Recalling that epic Sin City event, Steve Bunce describes how Tyson Fury played a blind
TYSON FURY had been to a house on the outskirts of town before and just beyond the endless stretch of lights that never seem to stop shining in Las Vegas.
This time in town, Fury was surrounded by new faces at his camp, but they were familiar. Fury had a bond with the new men in his fighting life: Javan Sugar Hill Steward was there, Andy Lee was there, and they had been with him once deep within the Kronk years before. This was Las Vegas, life was different.
The new faces were there after a bloodless coup had come and gone and no one was talking about it. “I never think about being judged,” Steward told me that night. He read my mind, that was the next question. “I have nothing to prove.”
That night in the kitchen, another new recruit rolled up marinated pork, another asked Fury questions about canals and barges. It was one night at Fury’s house just days before the rematch with Deontay Wilder. Twelve months have passed since that old game classic.
Fury had camped in Las Vegas twice in 2019; the food had improved, that’s for sure, when it was hidden from Wilder. The chef was George Lockhart, on loan from Conor McGregor. Fury’s form changed.
It was Lee who was asking the barge questions; Lee had been part of the commentary team from the first fight with Wilder. Javan had just been a television viewer. It was all or nothing that February in Las Vegas, a team from Fury history came together as pilgrims. Gypsy John had given the duo his blessing and was watching from England.
There was mounting pressure, but Fury just wanted to look at barges and find a second-hand barge to take his family on a canal vacation.
“The price is right, my son,” he said. Lee looked at the screen. “East: 42 feet, Narrowbeam, 6.10 wide, I can go in there, and 24 big. I will lower it. I will offer cash. What will he do. “Lee played along. Then the food came and I walked away, went to find the film crew and waited. An hour later, Lee led Fury through.” Not long, he has to sleep, “he said. Read.
I left home that night even more convinced that Fury would win. It must be said, he wasn’t joking like old Fury.
There is much anticipation in Las Vegas during the week of a world heavyweight title fight. I waited all week for a private audience with Wilder and never got it, but I saw him up close in the back rooms and attached to the events. I saw an unhappy man, a man struggling with something. I thought it was pressure.
Yet all of the fears I expressed were rebuffed by the men Wilder supported: Jay Deas, Mark Breland, and Shelly Finkel never flinched when asked if there was something wrong. They all did the same immediately after their disaster, and then the excuses, as you know, ran wild. It was a night and a struggle of denial for them and their increasingly isolated boss.
It must be said that no one in Fury’s business thought Wilder had a problem. Well, not before the first few hits started to ruin Wilder. Take a look again at Wilder’s walk and run into the ring and his awkward entrance. No reason. The outfit was a convenient camouflage for something much more damaging.
It was actually a week free from the usual buzz that haunted the halls, hallways, bars, gyms, and elevators of Las Vegas on fight week.
The narrative for the week in the open sessions (Fury and Wilder were excluded), arrivals, panel discussions, conference, reception cocktail and weigh-in was simple: Wilder spoke of Fury and Fury’s “pillow fists” He spoke of Wilder “not wanting it”. One was right, the other was wrong.
There was a side attraction or two: a never-ending replay of the dramatic ending of the first fight and then talking about cheating at the weigh-in. Too heavy, too light, who cares? He had a position behind the scale with a team. Wilder refused to speak to me, Fury took a deep breath, happy in the middle of his storm: “This is it; this is what it’s all about. ”He was right and nervous. Once again, I watched Wilder from two feet as his people pushed imaginary people out of the way and they disappeared. He seemed empty, not animated.
The clock was ticking. A few hours later I found Lennox Lewis standing by the empty ring, alone and happy. He was simply living out some of his glorious history, his shoulders were moving smoothly and his giant fists were desperate to roll again. He was happy and supported Fury big time.
Fury knew all about Las Vegas and its heavyweight history by then. He had fought there twice in 2019. He knew it was a relentless city, a city of ghosts and relics and desperate heavyweights. Joe Louis and Sonny Liston died there, Mike Tyson had cursed the place with infamy, Oliver McCall had a collapse in a ring there, Buster Douglas had shamed the place, and others had been consumed by his promise. Elvis had walked the corridors of Las Vegas laughing with Muhammad Ali. Fury knew his story and I’m not convinced Wilder had the same understanding.
“This will be my city, I will be king,” he had said. It wasn’t just a boast, it was a declaration of intent. Blue pool lights shone through the kitchen window. I have another picture, Gypsy John dressed in sweaty clothes banging on a makeshift bag in his junkyard as the little kids watch. The image is tinted blue in my mind and Tyson was one of the children. It had been a bloody journey, make no mistake.
In the evening, Fury arrived in a fake crown and robe; He turned those clothes into real money as casually as a high roller cashing in at a thousand dollars in chips. All bets were off once Wilder stripped down and dropped the silly lightsuit. Fury was the new king; he was king very early in the first round. He was king long before excuses and stupidity.
Las Vegas belonged to Fury that week with its new chef, its new corner, its new title, plain and simple. He never bought the barge, but for one night he owned the world.