Tyson Fury (left) should be careful of what he asks for. | Martin McNeil/Getty Images
Unless you are an ardent follower of the sweet science, you might have never heard of Tyson Fury until a few days ago.
Upon hearing the name myself, I was instantly transported back to a time when Street Fighter II vs. Mortal Kombat sparked as much passionate debate as Pride Fighting Championships vs. the Ultimate Fighting Championship would stir more than a decade later. If there was ever a place in the world for a Tyson Fury, it would be as a swaggering 16-bit icon doing battle with the likes of Ryu, Sagat and Liu Kang in a violent digital world.
Though it seems like a perfect fit, Fury is no fictional video game character; nor is he a B-list action hero destined for Spike TV rerun immortality. No, Fury is a 24-year-old English heavyweight boxer, who, according to his profile on BoxRec.com, stands 6-foot-9 and owns a perfect 20-0 record with 14 victories via knockout. He and his camp have pursued fights against both Vitali Klitschko and Wladimir Klitschko -- to no avail. Fury’s father named him Tyson after the onetime baddest man on the planet himself, Mike Tyson, and Fury’s family reportedly has a rich history in boxing, both of the bare-knuckle and gloved variety.
More than anything else, Fury is apparently in desperate need of attention. Just days after Cain Velasquez dismantled Junior dos Santos in the Octagon to recapture the heavyweight crown at UFC 155, Fury took to Twitter to call out the American Kickboxing Academy product.
“If the Klitschkos [are too] much of p------ to fight me then I’ll go [and] fight the MMA heavyweight champ, at least he is game,” Fury wrote. “[He] wouldn’t last 2 rounds!”
Fury was far from done, as he proceeded to call the 6-foot-1 Velasquez a midget before tweeting at the champion directly.
“I challenge [you] to fight all in in a cage or ring! It could be billed as man vs. midget, let’s get it on! [You] small, stiff idiot,” Fury wrote.
And on it went. Later, Fury traded jabs with countryman and UFC middleweight contender Michael Bisping, who, not surprisingly, was firmly in the corner of his MMA counterpart.
"I always support British athletes of all sports, including Tyson Fury. I think he's a great boxer,” Bisping told the Mirror, a British publication. “However, if he’s calling out UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez then quite frankly he’s living in a fantasy world and needs to come back to reality. He would be absolutely destroyed in a matchup against Cain. Cain’s a UFC champion and Fury wouldn’t stand a chance.”
Fury fired back.
“I think Michael Bisping is a first-class prick,” he responded. “Him and [Velasquez] at the same time couldn’t beat me!”
As fun as Twitter back-and-forth can be, the heart of the matter is this: Fury needed to do something to generate some buzz, and he succeeded by calling out a heavyweight in another sport who currently has far greater name value than himself. Not all the attention was good, however, as Fury’s antics helped to draw more eyes to an embarrassing moment in a past bout in which the pugilist whiffs on an uppercut and hits himself in the face.
In reality, the chances of Fury and Velasquez actually squaring off are slim to none.
Nobody was asking for the fight before Velasquez dominated dos Santos, and, quite frankly, Fury’s post-UFC 155 Twitter campaign does not exactly move the needle. As long as the competing combat sports exist, the boxing vs. MMA debate will be revisited from time to time. On occasion, some mixed martial artists, like Anderson Silva, Nick Diaz and Andrei Arlovski, will express interest in stepping into the ring, while boxers like Fury and James Toney will not be able to resist the urge to test their mettle in the cage. Others, like Floyd Mayweather Jr., will simply be content to sit back and trash MMA from afar.
While MMA fans are fond of referencing Randy Couture’s laugher of a victory over Toney as a closing argument in favor of their sport’s superiority, Toney was a spent talent by the time he stepped into the Octagon at UFC 118, with apparently little interest in either conditioning or well-rounded training.
Fury, meanwhile, is just 24 years old with four technical knockout triumphs in his last five outings. Joe Gallagher of the Manchester Evening News predicts that Fury will rule the heavyweight world in 2013. Of course, Gallagher means he expects Fury to topple the Klitschko Empire in boxing, not to overthrow Velasquez in MMA.
How would Fury fare in Velasquez’s domain? Probably better than Toney did against Couture, but in the long run, no better than the UFC heavyweight king would fare in his. The soft-spoken Velasquez probably knows this; he just does not feel the need to tell the rest of the world about it.
Velasquez already has championship gold, which tends to attract the type of attention that Fury so obviously craves. For now, Velasquez has greater concerns than humoring an MMA wannabe with something to prove. With Alistair Overeem, Fabricio Werdum and potentially dos Santos -- all established mixed martial artists -- looming on the horizon, Fury’s rants come off as little more than idle chatter.