Ali and Tyson provide a lesson from history for Fury’s ring return

first_imgfeatures Sign up for the Recap, a selection of Guardian Sport’s best content from the past week. Read more Share on Pinterest The Recap: sign up for the best of the Guardian’s sport coverage As his promoter, Frank Warren, admits: “I don’t care who you are, all of the great fighters showed it takes a while to come back. It is about him being 100% physically and more importantly 100% mentally prepared and right.”But Warren promises that once the ring rust goes, Fury has all the tools to reclaim his crown. “The only thing that could ever let Tyson down is his legs, at the end that’s what let Ali down, but I don’t think that has happened. His boxing brain is there. He’s sharp. And his hand speed is good. He will be the heavyweight of his generation.”Plenty will need convincing of that. But for all Fury’s flaws outside the ring, his return certainly adds a dash of devil and spice to an increasingly blistering heavyweight division.In the UK the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email [email protected] In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at Reuse this content … we have a small favour to ask. More people, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many news organisations, we made the choice to keep our reporting open for all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay.The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. 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Since you’re here… Support The Guardian Share on Facebook Tyson Fury shocks Wladimir Klitschko to take world heavyweight title Share via Emailcenter_img Tyson Fury Share on WhatsApp Read more He is also convinced he will return to the top of a heavyweight division that has been reloaded with Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder in his absence. Seferi, however, is unlikely to offer much in the way of confirmation. On the surface the 39-year-old has a respectable record of 23 victories (21 by knockout) with just the one defeat by Manuel Charr, who has since won the WBA heavyweight title. But almost all of Seferi’s fights have been at cruiserweight – and only five of his victims have had winning records.Seferi’s nickname, incidentally, is “The Real Deal”. If that was anywhere close to true, he would not have topped Fury’s list of opponents for his comeback. That said, there are encouraging noises coming from Fury’s camp. One sparring partner told the Guardian that he was impressed with his boxing brain and described facing Fury as “like fighting an octopus” because of his long reach, height and ability to avoid being properly tagged.Fury has never possessed explosive speed, power or the body of an Adonis. Perversely, that might help his chances of a successful comeback. Ali, remember, found his ability to dance like Nureyev had gone on his return. Indeed, in his first comeback fight against Jerry Quarry he ended the first round slumped on his stool looking, as one writer at ringside put it, “like a beached whale”.And while Tyson, like Ali, went on to regain the heavyweight title, he was no longer the elusive wrecking ball that ripped through the division in the mid‑1980s.One thing that has never changed is Fury’s bombastic way of hyping a fight and this week he was talking up the possibility of meeting Charr for his WBA heavyweight title by December. It is far more likely, however, that he will bide his time. The smart money is on his picking three or four opponents while he waits to face the winner of Joshua against Wilder, probably next summer. Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Topics Ali and Tyson are two of the greatest heavyweights in history. Yet before their much-heralded returns to the ring in their late 20s they found themselves facing a fresh opponent: a sly and pernickety voice lurking in their heads, whispering that the second act of their careers might not match the impeccable standards of their first.If the 29-year-old Tyson Fury is wracked by self-doubt before his comeback against Sefer Seferi in Manchester on Saturday night he disguises it with the skill of a master conjuror. He looked fleshy around the belly at the weigh-in, during which he came in at 19st 10lb, five stone heavier than his opponent. But after picking up Seferi to much merriment, he insisted his physique did not tell the whole story. “I have never been quicker or stronger,” he said with a glint in his eye. “I’m the best heavyweight there has ever been. There ain’t ever been a 6ft 9in southpaw-orthodox counter-puncher who has got the brain and movement of a middleweight. I am a freak of nature.”At times such as this he sounds like a rabid street preacher trying to convert disbelievers. And there are certainly plenty of those about. It is not only that Fury has not fought since ripping Wladimir Klitschko’s heavyweight titles from him on a dank Düssseldorf night in November 2015; it is the vast physical and mental baggage he has accrued in the meantime. The addictions to booze and food. The positive test for cocaine. The retrospective two-year doping suspension after nandrolone was found in his body (he denied taking it and blamed the elevated levels on eating uncastrated wild boar). And the months of worrying talk of being an emotional wreck, of depression, of suicidal tendencies.Thankfully Fury now appears to be in a much better place. He has lost eight stone, rediscovered his love of hard graft and ring craft, and insists that his mental health issues are behind him. “I haven’t had a bad day in I don’t know how long,” he says. “Every day is Christmas. Lobster, fillet steak and ravioli. There ain’t no good and bad days because every day is great.” Boxing Share on Messenger When Muhammad Ali began his comeback in 1970, after being barred from boxing for three years for refusing to be drafted into the US army for the Vietnam war, he taped an old photograph on the gym wall. “That was when I was at my top condition,” he wistfully told visitors, pointing at the image taken before his rematch with Sonny Liston. “See how trim I was. Maybe I will never look like that again.”Twenty-five years later Mike Tyson was staggering and almost knocked out while sparring an amateur before his comeback fight against Peter McNeeley. “I wasn’t accustomed to getting hit,” said Tyson, who had spent four years away from boxing after a rape conviction. “Fuck, I couldn’t believe that this little kid had hurt me so bad.”last_img