Newly crowned WBC champion Tyson Fury has declared himself “the greatest heavyweight of my era,” having transitioned from pure boxer to a 6-foot-9 behemoth with two-fisted power whose footwork and mobility belie his size.
The unbeaten “Gypsy King” can whip former champions Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield, along with unified titleholder Oleksandr Usyk and former champ Anthony Joshua, trainer Javan “Sugar” Hill-Steward, told Zenger News in an exclusive interview on Saturday.
“Tyson Fury’s footwork is like Muhammad Ali’s, and he’s told me ‘A fighter has to not only knock me down, but knock me out to beat me,’” said Hill-Steward, Fury’s cornerman for his past two fights. “Tyson has more power in both hands to the point where he’s a fighter with one-punch knockout power.”
Fury (31–0–1, 22 KOs) stopped 6-foot-7 Deontay Wilder by 11th-round TKO on Oct. 9, flooring “The Bronze Bomber” in the third round, rising from a pair of knockdowns in the fourth, and dropping him once each in the 10th and 11th of his first defense.
“Deontay Wilder, Usyk and Joshua are good challenges. But I would put Tyson against Joshua tomorrow, and against Usyk two weeks later, so line ‘em up,” said Hill-Steward, channeling “Honey” Roy Palmer from the 1992 film ‘Diggstown,’ in which the boxer — portrayed by actor Louis Gossett Jr.— handled 10 men in a single day.
“Tyson Fury’s not looking for a decision, and I don’t train him for decisions. Whether it’s the first round or the 12th round, I train Tyson for knockouts. I don’t see anybody in the heavyweight division who can beat Tyson Fury. You can pick the round, but Tyson Fury knocks everybody out.”
Fury rose from ninth- and 12th-round knockdowns during a December 2018 draw with Wilder before dethroning him via two-knockdown, seventh-round TKO in their February 2020 rematch.
Over the course of Fury’s trilogy with Wilder, the champion’s skills have transitioned from blending nimble reflexes, head movement and distance fighting with an 85-inch reach to an amalgam of speed, double-fisted power and finishing skills.
“For Tyson Fury to rise from a combined four knockdowns against one of the hardest punchers in the heavyweight division’s history in Deontay Wilder, and to come back from those and pull off the big knockouts in back-to-back fights shows that Tyson Fury is a big-time fighter,” Hill-Steward said.
“Our first fight working together, Tyson was leaning on Wilder and mauling him. But in this last fight, Tyson didn’t maul him. Tyson opened up his mid-range punching game. On the inside, he would lean but pivot himself into punching position, throwing counter punches with bad intentions. Tyson is a better fighter because he wants to learn, and I want to teach.”
Fury added Wilder (42–2–1, 41 KOs) to a legacy that includes dethroning 6-foot-6, long-reigning lineal champion Klitschko in November 2015, a unanimous decision that ended “Dr. Steelhammer’s” run at 22–0 (15 KOs) and 11½ years as Fury became IBF/WBA/WBO/IBO champion.
“The Gypsy King” credited Hill-Steward for his victory over Fury on Oct, 9, stating, “If it wasn’t for ‘Sugar’ Hill … I wouldn’t have gotten through that fight.
“This was one of my greatest wins, and I’ve gotten off the floor to do it. I pulled it out of the bag when it needed to be done,” added Fury, whose career-high 277 pounds countered Wilder’s career-high 238.
“I’ve always said I’m the best in the world, and he’s [Wilder] the second-best. I’m the WBC champ and the lineal champion. It was a great fight tonight worthy of any trilogy in the history of the sport. I hope Oct. 9, 2021 will go down in history as one of the greatest fights.”
Hill-Steward is the nephew of the late Hall of Fame trainer, Emanuel Steward, who foreshadowed Wilder’s becoming heavyweight champion before dying of cancer three days after Wilder’s 27th birthday on Oct. 25, 2012.
Steward also worked with Lewis, Holyfield and Klitschko. Hill-Steward believes Fury is simply too big for Holyfield and too slick and elusive for Lewis.
“Evander Holyfield is one of my favorite fighters — an old-school boxer and warrior who was in with all the big boys. But Tyson’s 6-foot-9, and I don’t see Evander Holyfield dealing with that too well, not with me training him. So Evander Holyfield gets stopped,” Hill-Steward said.
“Lennox Lewis is the best challenge for Tyson Fury. Lennox Lewis had the best footwork of his time, and after him, Wladimir Klitschko. But Tyson has everything Lennox Lewis has and more. Tyson Fury beats Lennox Lewis, possibly by knockout, but he definitely wins that fight.”
A bronze-medal winner in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, Holyfield (44–10–2, 29 KOs) was considered the greatest cruiserweight of all time before retiring in June 2014 at age 52 as the only four-time heavyweight champion.
The 6-foot-2½ “Real Deal” earned the heavyweight crown in his seventh division bout by third-round KO of James “Buster” Douglas (October 1990), representing his 13th straight stoppage victory. Douglas had dethroned Mike Tyson in February 1990 via 10th-round KO.
Holyfield was 1-2 against 6-foot-5 champion Riddick Bowe in November 1992, 1993 and 1995, 0–1–1 against 6-foot-5 undisputed champion Lewis in March and November 1999, and lost by majority decision in December 2008 to seven-foot Nikolai Valuev, who is known for being the tallest and heaviest champion in boxing history.
Holyfield was outweighed, 235 to 205 pounds, in his initial clash of unbeatens with Bowe — a unanimous decision loss that dethroned Holyfield as IBF/WBA/WBC titleholder. Holyfield won his rematch with Bowe by majority decision, but lost their third bout by eighth-round TKO.
Holyfield was outweighed 215 to 245 in his initial draw with Lewis and lost their rematch by unanimous decision. Steward trained Holyfield for his triumph over Bowe, but opposed him in his clashes with Lewis.
Steward worked with Lewis for his eighth-round knockout of Mike Tyson in June 2002, Oliver McCall when the latter halted Lewis by second-round TKO in September 1994, and Lewis, once again, during his fifth-round TKO of McCall in February 1997.
“Emanuel Steward was a very good strategist for coming up with game plans and when it came to fighting Bowe,” said Holyfield, who was outweighed, 214¼ to 310¾ by Valuev. “He said, ‘Bowe is taller and punches harder, so don’t go toe-to-toe. Go and bounce around, make him come forward trying to keep up with you until he runs out of gas.’ That’s how I beat Riddick Bowe.”
Holyfield weighed a career-high 226 pounds for a 10th-round TKO of Brian Nielsen in his final career bout in May 2001. “The Real Deal” acknowledged the difficulty of a fight with Fury.
“Deontay can hurt you with that right-hand power punch, but Fury’s a good boxer, and a good boxer like Fury has the ability to change up if something’s not going right,” said Holyfield, who turns 59 on Oct. 19. “Fury was able to both fight inside and from distance, so Deontay kept getting hit and hurt himself. In the end, Deontay wound up being hurt worse.”
Former contender Gerry Cooney, now 65, retired in 1990 with a mark of 28-3 (24 KOs), having fought during the late 1970s and 1980s and knocked out Jimmy Young, Ron Lyle and future Hall of Famer Ken Norton.
The 6-foot-6 Cooney was 25 years old in 1982 when he lost his title bid by 13th-round TKO to Larry Holmes, having entered at 25-0 (21 KOs).
“Fury’s long and awkward. When Klitschko tried to do something, Fury would feint, tie him up, go jab, right hand. When Fury did that, Klitschko was lost, never able to reset himself to throw good punches,” Cooney said.
“Fury’s a much better, tougher fighter than he was against Klitschko. Wilder’s best punch is a right hand, but Fury’s gotten up a total of four times against him, which shows that he has a lot of guts. Can Usyk beat Fury? I don’t think so.”
The 6-foot-3 Usyk (19–0, 13 KOs) dominated and dethroned Joshua (24-2, 22 KOs) as IBF/IBO/WBA/WBO champion on Sept. 25, joining Holyfield and England’s David Haye as the only former cruiserweight titleholders to also capture heavyweight crowns.
Joshua has exercised the rematch clause in his contract with Usyk, a 2012 Ukrainian Olympic gold medalist. In that case, the WBC may declare that Fury face the winner of an Oct. 30 clash between the organization’s interim titleholder Dillian Whyte (28–2, 19 KOs) and southpaw Otto Wallin (22–1, 14 KOs).
“Usyk, Joshua, Wallin, Whyte or whoever you put in front of him, Tyson Fury knocks out,” Hill-Steward said. “We may win by decision, but we only train for knockouts, and you can put an exclamation [point] on the end of that.”
Edited by Stan Chrapowicki and Matthew B. Hall
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