Exhibition Fights With UFC Stars Would Be A Sad End To The Tyson Fury Story

Fury revealed plans to retire on Saturday night, but announced a clash with Francis Ngannou seconds later
16:00, 25 Apr 2022

The heavyweight champion of the world is retiring from the sport of boxing. Tyson Fury stated in the aftermath of his sixth-round knockout victory over Dillian Whyte that he intends to walk away from the ring forever. His reasons seemed sound. The WBC, The Ring and lineal ruler cited a promise made to his wife, Paris, as the reason he is calling it a day. ‘The Gypsy King’ then effortlessly segued into hype mode, bringing UFC Heavyweight Champion Francis Ngannou into the ring to talk up what they called a “hybrid fight”. So which is it? Is Fury retiring from the ring and honouring a cherished promise, or is he fighting on? The truth appears to sit somewhere in the middle.

“If I fight again, it’ll be exhibition fights only, wrestling matches and stuff like that. Entertaining, and stuff that isn’t nerve-wracking and doesn’t keep you up at night and get you in severe injuries.” This is what the victor told Queensberry Promotions’ YouTube channel in the wake of the Whyte win. The wrestling matches would not contradict a boxing retirement. Fury has worked with WWE before, wrestling Braun Strowman in 2019. WWE Superstar Drew McIntyre has expressed an interest in meeting Fury in the ring, and the supposedly ex-boxer reciprocated this over the weekend. The pre-determined nature of professional wrestling means Fury would not be breaking any promises if he were to step through a different set of ropes. The idea of an exhibition fight or two is a completely different matter though.

What Tyson Fury has achieved in boxing is ring-fenced, it cannot be tampered with or tarnished. He will go down as the second best British heavyweight of all-time, behind only former undisputed champion Lennox Lewis. While recency bias leads many to put the current fighter over the long-retired legend, there is no credible argument that Lewis’ CV is not superior. But there is of course an opportunity for Fury to gain parity with the man they called ‘Lion’. Anthony Joshua will go once more into the breach this summer against WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk. The winner of that fight will be the consensus second-best heavyweight on the planet. They will also hold the key to Fury reigning as undisputed boss.

this could be the last time: have we seen fury's final professional fight?
this could be the last time: have we seen fury's final professional fight?

To forgo such an opportunity would be strange. ‘The Gypsy King’ insists he does not care about belts, yet there are images of him laid on the floor of his home surrounded by his numerous world titles. He claims not to care about legacy, but has almost single-handedly restored the importance of the title of lineal champion. To leave boxing with the biggest heavyweight fight since Lewis’ win over Mike Tyson sat on the table would be almost careless. If Fury is feeling his body and does not want to put his wife through more dark nights of the soul, that is understandable. But then why bring an MMA fighter into the ring seconds after confirming your retirement in an attempt to start the tills ringing for an exhibition?

As I said before, Fury’s achievements are ring-fenced and immune to erosion. Is this the motivation behind fighting only in exhibitions? Fury will have seen the financial bonanza peers like Floyd Mayweather and Mike Tyson have enjoyed for staging the odd move-around, selling and packaging it to audiences as a “fight” but delivering a spar. It is easy money, often more than these half-retired legends made during their peak. As an added bonus, these questionable half-fights do not appear on the fighter’s records. But during his many rebuttals when asked by the press if his retirement was legitimate, Fury made clear that money was not a motivating factor for him. Which makes this half-hearted half-retirement all the stranger.

Fury is not averse to strapping the gloves on again, but wants to fight MMA fighters rather than boxers. It would be a crying shame if one of the most thrilling heavyweight careers ever were to end this way. Ngannou is an elite UFC fighter, and utterly mesmerising in his own way. He is also not a boxer, and watching him thrown out of his depth into trying to solve a puzzle not even luminaries like Wladimir Klitschko and Deontay Wilder could manage will provide minimal entertainment. Even worse, it will be a poor substitute for an undisputed heavyweight championship showdown, whether that is Fury in the ultimate Battle of Britain with ‘AJ’ or a generational chess match with Usyk. 

Ultimately for all the righteous indignation I have expressed here, it really is Fury’s decision. These are the concessions you receive as the heavyweight champion of the world. He has earned the right to steer his own ship, having thrown 33 stowaways overboard. A WWE match with McIntyre or a facsimile of boxing with Ngannou will not erase the fact he has held every major world title in the sport. But after watching him thrill 94,000 people at Wembley Stadium on Saturday night, it would be a crying shame if he doesn’t try and hold those four championship belts at the same time. Boxing needs Tyson Fury. We’re about to find out if Tyson Fury needs boxing.

if fury does stick around, you can get 2/5 on him to beat usyk with betfred

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