MARTIN SAMUEL: Fleet-footed Tyson Fury broke the mould in beating Deontay Wilder in their heavyweight title clash… just like Usain Bolt, he is an outlier in his sport and it is hard to take your eyes off him
- Tyson Fury was not preceded by another boxer but instead by Usain Bolt
- Like the sprinter, Fury has broken mould of what we expect from a sportsman
- In beating Deontay Wilder, Fury has now redefined the heavyweight division
Bob Arum went with Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, but threw in Ken Norton for good measure. Frank Warren added George Foreman and, obviously, Lennox Lewis.
Whenever a great heavyweight emerges the immediate search is for lineage.
Who was as good, who might have been better? When was the golden era? Was it then, could it be now? Yet, with Tyson Fury, his antecedent is not even from the world of boxing. It’s Usain Bolt.
Tyson Fury entered the ring in Las Vegas in a crown and robe before beating Deontay Wilder
Fury is an outlier, a mould breaker, just as Bolt was. And not only in terms of his antics, his charisma.
Fury can capture a crowd the way that Bolt did and, like Bolt, once he enters the vicinity it is hard to take your eyes off him.
Yet beyond personality it is the physical that marries them. Fury moves in a way that was not thought possible for such a big man. The way Bolt broke from the blocks changed our perception of a sprinter’s frame. To see Fury avoid danger belies his height, weight and build.
Fury is similar to Usain Bolt and is making people re-imagine what is possible for a sportsman
Ali could dance, too, but he was six inches shorter. Fury has the physique of a modern East European heavyweight but the feet of Mr Bojangles.
He was dancing into the small hours at Hakkasan on Sunday, although he prefers to sing. A lump on one temple showed that, even outclassed, Deontay Wilder can still pack a punch.
While such a definitive performance negates the appeal of a rematch, there would still be inherent danger climbing into the ring with him a third time.
Yet it is not merely the monstering Wilder received that suggests his moment has passed, more Fury’s skill in avoiding him.
In this way, Fury has redefined the heavyweight division. He is breaking ground as Bolt did, by making us reimagine the possible. Suppose there was a fighter who could move like Ali but with the size of Nikolai Valuev? Suppose there was a sprinter who could burst at close to the speed of 5ft 9in Maurice Greene, but had the rangy stride of a man eight inches taller? That was Bolt.
The British fighter marries an huge frame to incredible athleticism and movement in the ring
If very tall men could get into a sprint as soon as the pistol fired, all 100 metre runners would be 6ft 5in. They couldn’t — but Bolt could. And once he started running, he was eating up the ground at a rate impossible for any rival. Fury is the Bolt of boxing. He has the whiplash movement of a small man and the power of a big man.
‘I don’t have massive legs or a big muscular body,’ said Fury in 2014. ‘I have the legs of a race horse, not a carthorse. I am built for speed and movement and athleticism. I would have been successful at any sport.’
He’s right and Sunday in Las Vegas proved it. Fury can be the greatest heavyweight, the way Bolt was the greatest sprinter because he defies the limitations of his physiology.
He’s not just a white guy who can dance, he’s Buster Bloodvessel but moves like Prince and that’s even rarer.
After the comprehensive victory, Fury proved that he is an incredibly rare talent
Is crocked Eden unlucky or just unprofessional?
Eden Hazard is injured again. Real Madrid’s doctors have detected a hairline fracture in his right fibula and he could now be out until April.
Certainly, he will not face Manchester City in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Hazard, of course, reported back for pre-season five kilogrammes overweight. Despite making a £100million move from Chelsea, he had piled it on during the break.
Eden Hazard has endured an injury-hit season since joining Real Madrid from Chelsea
‘If I’m on holiday, then I’m on holiday,’ he blithely announced. Perhaps as a result of this he was sluggish when the season began and has scored a single goal for Real Madrid so far, against mid-table Granada. An ankle injury kept him out between November 26 and February 16. He has been back for two matches and is injured again.
It might be simple misfortune. or what happens when a player is ill-disciplined and his pre-season is spent dieting rather than conditioning.
Perhaps one of the reasons Cristiano Ronaldo has such a fabulous fitness record is that when he’s on holiday he remains an athlete. Real Madrid would be within their rights to expect the same level of commitment and professionalism from his replacement.
The winger fractured his fibula on Saturday and is now likely ruled out until at least April
It’s not Jose’s fault Alli has lost his way
Tottenham lost without Dele Alli on Saturday at Chelsea — then again, they lost with him last week and that was at home to RB Leipzig. Alli touched the ball as many times as goalkeeper Hugo Lloris in that game.
Tanguy Ndombele, who came on for Alli with 26 minutes remaining, touched the ball as many times as Alli. Jose Mourinho merely told the truth about why he took him off.
If Chris Wilder is blunt about a player at Sheffield United — as he was when his goalkeeper, Dean Henderson, threw one in against Liverpool — it is because he is a straight-talking Englishman. If Mourinho does it, he is a joy-crushing egomaniac who seeks only to sap souls.
Jose Mourinho has been critical of Dele Alli at times since taking over as Tottenham boss
Yet Mourinho is not the first coach to acknowledge Alli’s flaws. Mauricio Pochettino could also be a critic. He picked Alli infrequently at the start of the season and last November, shortly before being sacked, admitted the player had struggled for form.
England manager Gareth Southgate last picked Alli for the Nations League squad last summer and says he has had better options this season, naming Ross Barkley, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Maddison.
So this is not about Mourinho’s demands or his relationship with his players. It is about an exceptional talent who, at times, loses his way. Tottenham’s injury crisis, the absence of key allies such as Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Christian Eriksen, will have had an effect.
Equally, Mourinho needs Alli more than ever. Anything he says, or does, is because he is desperate for that influence, not because he wishes to alienate him.
Alli remains an exceptional talent who, at times, seems to lose his way on a football pitch
When Manchester City were banned by UEFA there was much excitement that Sheffield United might get into the Champions League.
And, yes, it would have been marvellous.
Have a look at fifth place now, though. You didn’t really think David Gill put all those hours in at UEFA so they could catch a break at Bramall Lane, did you?
Former Manchester United chief executive David Gill has played an influential role at UEFA
Heart attacks present differently in women. A study of more than a million subjects in the United States between 1994 and 2006 discovered that less than a third of females experienced chest pain before falling ill, compared to over 42 per cent of men.
The younger a woman is, the less likely she is to suffer what we consider traditional symptoms. For traditional, read male. Like much in modern life, the template skews towards 50 per cent of the population, which is a bad thing.
Except in football, where it is heresy to suggest physical difference between the sexes. Well, some of the time. Complaining that kits and equipment and gyms and stadium facilities are all designed with men in mind — that’s fine.
Former England boss Fabio Capello stirred controversy for comments over female footballers
That’s the patriarchy in action. Suggest that goals and pitch dimensions and the ball might be modified to better suit female players — that’s sexism.
Fabio Capello has been widely condemned for suggesting these adjustments to benefit the women’s game, particularly smaller goalkeepers, despite Chelsea women’s manager Emma Hayes saying the same thing only a year ago. At least Hayes could not be accused of disrespecting women. Capello was.
In this way, the status quo prevails. In women’s football it means that some games, some tournaments will be undermined by very avoidable differences in physiology. In the field of medicine it meant that women’s mortality rates from cardiac events were 4.3 per cent higher. It doesn’t have to be a man’s world. We just make it that way.
Chelse Women’s manager Emma Hayes said similar to Capello a year ago but was not criticised
Footballers could learn from unassuming Wilder
Eating at Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak at the MGM Grand on Thursday night, there was the strangest sight. Coming towards us was the WBC heavyweight champion. More strikingly, he was pretty much alone.
No security, no entourage. He arrived with a couple of pals and sat down with a larger group of family and friends. Completely untroubled, completely unselfconscious. Deontay Wilder acted like any other customer.
And this wasn’t like his walk from the hotel’s biggest suite to the arena changing rooms on Saturday. That was a stunt, moving through the throng, pursued by an army of media and smartphones. This was small and personal. Wilder wasn’t pretending to be a man of the people. He genuinely was.
That is why boxing is different. Manchester United once shut off a public cafe at an airport, unannounced, and placed overbearing security on the door, because their players were inside. Areas are cordoned off, paying customers kettled in surrounding streets to keep the players from their public.
Yet Wilder’s table was dead centre and because of its utter normality he was not bothered for selfies or autographs. There is a lesson about modern celebrity culture here. Not that anyone will heed it.
Wilder enjoyed a low-key meal out in Las Vegas in the build-up to his heavyweight title defence
Absurd folly to credit FFP for Liverpool’s rise
Disciples of the cult of financial fair play make all types of claims on its behalf. This week, it was credited with the rise of Liverpool and the economic health of the Premier League. The argument was that the Fenway Sports Group would not have bought Liverpool unless owner investment had been checked — because of FFP John Henry knew his club would be able to compete.
Yes, exactly — because as a traditional member of Europe’s elite, FFP gave Liverpool every advantage. Its owners could spend in a way those at smaller clubs, wishing to redress the competitive balance with investment in order to grow, could not.
So if Henry bought Liverpool because of FFP it is because the system is skewed disproportionately towards the existing elite, not because it is working.
And it still required brilliant stewardship, a genius manager-motivator and the most intelligent recruitment policy of the modern era to make it work. To attribute Liverpool’s success to UEFA and friends fixing the game for the elite rather does the team at Anfield a disservice.
There have been unfair questions raised over why John Henry decided to purchase Liverpool
Equally, the idea that the Premier League is financially powerful because of FFP misses several points. The biggest is this: the Premier League’s wealth relies on its broadcasting success abroad and at home and that has grown because it is more open than its rivals in Europe, with real strength in depth and outstanding teams at the apex.
And the reason for this is new money — Chelsea, Manchester City, even Leicester — taking the power from the traditional red clubs and raising standards. That has happened despite FFP, not because of it.
Without the clubs the protectionists and conformists most resent, our league might have been as predictable as the one in Spain, or worse, Germany and Italy. And it might be again, if the elites prevail.
Liverpool’s success is from strong stewardship, a genius manager and intelligent recruitment
David Coote, quite literally, was not fit to referee.
He was one of two Premier League officials who failed FIFA’s conditioning test at a recent training camp in Majorca before passing at the second attempt this week. Andy Madley was the other.
Being able to keep up with play is a vital attribute for officials but, at the weekend, Coote proved no more able sitting in front of a television.
Coote was the VAR who missed Giovani Lo Celso’s stamp on Cesar Azpilicueta despite access to repeated replays. In an unprecedented move, the Premier League admitted his mistake later, but did not take him off the late kick-off, Leicester versus Manchester City.
VAR failed to act correctly after Giovani Lo Celso fouled Celshea captain Cesar Azpilicueta
Far from solving problems, VAR has exposed English football’s poor standards by removing the mitigating factors that have shielded officials for so long. It is hard to referee a game in real time. Referees don’t have the advantage of slow-motion replays like we do. But that has changed.
They can watch it all, first in real time and then slowed and dissected in such a way that offside can be judged on individual toes. And they’re getting it wrong. Regularly wrong. Obviously wrong.
This isn’t good enough. VAR was only ever going to be as strong as the humans implementing it, but the years of making excuses for the faults of match officials lulled us into false security.
Given the benefit of comprehensive visuals and time to make the call, we believed our referees would deliver. We were wrong. If Coote cannot recognise what Lo Celso did, he isn’t good enough. Not in real time, not in slow motion, not running about, not sitting down. In time for next season, serious thought should be given to allowing the best of former officials to qualify as VARs.
The current system isn’t working. The Premier League finds a solution or technology’s reputation will not recover.
David Coote, who was VAR for the game, failed FIFA’s conditioning test at the first attempt
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