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How Much Credence Should We Give Tyson Fury’s Retirement? (Spoiler Alert: None)

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  • How Much Credence Should We Give Tyson Fury’s Retirement? (Spoiler Alert: None)

    Click image for larger version  Name:	fury3.PNG Views:	7 Size:	636.3 KB ID:	21257

    By Arne K. Lang

    Tyson Fury announced that his fight with Dillian Whyte would be his last rodeo. Some people were inclined to believe him. “Fury retains heavyweight belt in final fight,” read the sub-headline of an Associated Press dispatch from London.

    A great boxer, as a rule, retires multiple times before he finally leaves the sport for good. One can illustrate this point without looking beyond the cadre of former heavyweight champions.

    In the fall of 1942, Joe Louis was in the Army stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas. In October, he accompanied a Fort Riley drill team to Omaha to perform at a football game between Fort Riley and Creighton University. An Associated Press reporter caught up with him there.

    Louis, then 28 years old, told the reporter that his fighting days were over. “By the time this war will be over, I’ll be in my 30’s and that’s too old for a fighter. I’m too old for it now.”

    When the Army let him loose, Louis returned to his old trade. He would retire again after losing his belt to Ezzard Charles in his twenty-sixth world title defense and this time it was seemingly etched in stone. The announcement that he was quitting was accompanied by a formal letter of resignation sent to the National Boxing Commission. But the Brown Bomber wasn’t done quite yet. He came back and plodded on, having his last fight at age thirty-seven.

    Muhammad Ali was a multiple world title-holder and a multiple retiree.

    Ali was thirty-three years old (the same age that Tyson Fury is now) and days away from his second meeting with Joe Bugner when he uttered these words: “Horses get old, cars get old, the Pyramids of Egypt are crumbling. I want to retire while I’m still on top. As of now, this is the last time you will see Muhammad Ali in a fight.”

    To the contrary, three months after out-pointing Bugner in Kuala Lumpur, Ali met up with Joe Frazier in Manila. And then, after that terrible war of attrition, he had 10 more fights, answering the bell for 120 rounds, before leaving the sport a crumbled version of the great fighter that he had been.

    Larry Holmes, Ali’s conqueror (a stroll in the park for the Easton Assassin) said he would retire after fighting David Bey in March of 1985 and retired again the following year after losing his rematch with Michael Spinks

    “This is my last fight,” said Holmes before the fight with Bey. “A lot of people don’t believe that. But it comes time when that’s enough. If I stay too long, something’s going to happen.” Sixteen years later, now 52 years old, Holmes finally had his final fight, winning a 10-round decision over Eric “Butterbean” Esch in Norfolk, Virginia.

    Larry Holmes appears to be one of the lucky ones. By all indications, he still has all of his faculties. That in itself is more amazing than anything he accomplished inside the ring.

    Why do the great ones keep coming back? A number of theories have been advanced.

    A man who takes up prizefighting, like a boy who takes up smoking, believes himself to be bulletproof; the damage that he risks, if acknowledged at all, is something that will descend on the other guy. The roar of the crowd can be intoxicating; a drug that creates a yearning for more. And every great fighter believes that his generation was stronger than the generation coming up behind it.

    Tyson Fury, a father of six with a seventh on the way, won’t be lacking for money any time soon and he won’t be stashing away any of it for his kids’ college education. Travelers tend to yank their kids out of school at the first sign of puberty. But a pile of money has a way of shrinking, especially if one is an independent contractor with a tax man looking over his shoulder. The great baseball pitcher Sandy Koufax quit baseball at age thirty and came to regret that he didn’t stay around a few more years. “When I left baseball,” he said, “I had enough money to last the rest of my life but then I discovered that was only true if I stopped spending.”

    For some, the mantle of heavyweight champion was a millstone, more a burden than a rush, a manifestation of the admonition, “be careful what you wish for.” For some it was both.

    During his first reign as heavyweight champion, before Don King entered his life, Mike Tyson relished his reputation as the baddest man on the planet. He could not have been happier. During his second reign, after a stint in an Indiana prison, he was miserable. The crown was a crown of thorns.

    Tyson Fury inverted the Mike Tyson chronicle; he turned it upside-down. After de-throning Wladimir Klitschko, he fell into a rut, a rut so dark and so deep that he contemplated suicide. He was out of action for 30 months during which time the British Boxing Board of Control suspended his boxing license and the presumption was that we would never see him again.

    In his second coming, Fury was a new man, a blithe spirit, ebullient.

    To be certain, there have been a few champions who left the sport on top and never looked back: Gene Tunney, Rocky Marciano, Lennox Lewis. But they were exceptions to the rule.

    Fury has many options going forward. Primo Carnera transitioned from a boxer into a grunt-and-groan wrestler. He didn’t make the turnstiles hum – he was damaged goods after fighting Max Baer – but Fury, with his out-sized personality, would be a big attraction in this cheesy form of melodrama that is more popular today than in Carnera’s era.

    After defeating Dillian Whyte, Fury was joined in the ring by UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou. The freak fight between Floyd Mayweather and MMA star Conor McGregor was one of the richest one-day sporting events of all time, so a Fury-Ngannou match is something quite likely to happen. As it now stands, however, it would be classified as an exhibition.

    As for Fury fighting the winner of the forthcoming rematch between Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk or coming back after a long layoff to take on one of the young guns who has “usurped” his title – well, one or both of those happenstances is inevitable.

    The great New York Times sportswriter Dave Anderson was in Kuala Lumpur in 1975 for Ali-Bugner II. This was back in the day when many newspapers had the resources to send a writer halfway around the world to cover a sporting event.

    Anderson dutifully reported what Ali said – that he planned to retire – but he wasn’t buying it. “Muhammad Ali is one of those people who needs people…,” said Anderson. “He needs an audience. And to have an audience, he needs a stage.”

    In some ways, Tyson Fury is the reincarnation of Ali. He is an outstanding boxer, but foremost he is a great showman. A great showman doesn’t leave the stage when he can still fill the room.

    Arne K. Lang’s latest book, titled “George Dixon, Terry McGovern and the Culture of Boxing in America, 1890-1910,” will shortly roll off the press. The book, published by McFarland, can be pre-ordered directly from the publisher ( or via Amazon.

    Last edited by AcidArne; 04-26-2022, 06:34 AM.

  • #2
    Some fighters you enjoy watching build there names up by the fights in the ring and the way they carry themselves outside the Ring. Others do nothing for the sport of boxing other then make promoters and themselves rich. That is the class of fighter I put T.F. in....... Nothing too personal just never impressed me as a fighter. I was glad to have this weekend pass, I hope he goes off the does anything but get in a boxing Ring again. Let him take another road trip. I guess the main thing about some Professional Fighters is some build a reputation in the Ring others are manufacutured. Toss in enough money, loud mouth promoters no matter who pays there ticket and you get a guy like him. It is part of the fight game it is not a revelation of the sudden type not to me. Boxing needs the phonies, the liars, the wanna be's the guys you pay attention to bc you know or think they are no good. But you still have to prove it in the Ring, then carry yourself in a certain way to be respected on the Fight Level.