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The Big Question: Where does Tyson Fury rank among the heavyweight immortals?

tyson fury

In the wake of WBC and lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury’s one-punch destruction of Dillian Whyte, members of the Boxing Social writing team ponder the Gypsy King’s place in heavyweight history…

If Fury called it a day right now I’d rank him somewhere around number 15 or 16 in the all-time heavyweight stakes – behind the likes of Mike Tyson, Sonny Liston, Evander Holyfield and Jim Jeffries, a quartet I have just outside my top ten, but ahead of Wladimir Klitschko, who dominated an abysmal heavyweight era.

To follow in the footsteps of Gene Tunney, Rocky Marciano and Lennox Lewis and retire while still holding the lineal title (as well as joining Marciano as just the second undefeated heavyweight king in history) would be a huge feather in Fury’s cap. However, defeating the Anthony Joshua-Oleksandr Usyk victor, having two or three more successful defences and then retiring undefeated would enhance Fury’s legacy even further.

Having said that, boxing history is littered with cases of fighters who fought on too long, so I would never begrudge a fighter quitting while they are ahead. There are always more challengers out there who you can argue a champion ‘should’ fight, and if Fury retired now and stayed retired I would wish him well.

One thing we can say for sure is that with his height, ring IQ, mobility, speed and – now – increased power, Tyson Fury would be a tough proposition for any leading heavyweight in history. – Luke G. Williams

If this really is the end of Fury’s boxing career then I’d place him in the Top 20 but well short of the finest heavyweights in history. That’s not, however, due to a lack of ability but purely because of his résumé and the unfinished business he’d be leaving behind.

Fury’s dispute with UKAD will always place an asterisk next to that Wladimir Klitschko victory, for me. After this, of course, the transformation he underwent to become a world champion again was remarkable. Yet just two title defences in the form of a largely unproven Deontay Wilder and a very limited ‘southpaw’ in Dillian Whyte simply aren’t enough to place him amongst the all-time greats.

It’s frustrating because it really does feel as though the best is yet to come from Fury. The improvements he’s made under Sugar Hill Steward are considerable. He’s now using his abundance of boxing skills to set up right hands with bad intentions, and with a compelling backstory and a personality many seem to find hugely entertaining he really could become one of those rare athletes who transcends their chosen sport.

The ‘unfinished business’ I’m referring to is, of course, Usyk, and it’s a fight that has to be right up there with the best contests that could be made in boxing right now. I have always favoured the Ukrainian in this one, and still do, but a Fury victory would elevate him in the same manner as Lennox Lewis’s win over Evander Holyfield.

Let’s hope this is just another of Fury’s retirement declarations that never come to pass. He’s on the cusp of cementing an incredible legacy. To leave now would be hugely disappointing. – Phil Rogers 

Ranking Fury anywhere between 15 and 20 in the all-time heavyweight ratings feels about right.

I would pick Fury to beat many of those ranked ahead of him in fantasy fights, but greatness is not measured by the eye test.

Longevity and résumé are important criteria when attempting to measure greatness. Fury gets a lot of credit for dethroning a long reigning champion in Klitschko and demolishing a fearsome puncher in Wilder, to capture another world title, but his record beyond that is thin. His next best wins? Dereck Chisora and Dillian Whyte – solid contenders, but nothing more.

Two world title defences is simply not enough to break into the all-time top ten.

Of course, Fury will likely fight again, regardless of what he’s saying, and may add a few more high calibre wins to his ledger yet. If he were to defeat the winner of the rematch between Usyk and Joshua, I would rate him higher. – John A. MacDonald

Fury’s legacy and ranking in an entirely speculative list of ‘All-time heavyweight greats’ is hampered by his absence from the ring between 2015 and 2018, some unanswered questions, and some questionable choices of opponent.

Sefer Seferi, Francesco Pianeta and Tom Schwarz were opponents used to rebuild his profile, and there was the draw with Wilder between the last two of the those three, but it’s hard to compare against some of the CVs of those that rank higher.

Fury is a special, special talent. He has it all (minus the six-pack and bulging biceps), and I can’t see any of today’s top heavyweights beating him on present form. If he adds Usyk, Joshua and perhaps some of the newer crop to his list of conquests, he could find himself creeping towards the top ten or higher. But what’s the likelihood of a temperamental Fury sticking the course? He does what he wants. And for those who love him, sadly, that isn’t ‘fight regularly’.

These comparisons are tricky because people’s memories are skewed from things they’ve watched tape on, compared to times they’ve lived through – it’s hard to match the two on a measuring stick. Fury is an exceptionally gifted fighter and will be remembered as the best of our generation – but has he let himself down? – Craig Scott