There was a cut, he’s young, he was away from home, his opponent is a wily veteran. All true. All verifiable reasons Hughie Fury’s attempt to secure a mandated shot at Anthony Joshua failed. Those protecting their interest or adopting an especially thick monocle of pragmatism through which to view the result will point to the experience gained, the rounds navigated and the narrowest of the three cards.
It would be understandable and, as the days turn in to weeks, that narrative may well take hold and become the hazy recollection of a bout otherwise willingly forgotten by those that endured it. For Fury to succeed on the world ‘stage’, rather than merely exist as an awkward facsimile of his more talented cousin, the flaws that run much deeper in his performance than the cut eye lid he sustained last night must be addressed.
Hughie’s father and trainer Peter Fury was typically clear of thought in the aftermath to Saturday’s performance and conceded his son had succumbed “to the better man on the night.” If Fury is to progress, Fury Senior will need to be equally lucid and pointed in his review of just where Hughie is.
Despite his creditable deference to the outcome, Peter Fury would also reveal that the cut, which Pulev opened on Fury’s left eye lid with a left jab in the second round, was first sustained in sparring with Martin Bakole four weeks ago. Pre-fight surgery offered no guarantee it could withstand the rigours of a boxing match and only the experience of Kerry Kayes kept the 24 year old heavyweight, with the Brylcreem hair and Leonidas beard, in the fight.
There is no denying it impacted on Fury’s performance as he became trapped between his plan and the implications of believing every round may be his last. Fury Senior was candid in interview with iFL.tv, suggesting he had reiterated to his son the need for urgency such was the severity of the injury. They were gambling within the existing gamble of proceeding with the fight despite the probability of the sparring injury compromising his chances.
Again, in the aftermath, for those who didn’t watch the fight, this would all seem logical and the swell of empathy for the ‘brave young kid who stepped where many others would fear to tread’ could grow. The evidence of the actual rounds doesn’t support the parable. Only in the very next round, the third, did Fury appear willing to ‘go for broke’, his natural instinct to counter proving greater than the panic of imminent withdrawal for the remaining rounds.
Kubrat Pulev managed the situation better, as you might expect from a 37 year old veteran, fighting at home and with a wealth of Amateur experience behind him too. He was troubled only once, momentarily in the 8th round, but his high handed style offered Fury few opportunities. The Bulgarian, who now becomes mandatory for the IBF Heavyweight title held by Anthony Joshua, also managed the referee well; frequently hitting on the break, pushing off Fury with his forearms and the heal of his gloves all while smiling at the affable Al Brown.
The truth of the fight, the lessons this observer extracted were more alarming and spoke of technical weaknesses which were unimpaired by his injury and to a large extent his relatively tender years. None of the haymaker right hands landed and when they did it was merely with the weight of the arm that carried them, Fury’s judgement of distance was poor through much of the contest too. He didn’t change tactics and fire to the body to bring down Pulev’s high held guard, nor did he assert his jab or throw any combinations of merit.
But it was the right hand, a looping shot thrown without shifting his feet, or his weight which posed difficult questions about just how ‘skilled’ the ‘highly-skilled’ Hughie Fury really is. He was too good, too quick and too powerful for the rugged British champion Sam Sexton in his preceding fight but looks like an imposter at this level, despite the limitations of both Pulev and Parker in his two journeys to the top.
Pulev will not last five rounds with Anthony Joshua when that mandated fight is made in the summer of next year, and, alas, young Fury, has neither the speed, technique or power to fare better. Whether he has those assets next year, in five years or in ten, is a conclusion I’d struggle to draw in the affirmative on the evidence of last night.
There were times last night when it was impossible not to wonder what Hughie Fury had been working on since the Sexton fight. Which is a conclusion those with the access to ask and the mandate to wonder are clearly loathed to contemplate.