Combat Sports

Hughie’s Gypsy style has potential to cause Parker problems


Hughie Fury is a different beast from any that Joseph Parker has faced at this point in his career.

“He might think he's fought someone as good as Hughie, but he hasn't and he will see that on the night,” Fury’s father and trainer Peter Fury warns. “Styles make fights and I can tell you now he'll never have faced anyone like Hughie before.”

While analysts rightly note that Parker’s best performances have come against taller opponents, Fury is no slumber-footed Alexander Dimitrenko. Although Fury and Dimitrenko both won world junior Super Heavyweight titles as amateurs, that's where the similarity ends.

The 34-year-old Ukrainian’s star was well on the wane when he fought Parker, while 22-year-old Hughie’s is very much on the rise. He’s young, hungry and untarnished by defeat. Importantly, he’s only been a pro for four years and, a little like Parker, who morphed into a beast from a puppy fatted 20-year-old, Fury is still growing into his body and developing his “man strength.” In other words - the beast is yet to come.

Although he doesn’t have the punching power to instill fear as a heavyweight assassin, Fury is an extremely well-conditioned and mobile big man, who punches sharply, has a good body attack and knows how to shut down shorter opponents on the inside.

He’s a master of the “gypsy” style Peter Fury has imparted to both Hughie and his more illustrious cousin Tyson. It’s unorthodox, rhythm-breaking and hard to replicate in the gym. What’s more, he’s coming prepared to go the distance; he knows his game plan and knows it well.

Parker clearly has the faster hands and his overhand right is particularly effective against taller fighters, but he’ll have to be aggressive, and get his jab off against an elusive taller fighter with a 10cm reach advantage. Trainer Kevin Barry appears to have similar ideas.

“This is a fight you’ll see us come forward,” Barry says. “We are going to have to make the fight as Fury is not going to stand and trade with Parker. Joseph has much heavier hands and this is a fight where we must be the aggressor.”

But Parker must not make the mistake of being too aggressive and overcommitting himself, falling into Fury’s clutches and getting tied up on the inside, nullifying his body attack.

One critical factor many are overlooking is the trainers, Barry and Fury. The two mentors are every bit as competitive as their charges and both have a point to prove.

The 57-year-old Barry is a regular target of the Kiwi knocking machine. This intensified recently following Parker’s gym mate Izu Ugonoh’s recent loss to Dominic Breazeale. Barry came under heavy flack for "stepping up Izu too soon", "failing to instill sound defence patterns" and "lack of a Plan B when first phase offence fails". (This completely flies in the face of Joseph Parker’s narrow victory over Andy Ruiz in December coming mostly off the back foot, or Parker’s counter punching against Carlos Takam).

The phlegmatic Barry will publically brush this off, but privately you can be sure he’ll be seething and will leave no stone unturned in preparing a successful battle plan for this title defence.

Peter Fury, on the other hand, has established a mystique as a master strategist. He was the man who choreographed Tyson Fury’s march into the lion’s den in Dusseldorf in November 2015 to bamboozle Wladimir Klitscho and claim multiple titles, ending his decade-long reign as heavyweight king. He’s been diligent in building his son slowly in the heavyweight division and would not be taking this bout if he didn’t feel confident of victory.

It’s clear both trainers have been studying the other’s charge for some time.

Despite his confidence, Fury senior isn’t underestimating the Kiwi: “He's strong, he's athletic, he can go the rounds, he's durable, he's got fast hands,” says Fury of Parker. “He ticks a lot of the boxes for a heavyweight. He's pretty mobile, so he's a good fighter. Can't really pick holes in him. Hughie needs to be on his a-game to lift that belt.”

Likewise, Barry has been pouring over videotape looking for chinks in the challenger’s armor.

“He’s a young undefeated fighter with a very awkward style,” says Barry. “He controls the distance well and has lots of movement. Hughie is someone who will be a complete adjustment for us.

“Don’t forget he’s only 22 years old and getting better every time he gets in the ring. He’s been in camp with Tyson, sharing sparing partners and knowledge.”

Across the boxing world, analysts are divided on the fight.

In the UK, perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s being touted as a 50-50 fight with a narrow edge in favour of Fury.

US analysts typically favour Parker to be too strong. Interestingly, no one is picking Parker for a blowout KO.

For mine, Parker has the edge in speed and power, but the time for speculation will be over come May 6. And I can’t wait.

Humble pie time for naysayers

Now the fight has been confirmed I’d like to take this opportunity to invite all the naysayers and detractors, who proclaimed Parker’s first world title fight would never get off the ground, and if it did, would be his last fight on NZ soil, to sup on a double helping of humble pie enriched with crow.

Not only have the oft-derided “exploiters” of New Zealand boxing brought an historic world heavyweight title to our shores, Duco Events have fought tooth and nail to get the title defence back down under. It's a defence costing far more to stage (Hughie Fury will earn US$1.2m - $300,000 more than Deontay Wilder received for his recent title defence), against a higher profile opponent, televised to a far larger global audience. 

This will become a political football at some point, as Duco has rightfully applied to the Government for major events funding. Only this time there’s a body of evidence to draw on from the first fight. There's a proven template of success and a longer lead-in time within which to make a case to the relevant organisations and conduct due diligence.

With any luck, the wowsers and dilettantes will be too busy basking in the afterglow of the extremely generously-funded NZ men’s and women’s Golf Open ($5.5m announced by Economic Development Minister Simon Bridges and Sport and Recreation Minister Jonathan Coleman last week) to dirty their hands with a blue-collar sport like boxing.

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