Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The SNB Interview -- Peter Fury

Peter Fury helped engineer one of the most notable upsets in recent boxing history when his nephew, Tyson Fury, defeated long-reigning heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko last November in Germany. Peter’s game plan and corner work were masterful. Peter devised an inventive strategy that took away Klitschko's best weapons: his jab and right hand. Tyson used movement, angles, feints and his reach to create doubt and uncertainty in the champion. Because of Tyson's tactics, Klitschko was unable to establish a consistent offensive rhythm until the fight's final round. In the corner, Peter emphasized the necessity of Tyson staying within himself and sticking to the script. Ultimately, Tyson executed Peter's blueprint adroitly and boxed his way to a definitive, unanimous decision in hostile territory. 

Overall, it was a wonderful performance by Team Fury. From my perspective, Peter did the best corner job of the year and earned the 2015 Saturday Night Boxing Trainer of the Year award. I also selected Tyson as my pick for 2015's best upset victory.

In addition, Peter also trains his son, Hughie, an emerging, undefeated heavyweight. Currently 18-0, Hughie is looking to break into the ranks of world-class heavyweights in 2016.

I spoke with Peter Fury recently in a wide-ranging interview. He reflected on a number of aspects from that history-making night in Germany. Another highlight of the interview included the drastic changes that Peter made with Tyson in 2012 (the year Peter took over as his nephew's head trainer). Fury also revealed his plans for Hughie over the next 18 months.

Interestingly, everything hasn’t been all wine and roses for Peter since guiding Tyson to the title. Although he's derived tremendous satisfaction from his nephew's victory, he's been dismayed by several negative press articles that he and Tyson have received following the fight. 

However, Peter is certainly enjoying his family's prominent position in boxing's landscape. Training camp starts soon for Tyson's rematch with Klitschko and Peter is ready for the challenge. 

Interview by Adam Abramowitz
The interview has been edited and condensed.

First of all, congratulations. I’m sure these last six-to-eight weeks have probably been fantastic. I want to start off with your impressions from the Klitschko fight. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about that night in Germany?

When I think about that night in Germany, I think it was a fantastic achievement to prove everybody wrong…to be the underdog and for Tyson to come through and win it, and win it with ease.

I know there were a lot of shenanigans before the fight started with the gloves, the padding and the ring. Let’s talk about the padding incident. What did you notice when you initially inspected the ring?

It was a tactic of theirs. It was a trick. They tried it and they failed. For me, it was cheating. I got to be honest. You don’t have rings like that. They’re not normal. Now we found out after the event that Klitschko trained in that ring purposefully, for god knows how many weeks. For Tyson to just come in there and try and box on a trampoline is ridiculous.

What’s your standard procedure on fight night when you’re inspecting the ring?

The process is the ring always gets arranged in the day so I always go down there with Tyson. I have a look at the ring. I put the fighter in the ring and let him move around to make sure everything is OK with it. We got down there at 11 A.M. on fight day and the ring was a mess. You know this is why we go down and check all these things. Anything that’s going to affect the fighter has to be checked. That’s my job.

The fight was originally scheduled for October and then was postponed. What was your initial reaction after the fight was pushed off?

I think you have to accept every eventuality in boxing on a higher level. Nothing goes to plan. You have to ride with the tide. It was one of those things that was beyond our control. It was surprising that the very next day after the press conference that he pulled a ligament. We don’t know what the reason was for it or what was behind it. We can only take it at face value. And he pulled a hamstring, or actually a calf muscle is what was reported. That’s as much as we knew. All we did know is that the fight got put back another six weeks and we just carried on training.

With such a long training camp, how did you make sure that Tyson didn’t peak too soon?

Well it’s very difficult because you have to back him off. You can’t back him off altogether and it is a work of science. You have to really know the fighter’s genetics, how he operates. You have to know that inside and out. To be honest, in these types of situations, to get it right on the world level, you need to be a trainer, a doctor, a psychiatrist. You need to be everything all molded into one.

There’s no error for failure. There’s no error for over-training someone. The worst nightmare for any trainer or for any fighter is when he gets back to the corner and he says I’m tired. My legs feel like lead. I got no snap and this and that, complaining. The last thing you need is somebody being over-trained.

Was there anything in the fight that surprised you?

No. I’ve always said to Tyson, and also in previous interviews, “This is a fight where you’re either going to win it easy or it’s going to be a very difficult night. If you’re going to make it a hard fight then you’re going to have to favor Klitschko in it.” I said, “Because to make a hard fight of it, you’re doing stuff wrong, what you’re not doing in the gym. You have to keep your head right, do exactly what we worked on in the gym and you’ll have an easy night.”

And the fight went 100% to plan. It just went absolutely correct. It’s what we worked for and what we predicted what would happen. It went to plan.

As a follow up, Klitschko had been dominant in the division for so long and yet in the lead up to the fight you said that it would be an easy fight for Tyson. What did you see when looking at Klitschko that you thought would make it easy for your fighter?

I’ve watched all the previous opponents. I’m not taking anything away from him. They’re all looking for the knockout. They’re all looking to get on top of him. Wladimir is a serious guy. He’s very cautious. He’s very good defensively. He’s a worthy world champion. You go on to Wladimir and you try to take him out, it’s a big, big risk. With Tyson being 6’9”, his agility, the way he moves, he doesn’t have to go looking for you. He didn’t have to go looking for Klitschko. All he had to do was box because the speed of his hands, the combination punching…it was amazing. This is what we’re dealing with.

We only saw I think 60% of Tyson and the reason for that is because of how good Klitschko is. They were negating each other’s moves. This always was going to be a fight like this in case one of them walked into a big shot. It was always going to pan out like this.

From your perspective, what would you like to see him do more of in the rematch?

Not giving too much away, but I told Tyson to do certain things and he said, “I don’t feel comfortable doing that.” I said, just box and do your thing. So obviously, because Tyson couldn’t do what he was told to do, what he practiced, because, like I said, of how good Klitschko is, that stopped Tyson from getting the knockout. This time he will be practicing it and he will be getting it off properly. He will be looking to do that. That’s why I said he only done about 60% because he could have done a lot more. Because of Klitschko, how he is, because of the occasion, Klitschko was the best man he ever fought, you got to take all these things into the equation and start deducting off of 100%.

Next time, the confidence is there. Everything’s there. I think Tyson Fury now has silenced all of the doubters and he’s now coming into his own. He had a lot of self-belief anyway but now that belief has been cemented so we will see a phenomenal Tyson Fury in the next match.

What was your reaction in the 12th round once Klitschko finally started to land some hard right hands?

Everybody goes on about Tyson’s chin but Tyson’s only been susceptible early on, like he’s been caught cold by doing stupid things, walking into stupid shots. He’s learned the hard way, by being on his back and having to get up from taking stupid shots. But, he’s developed a hell of a lot since then. He’s got a boxing brain. And I think the shots he was taking...he didn’t really value Klitschko’s power. In the corner, he was saying to me, “I can’t believe it. This man’s weak. He has no power.”

And I said, “It’s not because he’s got no power. The adrenaline’s up. Do not take this guy for granted. He can punch. So do what I tell you, stay alert and stay switched on.” So I think in the 12th round, Tyson couldn’t really care what was happening and I didn’t really see any danger for him at all.

I wanted to go back to when you became Tyson’s lead trainer. I believe that was before the Martin Rogan fight. At that point, he had been knocked down by a lesser guy [Neven Pajkic] in his previous fight. When you came onboard as his head trainer, what did you see from Tyson and what were you looking to improve?

I said to Tyson when he came with me, “You got to 17-0 and you’ve got no jab. You’ve got no footwork. You just got natural ability. So to get to 17-0 and win the British title and get to where you are is a very good achievement for what you’re working with. But when you are about to step up, if guys on this level are putting you on the floor – you’re so wide open, you’re so vulnerable – unless you’re going to take this job absolutely deadly serious, I’d rather see you pack it in.

“You’ve been a British champion. Unless you can take it serious, unless you can focus and change all these flaws, you won’t make it in boxing. So if you want to put your life into boxing and be a world-class fighter, let’s do it. I’m happy to do whatever I can.”

And he was a bit messed up. He’d been to a lot of trainers all over the world. He’s been here he’d been there. And he said that he had never been really comfortable. I know he had been with my brother, Hughie, from the start of his career. He got him to 17-0 which was amazing. And nothing to do with my brother’s training but Tyson and my brother… they clashed. Tyson would not listen to my brother Hughie that much about the diet and stuff like this.

When he came and trained with me, I never had a problem with him. He said I’ll do what I’m told. And we just worked on various things. He was very open to taking a lot of shots. He had no footwork whatsoever. When he threw a jab, he leaned over his front foot. And when he threw a backhand, he’d bring his back foot round so he was square. He’d turn his whole body with his back foot with it. You only got to look at his fights.

Yes, he left himself very open to be countered.

Yes. This is why the likes of Neven Pajkic and Nicolai Firtha were catching him, hurting him, because he was so wide open. As he was starting to step up, he was getting caught. Now, we worked on these things. We worked on the footwork tirelessly – week in, week out. We worked on the jab and this is what made me switch him to southpaw. We had four months from January to April – we were fighting Rogan – and I was not happy with the jab. Three weeks before the fight, maybe four weeks maximum, I said, “Look, you still haven’t got the jab right. You’re getting caught right hand after right hand.”

So then, I spun him around to southpaw and so we had a look at that. And I was working on the pads and he was moving very unusual in the southpaw [stance]. Instead of moving to my right as I’m looking at him, he was on the southpaw and moving to my left. He was left handed and still moving away from the right. So I thought: normal southpaws, they go the other way. They go into the right hand. So I’m looking at it and I said you seem to have natural ability. He wasn’t that good but it was starting to flow and he was much better than the orthodox, defense-wise. So that was the reason why I turned him to a southpaw, because he was still catching right hands over-the-top. That’s why he stayed southpaw all the way through for Rogan.

One of the fights where I noticed how effective he was as a southpaw was the Dereck Chisora rematch, where he neutralized that right hand over-the-top. The southpaw stance basically took that punch away. Was that deliberate or was that something instinctual from Tyson?

Every fight he’s had with me he’s been programmed. We practice what we’re doing beforehand. When I’m in the corner, you see when we speak, it’s just clear instruction. He knows what he’s doing. He’s not stepping out of that instruction. He’s just boxing to orders and he does his thing. He practices it. And he implements it in the ring.

When you’re talking about high-level boxing, instincts come in where he’s gotten very good at switching up. He’s got it to a fine art now with the switching. He switches up effortlessly. He’s got very good at it and he’s compounded it. He’s got better and better at it. He’s just as effective in the southpaw as he is in the orthodox.

I noticed that Hughie [Fury] also switches to southpaw from time-to-time. With Hughie, what do you see when you move him to southpaw?

He’s nowhere near yet as effective as Tyson in southpaw. When he moves into it, he’s not confident. He’ll move into the southpaw and he’ll move straight back to orthodox. He’ll use the southpaw as a feint. He’ll slip into it and slip straight back into orthodox. That’s as much as he doing. But, over the past few months – you can’t really judge his last couple of fights because he got the opponents out of there in one or two rounds and never really switched – but he has been switching a lot better. He’s getting better at it. But this is something which is in progress with Hughie. He’s not comfortable. He’s not there yet in southpaw. But, he’s getting it.

I wanted to ask you another question about Tyson before I get to Hughie. From when you got Tyson to where he is now, how would you assess his improvement and what types of things are you still working on.

I see Tyson as a totally reformed boxer. I think his maturity, the way he developed, his mental attitude towards boxing…I think he’s come on 99% since his early days. He’s just a different animal altogether. When he fought [Steve] Cunningham, although he was super fit and he had the right training camp… no one was there with him and let’s not forget how old he was when he fought Cunningham, 24 or 25, still very young. He wanted to impress the crowd. Chances were taken. He put himself in a hard fight when he didn’t need to. These are things where he’s picked up on. He’s learned that this is why you need people in your corner. This is what you got trainers for because you can’t go out there just flying everywhere, thinking you can just dismantle people. When you’re fighting world-class fighters, you don’t need to give much away to get hit. So it’s a game of chess.

Hughie had his first 10-round fights last year. Two of them went the distance. How would you describe his performances in those fights?

I describe them as being excellent learning for Hughie because he’s not fighting what you see so often today – fat guys that are no good that are getting in for a payday. He was getting in there with two guys that were very, very tough and dangerous. Because if they land, they can hurt you. He got the 10 rounds out and knows what it’s like for guys to keep coming, keep coming, keep coming, and having to stay composed for the 10 rounds. So it was good experience for him, good learning.

And [Andriy] Rudenko was definitely there to win that fight. He wasn’t there as an opponent. He was trying to fight the whole 10 rounds. 

Yeah, it was very good for him. Rudenko had a very controversial decision against [Lucas] Browne, which I believe that had it not been in England, Browne would have lost it. So Rudenko was certainly coming to win that fight. Highly confident.

What are your goals for Hughie in 2016?

Although Hughie is young, I think he’s ready. I think he’s ready for almost any heavyweight in the world. He’s stepping up. We’re looking for him to fight a top-10 ranked opponent in March. And then he will fight all around these levels. All these types of opponents Hughie is up for. So we just got to wait and see. I know [with] world titles a lot of it is political and a lot of crap comes with it but his time is going to come. By the end of the year, certainly within the next 18 months, he’ll be fighting for a world title.

Can you compare and contrast Tyson and Hughie in the ring?

I think they are two totally different human beings. They’re different fighters altogether. The only thing that’s the same is that they have the same drive. They got the same determination. They got the same work ethic. They’ll be the first two in the gym and the last out of the gym. They’ll spar. Even when they have the flu and half-dying, I’ve got to find out myself because they won’t say a word. They’ll get in, put the gloves on and away they go. They have that mentality. They do live and breathe boxing. And all the crap the Tyson says from time-to-time, the reality is if boxing was out of Tyson’s life, Tyson would probably be in a nuthouse. [Laughing] He definitely needs boxing. And Hughie’s the same but that’s where it ends.

Hughie’s very technical. He’s very good defensively. He’s got very good footwork and he’s learning his job very well. And he’s developing quite a lot of power recently as well. He’s starting to sit on his shots. We’ve been working on quite a few things. Obviously, with Hughie being young, we’ve always looked for Hughie to fight defensively, because he never had his man-strength. Don’t forget we got a guy 6’6”, 18 years of age, turn professional. So, always for Hughie, within the last few years, box clever, box safe. Now he’s 21. He’s developed. He’s about 16 stone or 106 kilograms [234 lbs.], something like that. Where for [George] Arias, I think he was behind 100 kilos. I think he was 98 [216 lbs.]. So he has developed quite a lot. He’s looking now to sit on his shots. He’s hitting with power. Anybody that tries to come into him will get a shock. So that’s why he’s stepping up.

There are a lot of exciting younger fighters in the heavyweight division right now. When you look around at the division, what do you see out there? And what are your plans for Tyson in the division during the next 12-18 months?

Hughie and Tyson went over there [New York] to attend the fights [Wilder-Szpilka and Glazkov-Martin]. Tyson told me that Hughie wants to fight the winner of Glazkov and Martin and Tyson is going to have some harsh words for Wilder. [Laughing] So I look forward to seeing it on the TV. As far as the young heavyweights, there’s a lot of talent out there. You’re absolutely right. For Tyson, he’s looking at the Klitschko fight. We can’t really say what’s going to happen in that fight. Klitschko’s a very formidable opponent. But if we do get past that, we’re looking at Wilder. We’re looking at unifying the division for Tyson. And then whoever’s next in line.

Tyson’s been an attractive commodity for a number of years. In addition to his trainer, you're also his manager. He's stayed with [promoter] Mick Hennessy when I’m sure there've been bigger offers or other attractive parties involved. How would you describe the relationship between the Fury family and Mick Hennessy?

It’s very close. He’s like family to us. Tyson started with him from the beginning. When my son turned professional, we didn’t go around everywhere. He was a gold medalist [Hughie won a gold medal at the AIBA Youth World Boxing Championships in 2012]. We had various parties interested in Hughie. We never spoke to them. We went straight to Mick Hennessy. So, the loyalty’s there. He’s done very well for Tyson and he does very well for my son. We can’t speak highly enough of him. Mick is like a family member.

You know, we are an open book. Anybody can come. They can offer us big deals, this or that. We’re interested. We’ll sit down with any promoter but Mick is with us. That’s it. We’re a unit. We’re not leaving Mick Hennessy to go here or go there. We’ll go everywhere, but Mick comes with us. As we’ve seen in the past, we’ve done things with Frank Warren and BoxNation – Mick came with us. It’s just what it is. Keep that loyalty. Keep that respect. Never forget what people do for you along the way.

Since Tyson’s win over Wladimir, how have you been received by your peers?

To be honest, I’ve not been received at all.


I’ve had some bad press recently over here, digging up my past, putting bad things on it. All this, which is not the person I am anyway...putting me next to sports cars – what’s not even mine, trying to paint a very poor picture. I find it very disappointing, because one should never hide his past and my past has always been open. In 2012, I did an article with Terry Dooley, Boxing Monthly, and I talked about being in prison, my visa problems in the states. It’s what it is. You can’t hide your past. So, it’s been open.

But to come in and put very distasteful slants on it after we’ve won the world title…first they attacked Tyson in the papers for one thing or another and then they came onto his uncle. I find it distasteful to be honest. The only credit that I’ve received is from the general boxing fans themselves.

On a personal note, from where you were 10 years ago to where you are now, training the heavyweight champion of the world, what’s that feeling like from then to now?

I think it’s amazing. I dedicate my life to boxing. I wake up in the morning and I think about boxing. When I’m in training camps, that’s all we do. We’re dedicated to that. It’s a fabulous thing to be able to put your life into something, disregard everything else and be able to get somebody to a world title. You know my son, god willing, he’ll be behind him. So to do these kind of things, it is amazing and I’m very, very delighted with it.

Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of saturdaynightboxing.com.
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
@snboxing on twitter, SN Boxing on Facebook
Contact Adam at saturdaynightboxing@hotmail.com 

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