It has often been said that the WBC, The Ring and lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury could start a fight in an empty room. He certainly did his best to live up to that billing today, as he carried the first press conference for his 23rd April bout with Dillian Whyte without his opponent present.
The mandatory challenger Whyte did not turn up for the Wembley Stadium event, taking place to launch tomorrow’s ticket sales for the heavyweight title super-fight. Promoter Frank Warren pulled no punches when asked about Whyte snubbing the conference.
“One of the things was that he wanted a private jet that would fly him in and out today, but we said yesterday we’d do that – in writing. They didn’t even want us to use his image on a poster. I’ve never heard anything like it in my life.”
Warren bristled at what he perceived as disrespect from ‘The Body Snatcher’. Fury, however, took a more nuanced view of his challenger’s no-show.
“He should be here today kissing my feet. I’m giving him 32 times the biggest payday he’s ever had in his life. It’s not Dillian Whyte, it’s Frillian Whiteknickers. Because he’s as soft as what it says in the title. And he’s waved the white flag today.”
The legacy-minded Fury also offered an interesting insight into how Whyte’s non-participation will affect the way the challenger is seen. It is an interesting point, and one that Whyte’s absence left him no right of reply to.
“I think it messes up his legacy a little bit as well. In years to come they’ll see it was a really good fight, he didn’t have any involvement in any of the build-up, not in any of the photographs, there will be no old magazines to look at. I think it’s a shame not just for him but for his kids and family to look back on in time as well.”
The outspoken champion was in fine form, and a joyous mood as he entertained the assembled throng of journalists. There was little malice, but lots of confidence, as Fury talked up his chances of a 32nd career win.
“The man’s been calling for the fight for 352 years. He finally gets his shot on the biggest stage against the biggest champion on the biggest night. I will not fail. I beat men like him seven days a week and 62 times on a Sunday.”
Invoking one of his predecessors as a silver-tongued heavyweight king, Fury added, “If I can’t look like Muhammad Ali fighting this guy, I’m in the wrong profession and I’m not as good as I think I am.” History weighed heavily on Fury’s mind, as he called the upcoming Wembley clash ““the biggest British heavyweight fight since… probably (Lennox) Lewis (and Frank) Bruno. There hasn’t been a bigger one since.”
Warming to the task, Fury eased into the patter that has made him a household name. As verbally-dexterous as he is fistically-schooled, a Tyson Fury press conference is often every bit as explosive as fight night.
“I will chop him to bits, not a problem. I will smash his face right in. You’re gonna see a masterclass. You’re gonna see a Ferrari racing a Vauxhall. There’s a gulf here.”
Landing the final oratory blow, with no chance of a counter from the M.I.A. Whyte, Fury punctuated his boasts.
“If I’m daft enough to get hit by him and knocked out, I don’t deserve to be heavyweight champion.”
The event ended with a comical staredown, as Fury went nose-to-nothing with the empty space his opponent would usually occupy. Warren got involved, pretending to separate his man from the non-existent altercation. It was a fun, breezy start to the hype for one of the year’s biggest fights. If Whyte remains in hiding, it could end up being the most unique heavyweight title build-up we have seen in decades.