Last November, in arguably the biggest major-fight upset in recent years, Tyson Fury decisioned the second longest reigning heavyweight titlist of all time, Wladimir Klitschko, to improbably ascend to the top of the division.
A man who was once seen as lumbering, out of shape and lacking stamina had proven that he could box on the outside like no 6ft 8″ man before him, and that his “too fast” moniker was more than just self-deprecating humour.
But, other than a great tactical gameplan, what was behind the transformation?
Now we know that Fury, and his cousin Hughie (one of the heavyweight division’s top prospects), tested positive for nandralone, a classic anabolic steroid, in February of 2015, information initially leaked by the Sunday Mirror on June 26th of this year.
The test was carried out by United Kingdom Anti-Doping (UKAD), an organization whose reputation was recently damaged by their inaction in the case of informant tip-offs regarding Dr. Mark Bonar’s illicit activities with top sport stars.
As I will elucidate below, further inaction has marked their handling of this case.
The Furys have taken aggressive action and decided to sue UKAD, claiming that their position is strengthened by at least two subsequent negative tests in the following months, as well as testing clean in whatever testing surrounded the Klitschko fight. They also claim that UKAD informed them that the positive test was likely the result of a contaminated dietary supplement.
“The two boxers strenuously deny taking any performance-enhancing drugs,” said Fury lawyer Lewis Power.
“However, during the last five weeks leaks about these charges have appeared in the press and both boxers have been the targets of continual abusive language on Twitter.”
There are so many unanswered questions here, that I don’t even know where to begin.
If the positive test was in February 2015, why did it take UKAD until June 24, 2016 to “provisionally” suspend the Furys & prevent them from boxing?
Tyson fought twice in that time span, and Hughie 5 or 6 times. How could this have been allowed when UKAD knew they had a positive test on their hands?
What was being done in all that wasted 16 months, and what did any investigation undertaken by UKAD into the Furys’ case reveal?
It comes down to results management, and the expediting of drug test results is more important in fight sports than anywhere else.
UKAD have since lifted their provisional suspension, theoretically allowing the Furys to continue to box, pending a future hearing.
To quote from their statement: “The UK Anti-Doping Rules allow athletes to challenge the imposition of a Provisional Suspension and [we] today lifted the athletes’ suspensions, pending full determination of the charges. These charges will be heard at a hearing before the NADP in due course”.
Under what reasoning was an end to the provisional suspension granted?
Why is a hearing needed to determine if an anti-doping violation has occurred? What is it about this particular case that doesn’t match with the standard ‘positive A & B samples equal a ban’ equation?
Will such a hearing take place before the all-important Klitschko rematch, tentatively scheduled for late October?
If, at this hearing, an anti-doping violation is confirmed to have occurred, will Klitschko’s loss be overturned and the titles stripped from Tyson?
What we do know is that the Team Fury have already lied on at least two occasions surrounding these positives. Firstly, claiming an ankle injury as a reason to delay the Klitschko rematch, announcing as such on the very day the provisional ban came into place. Quite a coincidence.
They also lied on June 26th, releasing statements saying they were “baffled” at the doping rumours in the press, when in fact they knew they had been suspended two days prior.
What a mess.
Between this case, and the test failures of Alexander Povetkin, Erkan Teper, Lucas Browne, Tony Thompson & Luis Ortiz, I have about as much faith in the cleanliness of the heavyweight division as I do the 100m sprint.
And that’s not even getting into a discussion of the suspiciously gargantuan physiques of some of the other top guys in the division.
EDIT 16/9: Team Fury still claim that the ankle injury was legitimate and that they were informed of the provisional suspension less than an hour after they had announced publicly the posponement of the bout.
At this point, as the rematch has been made official for October 29th, it is unclear whether the UKAD hearing on the tests will take place after the bout, or expedited to before it. The latter is quite obviously the only sensible option.
Team Fury further claim that, when first informed about the failed tests, they were informed by UKAD that they had done nothing wrong and were given dietary information on foods which may contain nandralone.
We can only hope the truth of the matter becomes more clear in the aftermath of the hearing.
If true, a deeply distressing moment for the sport
Story from badlefthook.com via the Sunday Mirror
Fight of the Year
1. Anthony Joshua-Dillian Whyte
2. Takashi Miura-Francisco Vargas
3. Edwin Rodriguez-Michael Seals
Knockout of the Year
1. Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez ko3 James Kirkland
2. Courtney Blocker ko2 Dominic Goode
3. Gabriel Bracero ko1 Danny O’Connor
Round of the Year
1. Edwin Rodriguez-Michael Seals Round 1
2. Amir Imam-Fidel Maldonado Jr. Round 3
3. Marco Huck-Krzysztof Glowacki Round 6
Prospect of the Year
1. Anthony Joshua
2. Takuma Inoue
3. Callum Smith
Upset of the Year
1. Tyson Fury UD12 Wladimir Klitschko
2. Yvan Mendy SD12 Luke Campbell
3. Aron Martinez UD10 Devon Alexander
Trainer of the Year
Joe Gallagher – for his work with Anthony Crolla, Scott Quigg, Callum Smith & Liam Smith
Fighter of the Year
1. Floyd Mayweather Jr.
2. Tyson Fury
3. Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez
This is not a popularity contest.
This is not a personality contest.
Based on accomplishment in the ring, Floyd Mayweather Jr. is the Fighter of the Year for 2015.
The facile Berto coda was meaningless, this is all about the Pacquiao fight. It was craved as much as any other bout in history, teased for 5+ years, and caught the imagination of the wider sport-watching public & way, way beyond.
As with many mega-fights in boxing, it took place when the fighters were past their prime, and, unfortunately, it was a damp squib in terms of action, Mayweather making Pacquiao look like almost all of his prior opponents, comfortably outboxing him for a wide decision win.
Nobody had ever done anything approaching this to Pacquiao before.
Distracting talk of Pacquiao’s (laughable excuse/)shoulder injury aside, Mayweather proved beyond doubt that he is by far the best boxer of his generation.
IV/USADA-gate was another dampener on what was a cynical money grab from everyone involved, but no fighter produced anything this year to rival Mayweather’s display of pure boxing mastery from 7 months ago.
However, Tyson Fury’s display to ‘out-Klitschko’ Klitschko and improbably lift the heavyweight crown comes in at a healthy second place.
An easy win over clubfighter Christian Hammer confirmed his credentials as a solid mandatory challenger for Klitschko, who had reigned for 9 1/2 years (the 2nd longest title reign in heavyweight history) over 18 successful defences.
A Fury knockout due to Klitschko’s much maligned chin was remotely conceivable, but not the manner in which he made Klitschko malfunction with his reach, size and constant movement. Klitschko’s final punch output of just 52 landed out of 231 was desultory. He looked old and unable to pull the trigger.
Ultimately, it was a close fight but Fury was not to be denied, walking away with the biggest prize in boxing to compliment his formidable size and self belief.
A rematch is in negotiations for May or June, and, while it will likely be another messy affair, it is intriguing. The result will go a long way to determining the future of the division in the coming years.
Canelo had his best year yet in 2015, confirming his status as Mexico’s premier fighter.
Washing the bad taste from many people’s mouths post-Mayweather-Pacquiao was never going to be an easy task, but Canelo did his best just a week later with a brutal knockout of James Kirkland in front of a partisan packed house at the Houston Astros’ baseball stadium.
Then came the fight craved by so many, a middleweight championship showdown (albeit at a catchweight unfortunately dictated by the champion) with Miguel Cotto, and, thus, the torch was passed.
The bigger Canelo used a mixture of brawn & sharp, composed boxing skills to win a well-deserved decision and make his first real mark in the history books.
Canelo has balls, and has to be praised for the high level opposition he’s consistently faced since taking on Austin Trout in mid-2013.
If anyone’s going to give Gennady Golovkin the shot at super-stardom he so deserves, it’s Canelo, and the fight is mooted for September.
“Introducing John L. Sullivan” [without acronyms] by George Bellows (1923)
The Heavyweight King
Tyson Fury knows what the alphabet gangs do not: They don’t decide who the real champ is.
by Springs Toledo
Showtime’s Brian Custer recently referred to Deontay Wilder as the “world heavyweight champion” and so contributed to the mass confusion in boxing. Would-be fans —precisely the demographic the sport needs to attract— scratched their heads and wondered what the hell happened two weeks ago when Tyson Fury defeated Wlad Klitschko and was declared the “heavyweight champion of the world.” An unknown number of them reached for the clicker.
The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a fifty-member, all-volunteer initiative representing eighteen countries invites them to put the clicker down and stay tuned. It recommends approaching the sport as they would a holiday with family. When Uncle Ralph staggers over to intrude on a pleasant exchange claiming something is that assuredly isn’t, wave him off. If he can’t take a hint and proves immune to courteous correction, escort him to the door and lock him out in the cold. He’ll sober up eventually. Boxing is overrun with Uncle Ralphs. We find them well-poised on television and meticulous in print, but most of their claims regarding the championships are gobbledygook. Do any of them really believe there are eighty-six champions in the seventeen weight divisions? Do they know the difference between Deontay Wilder’s belt and the divisional crown?
THE CROWN VS. BELTS
Tyson Fury, insists the Board above the nonsense and the din, is heavyweight king. He takes his place in a succession that includes the vanquished Wlad Klitschko, fellow Briton Lennox Lewis, Fury’s namesake Mike Tyson, and thirty-three others give or take. Each divisional succession is an ongoing march through history with expected breaks and disruptions and which began with the first championship bout fought under the Marquess of Queensberry rules. The heavyweights’ stretch back at least to Gentleman Jim Corbett, if not John L. Sullivan — both sons of Éire like Fury himself.
Anyone with more sense than a partridge in a pear tree knows that there are two paths into a divisional succession: (1) defeat the true champion or (2) if said champion retires or otherwise abdicates, earn a top-two ranking and defeat the top or next-best contender.
And what of “world heavyweight champion” Wilder? He did neither. In January 2015, he defeated Bermane Stiverne (then ranked third in the Transnational Rankings when he was ranked sixth) after both contenders surrendered a percentage of their purses to the WBC. That belt Wilder carries is quite literally bought and paid for. It’s a fabrication; a fabrication puffed up by boxing media as something more but that had nothing to do with Wlad Klitschko and therefore had nothing to do with the heavyweight crown.
Wilder was fervent anyway. “I want to fight four times a year,” he said afterward. “Whoever’s ready, I’m ready.” The response of ESPN’s Dan Rafael was proof positive that the language in the sport must change: “Fight fans who have been searching for a [sic] American heavyweight champion surely are also.”
Tyson Fury understands the problem better than most. “If I want a belt, I can go and buy one,” he said last year. “It’s pointless. There’s the status of saying you’re a ‘world champion’, but when there’s twenty-five different world sanctioning bodies, it doesn’t mean nothing.”
TYSON FURY IN MUHAMMAD ALI’S FOOTSTEPS
Earlier this month, the IBF stripped Fury of their belt because of his intention to give Klitschko a rematch. The heavyweight king responded while doing roadwork. “They should take all of them away from me if they want,” he told reporter Peter Lane. “But they’ll never take what I’ve done.”
He’s in good company. The WBA pulled the same stunt on Muhammad Ali in 1964 after he agreed to a rematch against Sonny Liston. It was a move laughed at by yesterday’s more discerning boxing writers. “The WBA is an imaginary organization,” wrote Red Smith. “When Liston and Clay fight again and the winner is recognized as champion by the public, the press, and the participants, the WBA’s pretensions to power must evaporate.” At the other end of Ali’s career, the WBC took their own swing at his legacy when they stripped Leon Spinks in 1978 for agreeing to fight him in a rematch. They “awarded” the belt to Ken Norton and it was begrudgingly acknowledged by increasingly less-discerning boxing writers.
Trainer Peter Fury was more correct than we supposed when he compared Fury’s upset win over Klitschko with Ali’s upset win over Liston. Fury’s recent dismissal of homosexuality and the value of women in society left him wide open for censure, but Ali said worse. Before becoming America’s secular saint, Ali was a divisive figure who routinely thumbed his nose at the majority culture. “A black man should be killed if he’s messing with a white woman,” he said during a Playboy interview in 1975. And what of a Black Muslim woman who wants to go out with a white man? “Then she dies. Kill her, too.”
In case you haven’t noticed, Ali is celebrated by the very demographic that now condemns Fury.
A HERALD OF CHANGE?
Fury, who shuffled his feet familiarly a few times during the Klitschko fight, can likewise redefine himself as something other than a provocateur of the political left; he can step forward as a herald of change in boxing. Reform is in the air. It’s in his ear. “Gonna speak with [promoter] Mick [Hennessy] and & Tyson to give all belts away. Win em & vacate the lot. Money racket,” tweeted his trainer on December 9. “We know who the real champ is.”
The IBF, WBA, WBC, et al. would rather we didn’t. Unaccountable to anything outside their counting houses, they will continue to thrive in the mass confusion and make decisions based solely on their interests.
The heavyweight king is expected to do what is in his interests, but is also signaling his willingness to do something more.
The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board’s only interest resides in that “something more.” It will continue to provide clarity for fans and fighters alike by publishing clean, globally-represented rankings at http://www.tbrb.org and identifying “the real champs” with virtual crowns that don’t cost a thing.
Springs Toledo is a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. Special thanks to Jose Corpas and Tim Starks.