A great deal of Tyson Fury’s fifth-round stoppage win over Martin Rogan on Saturday was based on improvisation.
There was the obvious adaptation that spectators witnessed, the usually orthodox combatant fighting the entire night southpaw. Fury (18-0, 13 knockouts) is normally generous in his punch output as a right-hander, snapping jabs and loading up power punches that can often lead to him getting countered.
As a southpaw however, Fury was more disciplined and judicious with his punches, and showed notable head- and upper-body movement that he had abandoned in the past.
The experiment befuddled Rogan (14-3, 7 KOs), who couldn’t get his punches off, or pick up his opponent’s.
“I’ve been getting caught a lot in the past, leaning in with the jab and dropping it. After the jab, dropping it down, I’ve been getting caught over the top with overhand rights and lefts,” Fury explained after the fight. “So I thought to myself, for a change, I’m going to go around southpaw, keep my left hand up and I can’t get hit with an overhand right, because I’m (moving) away from his right.”
But before he made stylistic changes in the ring, the 23-year-old giant was dealing with major obstacles outside of it in the lead-up to the clash with his countryman.
Last December, his six-month-old baby boy Prince was stricken with bronchiolitis, a respiratory illness that wound up threatening his life. As a result, Fury spent almost a week living in the hospital, with only a cafeteria and vending machines to provide sustenance.
Not exactly the best menus for a professional athlete to be ordering from.
“They’re not really the best places to maintain a diet, no, but s__t happens.” Fury told RingTV.com. “It was a difficult thing, but a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. I’ve gotta provide food and keep things going at home.”
The worrisome times caused Fury to expand to 322 pounds, which is far from an ideal starting point for a training camp. Thankfully, Fury had added motivation to shed the weight and focus, fighting in Ireland for the country’s heavyweight title.
“It means so much to me because of my Irish heritage,” said Fury. “My grandfather would be very proud of me fighting for the Irish title. All of my people come from Ireland.”
According to him, the near catastrophe with his son combined with a full-time return to the boxing gym helped him get over his well-publicized bout with depression.
If it wasn’t entirely evident that the big man was back to his jovial ways, Fury took to the stage on the BBC3-televised Sport Relief comedy program in March, and performed a literal brand of improv—stand-up comedy. He even made a crack at himself, showing video of his bout against Lee Swaby when he famously missed an uppercut and hit himself in the face.
“I thought I was a natural comedian,” boasted Fury.
It’s natural talent that has carried Fury a long way up until this point in his career. At 6-foot-9, he is a gargantuan heavyweight with a reach advantage over anyone in the division not named Nikolai Valuev or Julius Long. Unlike other exceptionally tall fighters however, he has garnered a reputation for exciting fights, making him a sought-after television property. The Rogan knockout was seen in the UK, United States and Canada.
“I always think about exciting fights and giving people value for their money,” said Fury.
THE RING’s No. 10-rated heavyweight has done so far, but not for the big money, or on the big stage. His promoter, Hennessy Sports, has moved him intelligently, putting him in grudge matches against the likes of Rogan and Neven Pajkic, and calculated steps up against the likes of Dereck Chisora.
As recently as last November, Fury was quoted as saying that he was not ready for either of the Klitschko brothers who sit 1-2 atop the division. In retrospect, with his mental state awry and dire family situations looming overhead, he most certainly would not have been.
Now though, he believes he’s ready to wing it again and take the ultimate risk.
“I should be ready for the Klitschkos very soon. It’s just a matter of striking a deal and getting over there and getting them knocked out,” said Fury.
Follow Corey Erdman on Twitter @corey_erdman