By Paul Mason
Keep everything crossed this weekend, as Tyson Fury is slated to make his long-awaited return to action following several out of the ring problems. The reason to need to keep thinking positive is that Fury has been scheduled to headline in his hometown, and the Manchester Arena, a number of times before, only for injury (usually to his opponents), or controversy, to strike.
This Saturday sees Fury return from a two and a half year break from the sport, and he is eased back against Albanian Cruiserweight, Sefer Seferi, whose only career setback came against Manuel Charr, but can only boast to be the second best Cruiserweight in his home country……behind his brother!
The chief support sees Ancoats’ Terry Flanagan go for World Title glory at a second weight when he meets American Maurice Hooker for the vacant WBO Super Lightweight Title. Here, I preview the main events.
Tyson Fury (25-0, KO18) v Sefer Seferi (23-1, KO21) – 10 Rounds Heavyweight
This Saturday night, inside the Manchester Arena, we finally get to see the undefeated former WBA (Super), IBF, WBO and IBO Heavyweight Champion, as well as the former Ring Magazine (Lineal) Title holder, Tyson Fury return. We last saw the Wythenshawe man snap the long reign of Ukrainian legend, Wladimir Klitschko in a boxing clinic in Dusseldorf.
Since that heady November 2015 night, Fury hasn’t fought since. Fury was stripped of his IBF title almost immediately following his career-defining victory, 10 days later in fact, due to pursuing a lucrative rematch with Klitschko, instead of defending against the mandatory challenger for the title, Vyacheslav Glazkov. After months of negotiations between Team Fury and Team Klitschko, the rematch was announced in April 2016 for a date of July 9th in Manchester.
The July rematch fell through after Fury injured himself. According to multiple accounts, Tyson twisted his ankle at a rave festival, rather than in training at the Lake District as described by Team Fury. He made the trip to France to watch England play in the European Football Championships and was followed like the Pied Piper, buying drinks for all his new found friends at a bar in Nice. There were also a series of rants that took place on social media relating to religion and homosexuality amongst other things.
October 29th 2016 was the proposed new date for the rematch, but this was cancelled completely after, firstly, Fury’s promoter, Mick Hennessey declared that Tyson was“Medically Unfit” to box. Sympathy from the Boxing and wider community was offered, but then a whole other story developed. The day before Fury confirmed he was pulling out of the fight, The 28-year-old reportedly had been informed of the positive sample that was carried out at random. The test was carried out by Voluntary Anti-Doping Association with Fury already under investigation from the UK Anti-Doping Agency over an alleged use of a banned substance. Fury had hinted at drug use in the past whenever he opened up about his battle with depression, but this was a massive shock.
Three weeks later Fury vacated his WBA “Super”, WBO and IBO titles, citing the problems with depression and cocaine. Eventually, the upshot of the situation was a two-year ban, but this ran from December 2015 and expired in December 2017, leaving Fury free to fight. He has since shifted an incredible amount of weight and looks to be in great fighting shape.
A 2008 ABA Champion, Fury found his amateur career path blocked by David Price, who went on to win Olympic Bronze for Great Britain in Beijing in the same year. As Fury couldn’t qualify to represent Ireland, he decided to turn professional. December 2008 would be Fury’s professional bow, on the Carl Froch v Jean Pascal bill in Nottingham. Bela Gyongyosi was stopped inside a round. Fury moved to 7-0, all by stoppage in less than eight months of his debut. A landmark fight would be his eight paid contest. John McDermott, a man that had faced multiple heartbreaks and bad decisions domestically, took on Fury in Brentwood for the English Heavyweight Title. After ten rounds, in which McDermott was seemingly ahead in most people’s eyes, referee Terry O’Connor scored widely in Fury’s favour. This spelt the end for officials judging championship contests at English Title level. Fifteen days after the McDermott victory, Fury outpointed Czech Tomas Mrazek in Dublin.
It would be nine months before the long-awaited rematch with McDermott would take place. Fury shed rust with a one round blow out of Hans-Joerg Blasko in Huddersfield in March 2010. When the bout finally took place, in the same Brentwood Arena, this time Fury left no doubt. Dominating McDermott to a ninth-round stoppage defeat.
Three more routine wins followed before Fury made the step up to take on the then-unbeaten Dereck Chisora for the British and Commonwealth Heavyweight Titles. Fury would come out on top widely on the cards at Wembley Arena to capture the belts. Fury beat Nicolai Firtha in Belfast (TKO5) before surviving a gut check at Event City, Manchester in a Commonwealth Title defence against the unbeaten, Canadian Heavyweight Champion, Neven Pajkic. Fury suffered an early scare after being knocked down in the second round following a big right hand. Although Pajkic wobbled Fury again at the start of the third, Fury came back to knock down Pajkic twice during the same round. The referee stopped the fight after the final knockdown, much to the dismay of Pajkic, who declared himself ready to fight on. Many at ringside thought the stoppage premature.
After a pair of fifth-round stoppage wins over Martin Rogan and Vinny Maddalone, Fury widely outscored perennial gatekeeper Kevin Johnson over twelve in a WBC Title eliminator. Instead of pursuing an immediate Title match, Fury would make a US debut at the iconic theatre in Madison Square Garden, New York. Former IBF Cruiserweight World Champion, Steve “USS” Cunningham would be his opponent. After a wild first two rounds, which saw Fury again floored, the Manchester man rallied to stop Cunningham in seven rounds, with the US audience loving every minute of his entertaining debut.
Then saw the Manchester Arena curse hit. Fury signed to fight David Haye in a pay per view mega fight in September 2013. Haye would pull out of this date with one week to go due to a cut sustained in sparring. February 2014 was the new date, but in November 2013, Haye again pulled out, citing a career-threatening shoulder injury. This cost Fury a big Sky platform as well as his high rankings with the governing bodies. Fury was forced to settle for a fourth-round stoppage victory over Joey Abell at the Copper Box in February 2014 instead. This led to a rematch with Dereck Chisora, slated to be at the Manchester Arena in July 2014. Once again the curse struck, this time with three days to go, with Chisora fracturing a hand. Alexander Ustinov was lined up as a replacement, but the card fell apart as Tyson’s uncle Hughie was rushed to hospital.
Fury would finally get the Chisora rematch in November 2014, at the Excel Arena, London. Fury switch to a southpaw style for the whole fight, and confused Chisora into a corner retirement at the end of the tenth round, gaining the European, British and WBO Intercontinental Titles, winning a WBO Title eliminator in the process.
He would decide to fight once more before challenging the Kingpin Klitschko. Christian Hammer was dominated and stopped in eight rounds at the O2 Arena, London. The Klitschko fight was on. October 2015 was the date, but this was pushed back a month after Wladimir suffered a calf injury in training. When Fury finally got the Ukrainian between the ropes, he finally overthrew the long reign of the Heavyweight Champion. Prior to the fight, on fight night, there was much controversy. First starting with the gloves, then there was a complaint about the ring canvas. Klitschko reportedly had his hands wrapped without a representative of Fury, so had to do them again. All of this worked in Fury’s favour, as he dethroned Klitschko via a deserved points victory. This should have been a springboard to success, but what unfolded was a series of events that have led Fury to be in the wilderness for over two and a half years.
His comeback was never expected to be a 50/50 World Title match or eliminator. So it’s no surprise that the Albanian, Sefer Seferi is the man charged with trying to take Fury some rounds or upset the apple cart, which seems highly unlikely. Seferi’s 23-1 record with 21 knockouts is extremely deceiving and heavily padded.
Seferi only faced a fighter with a winning record, 8-4 at that, in his sixteenth fight, and he was taken the six round distance by Gyula Bozai in Macedonia in October 2012. His only other long route win came in his second contest, another six round unanimous decision win in Switzerland in December 2007 against the 2-8-1 Drazen Ordulj.
His most significant contest to date came in his only defeat, a September 2016 ten round unanimous reverse to Manuel Charr in Goeppingen, Germany in a challenge for the WBA International Heavyweight Title. Since that set back he has a couple of soft journeymen wins, against Marcelo Ferreira dos Santos in April 2017 and his last outing was in March this year, knocking out Laszlo Hubert in two rounds in Vienna.
All the signs point to the calibre of fighter similar to the likes of which David Haye made his 2016 comebacks against. This would then suggest to me that Fury will enjoy a feeling out first round, maybe even scoring a knockdown, before closing the show in the second frame by stoppage. Brace yourself for more of the same type of opponent throughout 2018.
Terry Flanagan (33-0, KO13) v Maurice Hooker (23-0-3, KO16) – 12 Rounds For The WBO Super Lightweight Title
Former WBA Heavyweight Champion John Ruiz used to use the nickname “The quiet man”. This nickname couldn’t be more apt for Manchester’s Terry Flanagan, as he has quietly moved through the professional ranks, and for me, doesn’t get the full recognition he so deserves. He currently holds the longest undefeated streak of any active British boxer, and recently relinquished his WBO Lightweight Title in order to attempt to become a two-weight World Champion this weekend. His opportunity comes for the vacant WBO Super Lightweight Title, relinquished by the excellent Terence Crawford following his weight move north, and his opponent will be Dallas, Texas’ Maurice Hooker, who makes a first World Title challenge in his 24th paid outing.
“Turbo” made his debut in January 2009 and captured his first title in his fourteenth fight, a points win (unanimous) over Dougie Curran for the English Super Featherweight Title. His breakthrough came after one defence, when Flanagan won Prizefighter at the Liverpool Olympia, beating Patrick Walsh, Derry Mathews and Gary Sykes en route to lifting the trophy. This lifted Flanagan to a higher level. He stopped badly faded former unified Lightweight Champion Nate Campbell in Sheffield in April 2013. Four fights against non-descript opposition followed before Flanagan lifted the British Lightweight Title with a retirement win over Martin Gethin, another boxer who adopted the “quiet man” moniker.
Flanagan went down the WBO ranking route and won the WBO European title by disqualification in a foul-filled brawl against Stephen Ormond on Valentine’s day 2014.
This opened the door to a World Title tilt and the vacant WBO World Title against Jose Zepeda five months later in Manchester. He won the title but the win was soured by Zepeda being pulled out in the second round with a dislocated shoulder. Any doubts that Flanagan had been gifted the title were dispelled in his next fight when he knocked out respected world level operator Diego Magdaleno in two rounds. He has since made four further defences, outpointing old foe Derry Mathews, and the faded former IBF champion Mzonke Fana, a systematic breakdown of Orlando Cruz (TKO8) and in Flanagan’s last contest, he enjoyed a comfortable enough points win over Petr Petrov.
That last success was back in April last year so Flanagan will enter the Manchester Arena ring this Saturday after a 14-month layoff.
Maurice Hooker turned professional in April 2011 and has appeared on some pretty big undercards, namely when Andre Ward has been in the main event He drew his first paid contest with the 7-1 Tyrone Chatman. He won twelve straight, before another draw, this time with Abel Ramos in January 2014. Hooker enjoyed a couple of impressive back to back wins in 2015, first stopping the previously unbeaten Eduardo Galindo in six to pick up the NABO Super Lightweight Title before edging Ghislain Maduma via split decision at Madison Square Garden on the big Golovkin v Lemieux bill.
Three fights later though, he was held to a third career draw, this time by Darleys Perez, who shared two fights with Anthony Crolla for the WBA Lightweight Title in 2015. This was on the Andre Ward v Sergey Kovalev bill, so Hooker is used to boxing at big venues. Since this setback, he has unanimously outpointed Christobal Cruz and Courtney Jackson over ten rounds each.
I expect Flanagan to be busy enough to take this unanimously on the cards, to hopefully finally open up the doors to the big paydays and unifications that he deserves.