Last month, a few weeks after his 24th birthday, Hughie Fury succumbed to the 2nd defeat of his career as a professional boxer after being out-fought and out-foxed by the experienced Kubrat Pulev in a final eliminator for Anthony Joshua’s IBF world title.
However, unlike the defeat against Joseph Parker last year which was seen as hugely controversial by many, this fight that took place in Pulev’s hometown of Sofia had the same result of a points loss for Fury but without the controversy this time.
Pulev who came in a stone lighter than his last fight, nullified Fury’s awkward and rangy style, roughing the Brit up at times and although it wasn’t pretty to watch, was very effective.
As the scorecards of 118-110, 117-111 & 115-113 were all read out in Pulev’s favour, there wasn’t room for complaining from the Fury camp but perhaps surprise as their fighter who has looked very impressive at times during his pro career and was predicted by many to out-box the 37 year old Bulgarian.
However, Pulev provided the blueprint on how to beat Fury convincingly and due to the style of the victory, it may be sometime before we see Fury in the ring again against a top 10 heavyweight.
Despite the disappointing loss, Fury’s ripe age of 24 as well as his achievements so far in the sport shouldn’t be forgotten about as well as the fact that he has a long time left in the game compared to a lot of other top 20 heavyweights who are on the wrong side of 30.
Making his debut in Montreal at the age of 18, Fury fought a total of 12 times in 2013, stopping 7 of his opponents in the process. After fight 14, Fury fought tough Ukrainian Andriy Rudenko immediately after the fellow heavyweight had gone 12 tough rounds with Lucas Browne and suffered his first career loss.
A then 20 year old Fury won the fight with scorecards of 98-92, 98-91 & 97-92 against a fighter who has only lost one fight since the loss to Fury, against Alexander Povetkin last year.
After the Rudenko victory, Fury and his team opted to gain more experience against seasoned fighters such as George Arias and Dominick Guinn before defeating Fred Kassi via technical draw, suffering a bad cut around the eye in the process.
Due to the severity of the cut, Fury was out of action for almost 18 months but had barely lost a round of Boxing during his time as a professional.
Before and during his spell out of the ring, Fury unfortunately suffered from a rare form of acne which is said to have ‘stalled his career’ potentially explaining the lack of a step up for a certain period. Evident from some of his fights, Fury was diagnosed with conglobate acne which affected his performance both in camp as well as on fight night.
After recovering, Fury was given the opportunity to fight Joseph Parker for the Kiwi’s WBO world heavyweight title. Although you can’t blame Fury and his team for taking the fight against a world champion, it may be hard to disagree that stepping up from fighting somebody on Fred Kassi’s level to world title level without a warm up fight in-between would be considered a good idea by many.
However, after being on the receiving end of some dodgy scorecards, Fury took 8 months out of the ring before returning in a fight against Sam Sexton for the British title.
In one of his career best performances, Fury took the experienced Sexton apart, knocking the former British champion down in the 4th before forcing the Referee to intervene in the 5th.
Post-fight, Fury and his team expressed their desire to not stay at British title level for too long and instead move forward to world title level sooner rather than later.
It has been questioned by some whether Fury would have benefited from a fight at a level above Sam Sexton before challenging such an experienced heavyweight in his hometown. Fighters as young as Fury are usually managed at a slower speed and it’s hard to find the evidence that that’s been the case with the young heavyweight over the past 18 months.
After watching both of Fury’s fights at world level, nobody can disagree with Hughie being able to compete at that level. However, the management around the fighter’s in ring activity before both fights has been remarked on by some especially by those who have compared the rate at which Hughie’s Cousin Tyson was pushed compared to himself.
Comparing Fury’s achievements at his age to other heavyweight greats
Nobody can deny that Fury has achieved a lot for a man of his age in the sport of Boxing. In order to gain more of a perspective, we’re going to look at some names of both past and present and compare where they were and what they had achieved as professionals at the time of their 24th birthday:
Mike Tyson – Perhaps an unfair comparison considering that Tyson is the youngest heavyweight champion in history at the age of 20 and was at his peak in his early 20’s.
However, a few months after his shock defeat to James ‘Buster’ Douglas, Tyson turned 24 in the Summer of 1990 with a record of 38-1, making short work of Henry Tillman within a round.
Anthony Joshua – Taking up the sport late, the current unified heavyweight champion of the world had only made his debut when he turned 24, dispatching of Emanuele Leo in the 1st round.
5 years on and now at the age of 29, AJ has achieved a huge amount in his pro-career so far and it will be difficult for any heavyweight to match Joshua’s resume regardless of age.
Deontay Wilder – The current WBC champ had only had 7 fights as he turned 24, with all of his bouts taking place in the US and only one of his opponents having a winning record.
It has been widely discussed over the last few months during the ongoing negotiations between Joshua & Wilder how long it took for Wilder to take a step-up in class compared to Joshua who became world champion in his 16th fight.
In perhaps the opposite approach to Fury, Wilder didn’t step up to fight a top 15 heavyweight until his 31st fight against Malik Scott at the age of 28.
Lennox Lewis – Arguably Britain’s greatest ever heavyweight, Lewis had only had 2 professional fights at the time of his 24th birthday, the year after winning a gold medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
What was the start of a hugely successful career, Lewis became world champion for the first time at the age of 27 in his 23rd fight.
Tyson Fury – Cousin of Hughie, Tyson may not have the amateur pedigree of Lewis, Joshua & Wilder but is still worth taking a look at considering how much the two Cousins shared at one point whether it be a trainer or a promoter.
Turning pro at 20, Tyson’s record was 18-0 by the time of his 24th birthday compared to Hughie’s record of 21-1. Interestingly, Tyson had fought tough opposition before the age of 24 against the likes of John McDermott and Dereck Chisora but didn’t actually challenge for world honours until the age of 27, dethroning Wladimir Klitschko.
Compared to Hughie who fought for a world title at the age of 23, Tyson’s progression as a professional was more measured, fighting a range of experienced opponents all who could provide a different threat: Kevin Johnson, Steve Cunningham & Christian Hammer to name a couple.
Unfortunately for whatever reason, Hughie didn’t have these sort of fights as he was developing and jumped straight from the likes of Fred Kassi to Joseph Parker rather than have a couple of beneficial learning fights.
So perhaps when comparing a handful of the best heavyweights we’ve seen from the past 25 years, it shouldn’t be ignored what Fury has achieved at such a young age.
However, there’s potential room for thought when it comes to the future of Fury’s Boxing career. Fury will almost definitely participate at world level again however depending on the level of opposition that he’s matched with in the months leading up to those fights may have a big impact over whether he gets the crucial win come fight night