Hughie Fury: Rumours of a hidden king
During October’s interview with Boxing Monthly, Tyson Fury outlined his plans for world domination before declaring that he will retire relatively early. When asked what comes next, he pointed to Hughie Fury (18-0, 10 early) - his cousin and a fellow heavyweight contender - and said: “Him. As I said, I don’t care about the titles, he’s the man for the titles - he’ll reign as champion for a very long time.”
The Furys are not short of confidence, clearly, yet Hughie radiates a different type of self-assurance. The softly spoken 6’ 6’’, 21-year-old prospect has already experienced some tough times in the sport; he was out of action for the second half of 2014 due to intolerances to certain types of food.
“I was in a real bad state, I could hardly put my two hands up,” Fury told BM when looking back at his health scare.
“I had lots of food intolerances. It made me weak, fatigued and wasn’t good for boxing. I fought most of my fights when I wasn’t feeling good. At one point, I thought I’d never be able to fight again.”
“He’d go out and fight then come back to the dressing room and spew his guts up,” added Peter Fury, his father and trainer.
“We had tests, but they came up negative so we wasted nine months because that test only tested for allergies, not intolerances. Then we got blood, hair and other samples, ran these other tests and found out that he has an intolerance to some food products. Hughie was still fighting, but it reached a point where enough was enough.”
After a seven-month sabbatical, Fury returned with a 10-round decision win over Ukraine’s Andriy Rudenko, who had given Australian contender Lucas Browne a tough tussle in his previous contest (a decision loss over 12).
Buoyed by the victory, Fury followed it up with a 10-round points victory over George Arias in July. He won every round against the tough Brazilian, who has heard the final bell in all but four of his 13 defeats. With the health scare fading into the rearview mirror and two subsequent KO victories, Fury can concentrate on the road ahead and is back doing what he loves.
“I like to stay busy and keep fighting,” he explained. “I’ve been brought up with fighters - that’s what we do - so it was hard. As soon as I knew what it was, I knew I was capable of getting past it. I fought well against Rudenko, who I thought beat Lucas Browne - it was a hard first fight back to take. I was a bit rusty, but knew my health was finally good so I got some rounds in.”
Fury already has 72 rounds under his belt. It is hard to strike the right balance up at heavyweight. Blow everyone away and people automatically assume you will struggle with stamina and could fold when finally under pressure. If you go the distance, your critics will say that you cannot punch. It is a Catch-22 situation. Fury, though, told me that power is no substitute for experience.
“Not many heavyweights do what I’ve done,” he argued. “I’ve got the experience of doing the rounds from my fights. I’m not too bothered about stopping people, I like to use my boxing ability and get the rounds in.
“I don’t care what people say, I know that one day all this experience and learning will help me. Name me one 21-year-old who would take these fights and have as many as me by the time they’re my age. Most of them are still amateurs.
“I still don’t have full power yet - there’s still some boy strength there - so as I mature that will come. If it was up to me, I’d fight every week. I like having more than one fight coming up, just get an opponent in and away we go - I don’t care who I get.
“Of course, people like to see knockouts, everyone gets behind that and it brings in fans. I’ve been going the distance so when I do get in with those types of people I’ll be the underdog, but I’m not in there to lose after the work I’ve put in - you’ll see that when I get the big fights.”
“You’re seeing some people knock everybody out, when you step up to world level you don’t knock people out in two or three rounds so you need experience,” was Peter’s take. “The people who are doing that will get a rude awakening sooner or later.
“Knocking everyone out at a lower level means nothing because as soon as you step up and hit someone who stays there you may as well be having your first fight because it’s all a brand new experience. We’ve seen that happen before.”
Hughie claims that he already knows how he will respond when under pressure, citing his first sparring experience as a key factor in his belief that he has already developed the nous and grit to survive and thrive.
“The first time I went to a gym for my first spar, I got my head smashed in. I was quite a big child even at 11, so they put me in with a 16 or 17-year-old lad who gave me a beating - he took some liberties to be honest. I trained constantly, came back, sparred the same lad and got my revenge on him.”
Part of a fighting family, it was always inevitable that he would become a boxer yet Hughie was not pushed into the sport. Peter spent almost a decade in prison when his son was growing up after receiving a lengthy sentence for supplying amphetamines and a later charge of money laundering.
However, the paternal bond remained strong throughout this period. It was reinforced when Peter came home and discovered that Hughie’s amateur trainers were not giving him enough attention.
“I was 15 at the time, I’d lost four or three fights in a row and I wasn’t getting the right sparring or training so my dad took over and started training me - I’ve not lost a fight since,” said Fury, with a small smile of satisfaction.
“If someone else tells you to do stuff, you’d probably do it, but if your dad tells you to do it you go full measure. I’ve won everything with my dad. Junior ABAs, the Youth World Amateur Championships (at Super heavyweight in 2012) and then I turned pro.”
“It was a frustrating time for him, if you don’t show interest in a young kid then they won’t show any interest back,” stated Peter. “If you’re not in a happy environment then what do you expect? Hughie’s had ups and downs in boxing from being a little boy through to now. Those will keep him steady, hold him in good stead for the future and will be useful in his career.”
Although his cousin and Anthony Joshua are stealing all the headlines, Hughie Fury is quietly building himself into a genuine contender whilst avoiding the limelight. One suspects that he is happy to do that, for the time being at least.
Not wild about Deontay
Eyebrows were raised within the trade when talk surfaced of a meeting between Fury and WBC titlist Deontay Wilder. Those same eyebrows shot up even further when the American offered just over a month of preparation time.
“Yes, we were offered that fight,” Hughie told BM. “We asked for eight weeks, they were offering four or five, so we didn’t take it. I wanted a full camp, like him, and four weeks isn’t enough time to get the right sparring in.
“He was just trying to get me while I was young and at short-notice. If you’re going to be a man about it why not give me the eight weeks if you don’t think I’m a threat?”
Hughie is sceptical about the American’s long-term future, saying: “Wilder is trying to get as many fights in as possible because he knows it will be over for him when he steps up. I see interviews where he says he isn’t in it for the money, but I can look straight through Wilder and tell you that he is.
“He’s tried these little tactics to get these fights in before he gets a big fight and gets knocked out because he hasn’t got a chin. He deserves the criticism he gets. He’s done well to get to where he’s at, I’ll give him the credit there, but he’s not the heavyweight champion of the world. If he offers it again, I’ll take the fight in a heartbeat.”