They say the number one rule of sports writing is never to root for a team, player or fighter - in this instance, I've failed.
On the 28th of November 2015 at the sold-out ESPRIT Arena in Dusseldorf, Tyson Fury became the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, the first ever Traveller to accomplish the feat.
Tyson Fury, the motor-mouthed unabashed Romany-Gypsy fighter from the north of England who was a 5-1 outsider with the bookies defeated Wladimir Klitschko, a man no one believed he could beat.
Klitschko has been the champ since 2006 and hasn't lost a fight in 11 years. A consummate professional, he has dominated the heavyweight division for a decade and beaten all challengers that stepped up before him.
The route to a world title has been a long, protracted saga for Fury - with multiple cancellations and injuries, many thought it would never happen. Initially his first shot was supposed to be against David Haye, a bout Haye pulled out of twice for one reason or another. After the disappointment of the Haye non-start, Fury has had to wait for a chance at the undisputed champion Klitschko. Bad luck appeared to strike again when the bout was cancelled from an original date in October.
With destiny on his side, the match was rescheduled for November – and the circus began with the pre-fight press conferences. From turning up in a Lamborghini dressed as Batman to the multitude of insults, mind games and even singing, Fury seemed full of confidence. Be it hubris or just good publicity, it made for great viewing. Most importantly, it seemed to work. Klitschko sat through most of this with an exasperated look, not knowing whether to laugh, argue back or punch Fury.
There were other complications in the lead up to the fight. The wrong gloves were provided, the hand bandages had to be re-wrapped, and the ring was set up with 5 inches of foam under the canvas. Former champion Lennox Lewis quipped that the ring “felt like a wrestling ring”. These small details all added up to an advantage for Klitschko. Fury having a game plan in mind, knew these issues would hinder his fight. He threatened cancellation right up to the start time but successfully got the issues rectified to level the playing field, and make for a fair fight.
Onwards to the match, Fury stated he had a strategy, and he stuck to it. A tense affair with Klitschko looking weary throughout, Fury jabbed and moved, occasionally throwing small combinations. By not allowing to the big Ukrainian to fight his usual fight, he cut a frustrated figure in the ring. His best weapons, the constant hard jabs and devastating right hand were all but nullified by Fury's tactics. Klitschko, usually the bigger man at 6”6 had never fought an opponent the size of Fury and it showed. For the first time in a decade of Wladimir's illustrious career, he looked bloodied and bereft of ideas.
It was clear that Fury was well ahead on points, but as many fights do, it came down to the judges decision. As the bell rang to signal the end of the bout, Fury's team mostly consisting of close family, everyone in the arena who had made the long trip to support him from the U.K waited with baited breath. After what seemed like an eternity, the announcer finally read out the scores, “15-112, 115-112, 116-111... And the winner by unanimous decision and new heavyweight champion of the world, Tyson Fury”.
With jubilation in the ring and an eruption in the crowd, Tyson Fury became the first ever Gypsy heavyweight champion. He celebrated the achievement by thanking God and then serenading his wife with a rendition of the Aerosmith song 'I Don't Want to Miss a Thing'.
As dust settled on the victory, social media was a buzz with people airing their opinions. A lot of well meaning messages of congratulations from fellow boxers, celebrities and fans. That is not to say that the spectre of racism didn't rear it's ugly head again, detractors calling Tyson the usual unoriginal insults, “Pikey”, “Gypo” and insisting that several other up and coming fighters would beat him. You would think that a boxer from Great Britain winning the heavyweight title against the odds, the absolute pinnacle of combat sports would inspire some kind national pride, but in some quarters it didn't. Fury's recent off-colour remarks may have offended. You may not like him, but that is no reason to downplay the remarkable feat that he has accomplished with this win.
Britain may not claim Tyson Fury as their own champion, but I know for a fact the G/R/T community around the world will.