Tommy Fury: ‘Other than boxing I have nothing – all I want is to be world champion’
Leaning over the rope, post pad-session sweat collecting around his temples, Tommy Fury stares straight down the lens. The impression he wants to convey is that of the archetypal fighting man, a boxer to the bone. Good luck with that. The problem is obvious and two-fold. Firstly he is following a famous brother into a sport that already carries the Fury imprint. Not easy.
Secondly nature has blessed him with a kind of savage beauty that is incredibly distracting to the beholder. It is hard to see the fighter when the face looking back at you melts with the intensity of its gaze. “You’d think he was on that Love Island,” shouts trainer Ricky Hatton across the gym. “Until he opens his fuckin’ mouth.” Ah, the infamous Hitman bantz, needle sharp and guaranteed to keep a prodigy in line.
After a dozen amateur bouts Tyson Fury’s 19-year-old half brother makes his professional debut at light heavyweight on the undercard of the Carl Frampton and Josh Warrington show in Manchester three days before Christmas. Interest in the next fighting Fury after Tyson and cousin Hughie is predictably high. On this October day Hatton’s fighting emporium in Hyde is humming with grandees from the top of the bill and the usual faces.
‘This is my life. It’s all I have ever worked for'
Fury is small spuds in this company yet impossible to ignore. “That your lad, John?” asks one onlooker. “Jesus, them eyes. I can’t look at ’im. He can punch as well.” John Fury nods his appreciation. The boy looked handy enough crashing hooks into Hatton’s well schooled mitts, and Fury Snr reckons he has something. “He’s been sparring with some good lads, He’s handled himself well so far. We’ll see when he gets in the ring.”
As good as Tyson? “Tyson’s unique. There’s only one of him,” John said. “Tommy is different, but his attitude is good, he trains hard and as long as he stays disciplined I think he can do well. He’s been in with some good lads and more than held his own.” To Tommy’s credit he is languidly sanguine about the comparisons with Tyson. Though inspired by his brother’s achievements he is not cowed by them and is sufficiently content with his own lot not to worry about the judgment of others.
“This is my life. It’s all I have ever worked for,” he said. “I trained as an amateur, running in the dark nights in the cold mornings for stuff like this; media workouts, public workouts, big fights, big stages, and now its about to happen.” Blessed by natural reserve Tommy could not be more different from his riotous, bellicose sibling. “Everyone who knows me will tell you I’m a quiet kid, keep myself to myself, go about my business, train hard and that’s it, nothing more to it. No big things in my life.”
‘All I want is to be a world champion'
“I don’t mind the comparisons but I say to people there is only one Tyson, and only one Tommy. I’m not trying to be anybody else. My personality is different, my presence is different. Tyson is Tyson. You can’t copy a person’s personality. You are what you are. I can talk, answer questions, but I’m not out there. I mind my own business. I have a lot to learn. I’m only 19. I need to keep my head down, stay humble and keep doing what I’m doing. I’m nobody. What have I done? I have a good last name. That’s it. I’ll work my way up same as any man. And hope its good enough.”
Tommy is 11 years Tyson’s junior. There was a degree of inevitability about the route he has taken given a childhood spent at the knee of his brother and cousin, his ideas shaped by a setting where fighting, being able to ‘handle yourself’, is a cultural staple of the travelling community. “I grew up around them, watching them do so well. I want the same for myself, do even better, strive to be greater. You need to be aiming for the top if you are going to do this. It’s too hard a job, otherwise, flogging your body day in day out.”
“We have spars, light spars, just learning stuff. Plenty of times he would say go on hit me as hard as you can. Nothing more than that. He is my big, older brother. I have seen how well he has done in boxing and what he did to achieve that. Whatever he did, and Hughie, I soaked up like a sponge believing one day I would be in the same position.”
‘I want to do it the Tommy way'
And here he is. I raise the issue of alternative employment. Surely with a face like his coupled with the musculature of Michelangelo’s David there would be a living to be had. Urged on by others he admits to flirting with the idea of modelling, but in the end he could not escape the pull of the gym, the lure of the heavy bag, the honesty and disciplines of boxing’s primal rhythms.
“It’s not just a hobby for me, it’s my life. Other than boxing I have nothing. I have to do well in this because there is nothing else. Why am I messing around trying to get modelling deals when all I want is to be a world champion. I’m not a big-headed kid.
“If it was up to me I would say I have too big a nose, other people saying that I should go in for it, yes, it made me think. I could earn a lot of money for doing nothing really. It’s a lot easier than getting punched in the face but deep down it’s not what I wanted to do. I’m a fighting man. I don’t care about smashing up my face. I’ll try to be that good so it doesn’t affect my face and do the modelling afterwards.”
The words flow with a welcome candour free of the bombast associated with big brother’s matchday shtick. “I can laugh and joke, I can promote a fight but at the end of the day I want to do it the Tommy way. Tyson does it how he wants and I will do it how I want. We are two different people. I’m never disrespectful to anyone. I treat people as I would like to be treated. You have to respect every fighter in the ring. I know Tyson does it for showmanship, but at the end of the day I respect any man who gets between them ropes, even journeymen who have never won a fight. They still have the balls to get in the ring and take a beating.”
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