style overcomes another despite what is normal.

The swarmer style is a boxer with a smaller stature that relies on pressuring their opponent, getting on the inside with a flurry of punches.

It should be noted that this style has essentially slowly but now entirely become extinct in the heavyweight division.

It was the emergence of the great boxer punchers that finally saw this style become redundant.

A good example is how Mike Tyson was easily defeated by Holyfield and Lewis. We haven’t seen a genuine world-class swarmer since.

The pure boxer or out boxer/fighter style is the type of boxer that relies on their footwork, their agility, their reach and their jab, as well as sophisticated movement and skills such as counter punching, or using combinations of punches to usually wear down their opponent, rather than just trying for a knockout punch.

A good pure boxer should almost always have the measure of a slugger.

They can keep them at a distance and wear them down or just let them punch themselves to exhaustion. We saw this happen in the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ to an extent with Ali’s use of the ropes, a brilliant adaptation of this style.

A swarmer is a pure boxer’s worst match-up because they may struggle to keep them at arm’s length.

A great pure boxer needs to be tall enough and have a huge reach to be effective against all of the other styles. This is why Tyson Fury is so successful.

Tyson Fury

(Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)

The slugger style tries to stand toe to toe with their opponent and relies on their knockout power to win fights, not their stamina or agility.

They tend to not have great footwork, because they don’t need to, and they are less likely to use combinations of punches, rather single knockout blows.

A good slugger historically always had a swarmer’s measure because a slugger can take the punishment and give it back with interest.

Think George Foreman annihilating Joe Frazier as the perfect example.

The boxer puncher style is a hybrid style of a pure boxer and a slugger that has emerged in the heavyweight division as the most common and dominant style in general.

They will have footwork, stamina, and skill but also power to either use combination of punches or single knockout blows to win. They are not quite a pure boxer but they are also not quite a slugger.

To defeat them, as a genuine pure boxer or as a genuine slugger, you need to be amazing at what you do.

Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder, in this current era, were able to defeat this style of boxing because they were great at what they did.

You may have noticed that although there are modern examples of three of these four styles (the swarmer is seemingly now extinct), most heavyweights would be classed as the boxer puncher style today.

There are very few pure boxers as a result. This is part of the reason why many people today believe there has been a decline in skill. I say it is just an overall shift in style.

In the later press conference last week, Tyson Fury went one better and stated that he himself is the greatest heavyweight boxer to ever live.

This one is a statement that will always be controversial but it is worth considering, even if you disagree.

The first item on the agenda is who is generally considered the greatest. We would all have to agree that this is Muhammad Ali.

Boxing gloves

(Getty Images)

He was indeed the premier heavyweight of his era but his retrospective popularity has warped the reality of his deeds in the ring.

He was a great boxer but others were also able to get the better of him. He lost too many fights, some of which were in his prime, to be considered the greatest so easily.

I’m not saying that he can not be considered the greatest. I am just saying it is debatable.

How would he fare against a man like Fury, who is half a foot taller than him with a much bigger reach – seven inches more in fact.

The truth is Ali would not be able to match Fury on this front. It would be difficult for Ali to land punches at such a disadvantage, as it is for everyone. Fury would be able to land his punches of course.

Now there is the extra 25 extra kilograms on Fury’s frame to consider. There is no doubt that this gives Fury much more punishing punching power.

If you watch both Fury and Ali move in a ring, there is not much actual difference in their mobility.

Ali was more flamboyant and more of a showman with his footwork but what does that matter? In saying that, Ali has this advantage over Fury.

We can not separate them with their stamina because both were equally capable of taking fights to a points decision without issue.

What is most remarkable about Fury is how he moves his massive frame in the ring so well for so long.

Ali was knocked down in the ring but never knocked out. This is the same with Fury. The difference is that every time Fury got back up off the floor he dominated. Ali did not.

Frankly, if you put these two similar styled fighters in the ring together, the bigger man would win. There just is too much in Fury’s favour.

Wladimir Klitschko (six foot six) and Deontay Wilder (six foot seven) were both defeated by Tyson Fury (six foot nine) either side of his hiatus and his dominance over them are perfect examples of his greatness.

They are both boxers that at the very least would have been a handful in any era. Truthfully, due to their superior size, they would have been great in other eras as well. Physiology can not be ignored.

Yet they were not even close to being a match for Fury.

Tyson Fury celebrates.

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

What sets Tyson Fury apart is that he is the first giant in the heavyweight division to have the size but also everything else.

We have never seen anybody like this before.

No man that has ever stepped into a boxing ring could possibly match Tyson Fury. That is certain.

You may just have to take down the nostalgic bubble you may have created for yourself to see it. Or ignore his spare tyre.

In saying all this, it is only a matter of time before someone even bigger and better than Fury comes along with as many gifts.

I for one won’t be dwelling in nostalgia when that occurs.

I will just enjoy the show.

Until that time, all hail ‘Tyson the Great’.

Nay, ‘Tyson the Greatest’.

The greatest so far, I should say.

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