I remember reading about Tyson Fury before he turned professional. At 6ft 9in, the son of a fighter, a decorated amateur, raised to be a boxing sensation, he seemed an incredibly promising prospect.
Those involved in the business must have thought so too, as Fury was fighting on national TV from his debut, on the undercard of a world title fight (Carl Froch vs Jean Pascal on ITV). Yet between then and now, there is something else Fury has been fighting, other than his 24 opponents.
Of Irish Traveller lineage – or gypsy to most – Tyson Fury is part of a minority community that is in the tens of thousands in the UK. Although arguably not really a race, the Traveller community are classed under the Race Relations act in the UK, and for good reason too. The Travellers are somewhat despised by a fairly large chunk of the British public.
Different communities are associated with different things, each having their own stereotype. In the case of Fury, you would have thought that fitting the stereotype of the ultra-tough, macho, gypsy fighter beating all opponents he faces would make people at the minimum rate him as a fighter.
“How do certain “experts” justify claiming that he wasn’t as good as many of the contenders he came through with that are now obviously not on his level?”
They didn’t though. Derided more than lauded for most of his career, Tyson Fury was written off by many a boxing fan and even the pundits. Too fat, doesn’t punch hard, too slow, too clumsy, just a big-mouth, was Fury just too gypsy for them?
As we now look back at how he got to this stage of such a momentous fight, how do certain “experts” justify claiming that he wasn’t as good as many of the contenders he came through with that are now obviously not on his level?
As the son of an immigrant, part of a community that is a minority among minorities (Sikh), I have picked up a sixth sense which tells me when people are being slightly racist. Sometimes it isn’t a big deal, such as when the canteen staff are thinking “don’t offer him the pork option, he’s probably Muslim”.
Other times it can be more serious, such as when it can affect a career because the majority try to keep the minority from outshining them.
This is what I saw when Tyson Fury was coming up as a boxer.
Many people did not and still do not like Tyson Fury as a person and fair enough, he gives them reason not to.
“As an Indian, I liken suggestions Fury should stick to “paving driveways” to belief in the caste system, where people born into a certain subsection of society are not to elevate beyond what that group are associated with.”
There was a real dislike for his talk. Many if not most people don’t like big mouths anyhow. However, the likes of Carl Froch and Tony Bellew have always been outspoken to an irksome degree. Yet neither has had the level of abuse Fury has had on social media. This comes down to an ingrained notion that when someone of a minority background becomes successful, they should be humble with it. This is something African-American boxers have felt more than anyone else.
There were also digs at Fury’s physique, which were fair enough. However, a massive amount of the abuse Fury has regularly had aimed at him media on social throughout his career have referred to his “pikey” heritage. As someone of an Indian background, I liken the insults and suggestions Fury should stick to “paving driveways” (a job associated with gypsies) to belief in the caste system, where people born into a certain subsection of society are not to elevate beyond what that group are associated with.
Tyson Fury was turning into a huge star before our very eyes and in my opinion many people, including well-respected journalists, were reluctant to give him that status as easily as they did others. For example, the difference in how David Price and Fury were looked at speaks volumes to me.
Liverpudlian heavyweight David Price was rising through the boxing ranks at the same time as Fury early on in their careers. Price was being lauded by the British public and press during his rise. Meanwhile, Fury was being lambasted.
In 2011/12 David Price went from 8-0 to 15-0, knocking out seven fighters in a row. These included the likes of John McDermott two years after Tyson Fury beat him, the always game to get knocked out Audley Harrison, and 43 year old Matt Skelton. During the same period Fury also had seven fights, knocking out five of those opponents who included three undefeated fighters (including Dereck Chisora) and former world title challenger Kevin Johnson, whose record at the time was 23-2.
With the state of the heavyweight division, holes could be picked in either of their set of opponents. However, the general consensus among Britain’s boxing public, including some of the most known pundits in the UK, was that Price’s opponents were better and he was miles ahead of Fury at the time. Price has since been knocked out three-times and is surrounded by talk of retirement. Fury is now fighting Wladimir Klitschko for the title of best heavyweight on the planet after walking over all his opponents previously.
When people were not respecting Fury as a person, I could see why. However, when they were not giving him respect as a fighter, I felt their dislike of Fury as a person clouded their judgement. And there have been too many “pikey” insults for me to believe his background has not played a part in it, especially when at this point Fury has proven he is one of the best boxers in his division more than worthy of fighting Klitschko.
Should Fury win tonight, he can at least force people to respect him as a fighter. And for me, this strikes a blow at what I believe is racism. Therefore, tonight, I unashamedly will be cheering on Tyson Fury for a win for himself and for all that have ever felt their backgrounds have been held against them.
Come on Tyson Fury!