By Daniel Cann
This Friday (11th September) sees a fascinating 10×3 contest at the Brentwood Centre, Brentwood Essex, when English Heavyweight Champion ‘Big Bad’ John McDermott (25-5 16 KOs) defends his title against unbeaten prospect Tyson Fury (7-0 7 KOs). The ‘Big’ nickname will seem ironic in light of the fact that McDermott will be looking up at his challenger, who, at six feet seven inches is the taller man by four inches. McDermott will also be conceding youth to his challenger, but not experience and here – in lies the fascination and draw of this match.
Fury turned professional (to much fanfare) as recently as last December and has enjoyed plenty of media coverage thanks to appearances on terrestrial television. His name and size has garnered him plenty of attention anyway, the fact that he is charismatic, outspoken and can dig a little has also helped. He can boast exemplary amateur credentials with a Bronze medal won at the World Junior Championships and an ABA title in 2008.
So far Fury has looked impressive (even though the opposition has not) in chalking up seven quick inside the distance wins. His most experienced opponent so far has been Blackpool’s Matthew Ellis who folded in 48 seconds of the first round (to be precise). This has been the main problem for Fury’s backers, finding boxers willing to be pitted against him and able to extend him. He has, however, shown good ring generalship, a cool head, patience, a nice jab and decent uppercut.
So far so good then; But McDermott represents a big step up for the twenty one year old from Wilmslow. It is a gamble this early in his career but just shows how much faith Team Fury has in their man. Whether this faith is misplaced will be found out on Friday night in front of a home crowd for the Champion.
McDermott once also enjoyed the tag ‘prospect’ and is now a seasoned professional with a career that has seen him mix with the likes of Pele Reid, Matt Skelton, Scott Gammer and Danny Williams. As the saying goes, he has ‘been there, seen it, done it and worn the T-shirt.’ Unlike his challenger there are no unknowns, he is on home turf and should be buoyed by the local support. He won’t be short of confidence.
If we take a closer look at McDermott’s career there are chinks in his armour and frailties for Fury to exploit. McDermott can be hurt (can’t everyone?) he has suffered inside the distance defeats, once due to an injured ankle after a knockdown against Nikolay Popov (inconclusive really as but for the injury McDermott may have rallied back to win) and a first round technical knockout against Skelton. The Skelton match in particular showed that if you can jump on McDermott early he can be taken out. Perhaps Fury’s management have taken the match with this result in mind. Fury does pack a wallop and it would not be too far – fetched to envisage a scenario where Fury gets one in early and takes McDermott out. This being heavyweight boxing and with both men likely to weigh in excess of eighteen stone the same can also apply to Fury. McDermott is no slouch in the power department as his sixteen inside the distance wins attest.
For the anti-Fury brigade this is the big question mark hanging over the prospect: Yes he looks the part but how will he react when he is in with a more experienced opponent with self belief? How will he react when caught with a full – blooded blow? Can he come back from adversity; suck it up in a tough, sapping, drawn-out brawl?
Yes McDermott has suffered inside the distance defeats but his form of late has been impressive and you can only be as good as your last fight. Since losing to Skelton he has looked convincing in beating Reid and Gammer and given British Heavyweight Champion Danny Williams a torrid time in two closely fought (losing) twelve rounders. As I mentioned earlier, McDermott has been there before where Fury has not. McDermott knows all too well what it’s like to be involved in a long distance fight against good quality opposition.
This is what makes this matchup so fascinating. McDermott is a ‘live’ opponent with bags of experience and self-belief, if anyone is perfectly poised to test Fury’s mettle it is McDermott. Frank Maloney who (manages McDermott) is a shrewd operator and he must see something encouraging to take this contest. Should Fury win it will be very impressive and will prove his credentials as a bona fide player on the domestic scene.
Is it too much too soon? We will have an answer on Friday. With the ‘Prizefighter’ Tournament scheduled next month the domestic heavyweight scene is looking exciting and alive once again. My own ‘gut’ feeling is that Fury will step up to the plate and prove he is the ‘real thing’ but not after a few moments of adversity and spirited opposition to overcome first. I concede that I will have my spoon poised over a large helping of humble pie if I am proved wrong. Anything is possible in heavyweight boxing.