Is Tyson Fury Britain’s Greatest Ever Heavyweight?

Is Tyson Fury Britain’s Greatest Ever Heavyweight?

By Will Lott

The storm has settled after Tyson Fury brutally dismantled Dillian Whyte in his latest title defence in front of 94,000 people at Wembley Stadium. In the aftermath, Twitter has been buzzing with people debating where Fury stands in the all-time British heavyweight rankings. I’ve seen people calling him Britain’s greatest heavyweight ever, I’ve seen people calling him the greatest heavyweight ever and I’ve even seen people calling him the greatest boxer of all time. I’m afraid I have to disagree with all three statements.

In this piece, I want to focus on where Fury ranks in British heavyweights. Fury will always remain one of our most popular heavyweights. His story, from the brink of suicide to WBC heavyweight champion will always captivate the public. It will inspire people for years to come and rightly so but I think people have begun using it in arguments of sporting legacy.

Let’s first look at Fury’s ability and compare. Fury’s boxing IQ is high, his hands are fast, his jab is strong and his speed for his size is impressive. As a result of this, he remains unbeaten in his 33 fights. 6’9′, he glides around the ring like a middleweight. The obvious fighter to compare him to is Lennox Lewis, the former unified heavyweight champion. Fury’s ring IQ is similar to that of Lewis, his speed is superior, his jab is weaker and his punch power is similar. On this Fury could be put above Lewis.

Now most importantly, we have to look at resumés. First, let’s look at Fury’s best wins. A shock unanimous decision win in Germany against a Wladimir Klitschko unbeaten in a decade was an outstanding win and one of the best ever for a British fighter. He has since fought Deontay Wilder three times, knocking out the heavy-handed Wilder twice and being robbed of the win in the first fight. On Saturday night, he beat Dillian Whyte comfortably. All top wins but only one of those opponents is going into the Hall of Fame. Klitschko was a champion in Lennox Lewis’ era and the only one of the three mentioned capable of doing so.

To be totally honest, Fury’s CV isn’t even the best of the current British heavyweights. Anthony Joshua has more title defences and more victories against top 10 opponents. There is a legitimate argument Wilder and the Klitschko that Fury fought compared to the one Joshua fought are tougher opponents but Fury’s inactivity will hurt his legacy. Of course, the reason for that inactivity, through mental health issues is important to mention.

Now, again I will bring Lennox Lewis into the conversation. The first argument people will have is Lewis lost twice but Fury is unbeaten. This is true but on both occasions, Lewis beat and dispatched both Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahmen quicker than when he was beaten. Now we can look at the strength of opponents. Lewis has standout wins over the likes of Evander Holyfield, Vitali Klitschko and of course Mike Tyson. There will again be comments that Tyson wasn’t who he used to be when he met Lewis but Klitschko certainly was. Holyfield may have been in his late 30s but remained a legitimate danger on the back of three successful title defences going into that fight. All three fighters are in the Hall of Fame.

Lewis was active in an era where the talent pool was much deeper than it is today. Is that Fury’s fault? Of course not, you can only fight who is put in front of you.

In this conversation, honourable mentions are of course needed for the likes of Henry Cooper, David Haye and Frank Bruno. But on achievements, as it stands, if both Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury retired today, Fury cannot be put above AJ, let alone Lennox Lewis. If AJ can win his belts back and fights Fury, the winner would be the first undisputed British heavyweight champion since Lewis.

This debate would be much closer but still, the winner would remain behind Lewis in my view. If Fury is serious with his comments about retirement and the undisputed fight never happens, be it against AJ or Oleksandr Usyk, he will remain for me the 3rd best heavyweight we have ever produced. But he will always be a titan of our sport and forever a British sporting hero regardless. 

Photo Credit: Queensbury Promotions

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