It is so long since a Fury stepped through the ropes as an underdog that as a family, they cannot remember quite what being underestimated feels like – in the ring at least.
Yet that is the reality facing Tommy Fury when he finally meets Jake Paul on Sunday in Saudi Arabia, a fight twice postponed and many more times derided by those in the conventional boxing world. Amidst the ridicule, it has become a genuinely difficult contest to call, a light-heavyweight and brother of the WBC heavyweight world champion against a natural cruiserweight – albeit one who is more YouTube than Eu-bank.
Without Paul’s bravado, we would not be here. The record is 6-0 (4 KOs) against a litany of celebrities, MMA fighters and middle-aged men. Whatever you say about Fury’s credentials outside his surname, he is the first professional boxer the self-styled social media sensation has come up against.
“At the end of the day, I’ve got to give him some credit for stepping in the ring with Tommy,” father John Fury tells i. “The last men he fought were no good at all, they couldn’t beat me. Even though they think I’m shot, and I’m fat, and I’ve ate too many cream cakes, I’d still beat all of Jake Paul’s opponents. And I could probably beat Jake Paul.”
From the Elite Boxing Gym in Bolton, this will be a team effort if the younger Fury does win his ninth consecutive bout, though few bookmakers are expecting him to do so. Fury Sr pauses when he reflects on the mind games, the internet taunts, the turning up ringside, all the ammunition that Paul has used for the best part of two years to get this fight up and running. In short, how does a fighter with Tommy’s inexperience cope with a master manipulator?
Fury leans in: “If I were to tell you that, I’d be giving my game away.” There is one secret he is willing to divulge, though. “We don’t get flustered, we don’t get nervous. We’re fighting men. They’ve been brought up to fight and punch one another in the faces as soon they came out their mother’s womb.”
Paul does have a college background in combat sports, but is a boxing novice, something Fury believes will not change while he surrounds himself with “yes men”.
“He’s got the L plates on and all those people are frightened of speaking up and telling him ‘that’s wrong’ in case he gets upset. Jake Paul is a spoilt kid who’s used to having his own way. When my sons step out of line I tell them, even Tyson. We’ll never know about Jake Paul [how good he is] because he’s got no one around him with enough bottle to question him. It’s like a kid – you’ve got to correct a child for him to know anything. His sparring partners are afraid to hit him.
“Without Tommy, Jake Paul’s nothing – nobody wants to see him bash some 50-year-old up. They don’t want to see him bash a middleweight up when he’s three stone heavier.
“But the only one cracking under pressure is Jake Paul – I can see it in his eyes. I’m used to seeing people crack, I can look in a man’s soul. And I’m never wrong – I’ve not been wrong yet; I told you what Tyson was going to do to Deontay Wilder, told you about Dillian Whyte, [Derek] Chisora. Nobody listened, because in this job there’s a lot of jealousy. All them pundits, they’d give 10 years of their life for a Fury to get beat.”
Tyson may well be an interested party – he’s been a ringside regular at several recent bouts even without his siblings involved – but whether Tommy wins or loses, it will have little bearing on the Fury name. They are preparing for Paul “like it’s a world title fight” but without the pressure of one. In fact all the Fury moniker has done, his dad insists, is “given us the platform to call the Fury name ‘king of the ring’.”
“The boxing ring is the Fury’s home. When these people step inside the ring and disrespect that home, they’re getting knocked out.
“Tyson’s paved the way with rubbish, he’s been down the road of destruction, and all these younger pups have learned off him, never to go that way.
“So all those people who hate the Furys, you’re going to be a lot sicker for a few years yet. Keep hating – we thrive off the hate. If I didn’t think I could get Tommy to the top of the world I’d say. I’m a mug in every direction in life, but in this boxing game I know what I’m doing. I know the world hates me but I know boxing, and I would not let my sons down. Not if my life depended on it.”
John Fury was speaking to i in association with Free Bets Boxing