How much work does it take to lose a world title fight? Ever thought about things from the direction of the loser? Well, in Hughie Fury’s case, losing to Joseph Parker took many years of hard work. Years in the gym, running, sparring, pad work with his Father. And that’s without the time spent learning from Dad (Peter) about the nuances of boxing and, more importantly, the process of fighting. Losing could be the undoing of many fighters, but I would bet heavily that things aren’t looking down for Hughie going into this weekend’s fight with Kubrat Pulev.
Years ago, after Hughie had won the world junior heavyweight title (first British fighter to do so), Peter told me he was going to be a champion in the pro ranks. “All he needs is for his body to mature. For that natural power to develop.” He said. I believed him then, and I still do now.
After the Parker fight some people were saying how power was the thing missing from Hughie’s game. He’s got superb movement, makes good punch choices, and he can certainly take a blow, but they said it was those killer few pounds of pressure that were missing on the big night back in September last year. Perhaps that’s why Peter told him in the later rounds, while he sat stoically in the corner, “You’ve got to get more aggressive!” The best shots he landed on Parker didn’t seem to do much damage, but then Parker fought Anthony Joshua, and even he couldn’t finish Joseph off. Ditto a much bulkier and latterly more powerful Dillian Whyte. So, is Hughie underpowered? I don’t believe he is, any more than I believe that power alone wins a fight.
Hughie’s last fight was a destruction – powerful one, too – of Sam Sexton in May. Those same detractors from the Parker fight mostly chose to ignore that win. His right hand was straighter, and he seemed to go for the opening quicker and with more focus when he smelled blood. Hughie won’t ever be a maniacal bull of a fighter like Whyte, or Chisora, in the Mike Tyson mould. All action. Go hard. But I sensed something had changed. He looked more powerful. Grown up. We forget his age at times: 24. Something was definitely different in the Sexton fight. Almost like it suddenly all made sense. The movement was slick, the jab knocked home perfectly, and Sexton looked uncomfortable when the loaded rights came thumping in. Power eh..
Old man Pulev is no fool. And he doesn’t fall over easily. At 37 he is way past his best, but he is a gatekeeper to a big money bout (via the IBF) with AJ. He is dangerous in the way an old bull can still trample you to death if it corners you in a barn and you’ve forgotten your cattle prod. People say the heavyweights are a poor division these days, and that may be true, but to win against Pulev in his home country won’t be something the naysayers can brush under the carpet. It will be a genuine step into the limelight. I always think of Pulev as a Povetkin-level fighter. It’s a shame they never met when both in their prime. Still, you take what you can in this division. If Pulev holds the key, you grab it with both hands and ram it in the lock, or spend your life on the domestic circuit picking your nose in grubby dressing rooms and wondering at what could have been.
Personally, behind the scenes, Hughie is a nice fella. He’s quiet; not into trash talking like his cousin. He’s dedicated completely to his sport, which he takes incredibly seriously. Not that that makes a difference when the first bell rings, but you get the idea: he’s a decent human being.
Take my advice, tune in to Channel Five this weekend. Watch Hughie. Maybe even cheer a bit. You’ll be seeing a brilliant young heavyweight maturing and trying to fulfill his dream. He’s no loser.