On Sept. 23, 2017, the then-WBO heavyweight titleholder Joseph Parker couldn’t hit Hughie Fury on the ass with a handful of salt.
Unbeaten in 23 fights with 18 knockouts, the affable New Zealander was continually made to flounder by a swift and elusive target. However, the problem was that Fury wasn’t making Parker pay with power shots, electing to work almost exclusively behind a steady and accurate jab.
When the verdict was in after 12 ho-hum rounds, Parker’s largely ineffective aggression was rewarded. Two scores of 118-110 in the champion’s favor were absolutely outrageous, while the third card of 114-114 proved that at least one of the officials could score a fight. It was close.
Fury, younger cousin of former heavyweight champion of the world Tyson, was disenchanted by his first professional setback but vowed to regroup. After a nine-month period of convalescing, the 6-foot-6 technician returned to action and blasted out Sam Sexton in five to claim the coveted British championship.
“I got back in there and I was feeling 100 percent,” said Fury in an interview with The Ring. “I thought I beat Parker easily enough and there was some frustration to release. I just didn’t let the shots go in the world title fight the way I wanted to.
“That experience has made me hungry and it made me a different person. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. It’s made me go to the gym and train harder. I’m not a talker, I just take care of business in the ring. The camp for the (Sexton) fight went well and that showed in the performance. Now, after this camp, I’m feeling 10 times better again.”
If Fury is legitimately 10 times better, then former world title challenger Kubrat Pulev could be in a world of trouble. On Saturday, the pair will collide at the Arena Armeec in Sofia, Bulgaria, and despite the fact that he will be conceding home advantage, Fury cannot wait for his chance to shine.
“Pulev is a good fighter with plenty of experience, but all the hard work’s done,” offered Fury confidently. “He’s a very durable opponent and I’m expecting a good fight, but we have our game plan ready.
“Our styles are completely different and I can see myself building a big lead against him. He can have all the experience in the world, but I know for a fact that he’s never been in there with anything like me.”
The 24-year-old Fury starts a slight favorite in what has been sanctioned as an IBF final eliminator. Should he prevail, the Manchester man would be installed as the No. 1 challenger for unified champion Anthony Joshua, who is rated No. 1 by The Ring.
“I’m 100 percent ready to be on top and I’d take the fight tomorrow,” said Fury (21-1, 11 KOs) the moment Joshua was mentioned. “I’m always in the gym, I believe I’m the best and it’s time to get in there and prove it. That’s why I’m here.
“I don’t know how long I’ll forced to wait (for the Joshua fight), but the main thing is to get past Pulev. This will be an exciting fight with plenty of fireworks. After that, I want to fight for the title as soon as possible. Once Pulev is out of the way, there will be a deadline set and we’ll see what happens.”
Pulev (25-1, 13 KOs) has mixed with some top heavyweights and his only defeat was a fifth-round knockout loss to Wladimir Klitschko in November 2014. However, the 37-year-old slugger has been inactive for 18 months and Fury’s youth and athleticism is likely to prove troublesome.
Tom Gray is Associate Editor for Ring Magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing
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