Fury Road - the lone wolf returns: Fury vs Seferi preview
Chris Williamson previews and places in context Tyson Fury's comeback bout on Saturday night against Sefer Seferi ...
It was a cold November Sunday morning in Dusseldorf and the national newspapers featured prominent analysis of a stunning defeat for the long time world heavyweight champion.
‘Das Klitschko- rätsel: vom außenseiter gedemütigt,’ stated the Bild headline, which translates as: “The Klitschko mystery: humiliated by the outsider,” with the meaning of ‘outsider’ being lone wolf in this context.
It was mission accomplished for Tyson Fury, the ultimate achievement of an eight-year professional career which had seen him accumulate English, British, Commonwealth and European titles. Fury had travelled overseas to a hostile Klitschko (K2) promotion, proved impossible to intimidate and conquered the champion comprehensively on points. With his goal achieved and having emulated the former heavyweight champ his father named him after, Fury’s life then fell into unstructured chaos...
It’s now 30 months since that historic weekend. Alphabet titles have long since been abdicated and stripped, a Klitschko rematch cancelled (twice) and layers of fat accumulated and stripped off while claims and counter-claims of a failed UK anti-doping (UKAD) test and rumours of mental health problems played out in the media.
Finally, Fury returns on Saturday night at the Manchester Arena – on a show ostensibly headlined by Terry Flanagan’s tussle with Maurice Hooker for the vacant WBO 140lbs belt - to face 39-year old Switzerland-based Albanian Sefer Seferi.
In truth Seferi (23-1) is little known, a long-time cruiserweight with just one bout at anything approaching fringe world class – 20 months ago against heavyweight Manuel Charr – which he lost via a wide unanimous decision. The Charr fight was a strange affair, which for long stretches had the air of a sparring session in front of a quiet German crowd. During the last of ten rounds, the Albanian showed some mettle as Charr tried and failed to finish the fight with his clubbing hooks. As a depressing aside, the undeserving Charr is scheduled to defend the ‘regular’ WBA belt he subsequently won against Alexander Ustinov against Fres Oquendo on 29 September.
Seferi demonstrated he has a sense of humour this week with the press, which presumably extends to his chosen moniker of ‘The Real Deal’ – shared with the greatest cruiserweight of all-time, Evander Holyfield - and his decision to hold onto something as absurd as the WBF Intercontinental cruiserweight title. Of course, intercontinental titles lack meaning even when bestowed by the more recognised sanctioning bodies.
Despite a public workout on the pads which went viral for all the wrong reasons due to Seferi’s lack of speed, power and technique, Seferi also showed at least superficial confidence, telling media: “I’ve done way over 300 rounds of sparring, sparred everyone, really, and have done well—look at me, not a mark on me. I’ve got a special little talent called not getting hit in the face, which is why I’m this good looking. It is hard, very hard, to not get hit in the face, but I’ve mastered it. If you don’t get hit the opponent can’t win.”
Brash speaking apart, on the scale of heavyweight comeback opponents, it’s clear from the footage I watched that Seferi is closer in quality to Mike Tyson’s 1995 cannon-fodder Peter McNeeley – who shared a similarly misleading record to Sefer as well as his own line in memorable soundbites as he promised to wrap Tyson in a “cocoon of horror” - than Muhammad Ali’s 1970 tussle with genuine contender Jerry Quarry, one of a number of heavyweight absences outlined in Luke G. Williams’ ‘long lineal title lay-offs’ feature on the BM site this week.
In the wider context, it’s true that the lone wolf of Dusseldorf isn't universally welcomed back to the limelight and that’s fine by Fury. Like many boxers, Tyson has the common touch and connects with people in a very natural way. I’ve witnessed Fury with cameras off feeding off the love of fans and giving plenty of his time. There’s something rather primeval about Fury which I suspect turns sections of the public and media off yet is a characteristic many of us admire. In some ways it feels as though we are watching the latest in a long and non-conforming bloodline of champions starting with John L. Sullivan’s boasting, Jack Johnson’s swaggering and Mike Tyson’s strikingly brutal wordplay. This is, after all, heavyweight boxing, which at its core is a sport based around one man dominating another.
A notable aspect of Fury’s comeback is that it begins without former trainer and uncle Peter Fury, who was credited with a huge improvement since taking over as head trainer after eighteen fights, as he guided his nephew to become a serious contender at world level and then world champion.
New trainer Ben Davison has little experience working with a fighter of this level, having guided Billy Joe Saunders through an unimpressive display against Artur Akavov in 2016 before the middleweight champ joined the Ingle gym in Sheffield, but he does seem to share a tight bond with Fury. The true quality of the relationship is unlikely to be tested at this level.
Fury, for his part, might have been referring to Klitschko’s performance in Dusseldorf while hinting that he’s keen to accrue some rounds on Saturday night. “Some people come into a fight and they almost settle to lose,” he said. “They get a groove on for a couple of rounds and then they survive, mess around and try not to get knocked out.
“I’d rather get knocked out than lose on points as a loss is a loss whether you get chinned or lose on points. I’d rather it was 15 rounds because 12 goes very quick and I’m more suited to 15. I feel good, if Sefer beats me then fair play. If I win then it is a successful comeback. Whatever happens, I hope we can both go safely home to our families.”
As a spectacle, the match – the first of an extended deal promoter Frank Warren has signed with BT Sports – is likely to have a farcical look to it, with the 6’9” Fury far quicker and more skilled while towering over a much smaller opponent.
Despite Fury’s apparent wish for ‘rounds’, the prediction here is for the comebacking former champ to finish Seferi in two clinical rounds. The gulf in class is so wide, one hopes a quick finish will lead the public – and perhaps Fury himself – to demand a significant uplift in quality of opponent next time, as happened when Mike Tyson progressed from the one round McNeeley farce to Buster Mathis Jr and then into a title rematch with Frank Bruno.
If all goes to plan, Fury will be well positioned by next summer and find himself - like Michael Spinks in 1988 or Muhammad Ali in 1971 - holding the leverage and status of unbeaten lineal champion when lined up to meet alphabet champ Anthony Joshua or Deontay Wilder for all the belt – a fight which, to borrow the promotional tagline from Tyson vs Spinks, will settle heavyweight supremacy “once and for all”.