Boxing: Tyson Fury interview
Kevin Johnson has boxed at the very highest level, so is this an opponent who’s really going to test you?
“Yeah, I’m really excited about this one. It’s one of those fights where I get to showcase my skills against a world-class fighter. If I come through this, I’m knocking on the door for a world title fight, so it’s a must-win.”
Nobody has ever stopped him, not even Vitali Klitschko [who inflicted one of only two defeats, both on points, in 31 fights]. Is there an incentive to be the first?
“I’m not going to rush and look for a stoppage. I think that’s a mistake people make: trying to knock somebody out who’s hard to hit, never mind knock out. He’s got a good defence. It’s like a Floyd Mayweather defence, but at heavyweight, so he’s a hard man to land clean on. I’m just going to look to build the points up and, if I get him with a nice shot, then obviously I’ll jump on him and try and finish it.”
Have you seen much of him? Do you watch a lot of your opponents in general?
“Oh yeah, I’m a boxing encyclopaedia when it comes to heavyweights. I’ve seen a lot of Johnson and he’s very well schooled. He’s got that Philadelphia style, where the shoulder rolls and the backhand comes right round. It’s going to be an awkward night, because I’ve never fought anybody of Johnson’s skill before. All the fighters I’ve fought have been classic, come-forward fighters. It’s hard to fight somebody who’s not looking to come forward because you’ve got to go and find him and trick him into making a wrong move. It will be a bit of a chess match in the early stages, anyway.”
He’s said some things in the build-up to this fight: that he’ll beat you so badly you’ll want to retire, that you’re not in his class. Does that stuff fire you up, or is it all just part of the boxing hype?
“To be honest with you, if Johnson could do anything as good as he can talk, he’d be a multimillionaire by now. I’m not really interested in anything he’s got to say. He’s coming over to me, and I’m going to smash him in and that is it.”
But the chess match…
“I know he’s going to talk, but if I wanted to watch a circus I’d go to one and see a clown there. I’m not really interested in anything he’s got to say, because he’s the biggest mug I’ve ever heard. I watched the press conference after the Klitschko fight, and he said: ’Yeah, he beat me, but I’ll beat him next time.’ And said he was a better man than Klitschko – after he just got smashed to bits. So he talks a lot of rubbish. It’s not going to get to me or make me change my gameplan.”
You’re only 24 – young for a heavyweight boxer. What have you been working on improving of late?
“My feet, my defence, my punch technique and my conditioning. I’ve been working on a lot of things over the past year and it’s finally all coming together. My footwork is second-to none at the moment – there isn’t a heavyweight in the world that’s not named Klitschko who’s got footwork like me now.”
Your fitness is something that’s visibly improved over the years. What brought on the change?
“It was after the fight against Neven Pajkic [in 2011] that I stopped all the bad things I was doing and hooked up with my uncle, who’s a conditioner, a trainer and everything else. I started to take things seriously. This will be my third fight under him, and everyone’s going to see a massive difference. In the past, I was just playing at boxing, even though I won the British title. I was going out, partying, drinking. I wasn’t doing it properly.”
So through your first 17 fights, you weren’t taking boxing too seriously?
“Yeah, I won my first 17 just on talent alone, because I was going into those fights as fat as anything. I was out of shape, I was gassed after four or five rounds. It was just my heart and determination that got me through. Since my uncle Peter has been involved, we’ve been in an almost constant training camp: eating, sleeping and breathing boxing. That’s why I’m going to win the heavyweight championship of the world in 2013.”
David Haye is a potential opponent you’ve spoken about. Is that still a possibility, or do you think he’s more interested in chewing on kangaroo in the jungle than boxing now?
“I don’t think he wants a fight unless it’s a Klitschko – and I know the Klitschkos ain’t going to give him a fight, because of all the carry-on he caused in Germany. I offered to fight David Haye and he turned it down. After this fight with Kevin Johnson, I should be [ranked] number one by the WBC, and I’m sure he’s going to start wanting to fight me then. But, you know what? It’s too late now, the ship’s sailed. It’s my turn to fight a Klitschko.”
It’s another David – unbeaten Liverpool heavyweight David Price – with whom your name is often linked. Where does the bad blood between you two stem from?
“It all started in the amateurs. I boxed David Price in 2006, when I was 18 and he was 23 or 24 and the Commonwealth champion, ABA champion and all that. He beat me on points, but it was a close fight. I had him over in the second round. I was gunning to get a rematch when I got more amateur experience, but he got selected to go to the Olympics and I didn’t. It’s all just spilled over into the professionals.”
Do you genuinely dislike him?
“To be honest with you, I don’t really know David Price as a person. I only know him as a character in my mind, if you know what I mean. He’s probably a nice, down-to-earth fella, but I don’t know that side of him. To me, he’s just an arch rival and it’s not a big enough country for two 6ft 9ins heavyweights, so someone’s got to go. And the longer it simmers, the bigger fight it’s going to be.”
So you think the two of you will fight?
“After the Johnson fight, I’m gonna beat Wladimir. By then, he won’t have fought anybody better than Dereck Chisora anyway, so he’ll still have no experience. So I’ll take him out in a world title fight. I’ve had hard fights in my career and he’s just fought old people and has-beens. He doesn’t warrant being highly ranked. Just because he’s an undefeated, big, white heavyweight, why does he deserve to be in the top 10 in the world? There’s an American called Seth ’Mayhem’ Mitchell – he was undefeated in 25 fights, a big knockout puncher. Fought earlier this month and got knocked out in two rounds. It was his first step-up fight and he got chinned. The same thing will happen with David Price. He has no experience of boxing people who can fight back, so when he actually fights someone who’s going to hit him, you’re going to see him come unglued.”
Your fights are live on on terrestrial TV. Is that really important to you, as it helps you build up a big audience?
“It’s very good. Mick Hennessy has done a great job getting me a TV deal with Channel 5. I’m being watched by three and a half or four million viewers every time now. It’s a lot of people, and the general public get to see me – not just sports fans.”
That puts you in the spotlight and you’ve had some criticism, which you’ve reacted to at times. Do critics get under your skin?
“It’s just jealousy. Sometimes people start talking about my family and things like that, then I’ll get wound up and have a pop back at them on Twitter. But it’s all banter, really, I don’t wish harm to any of these people. They’re just going to eat their hat when I win the world title. It’s one of those things: anyone with a bit of success has their critics and their haters, so it doesn’t affect me.”
Alex Reid @otheralexreid
Tyson Fury takes on Kevin Johnson at the Odyssey Arena, Belfast, Saturday December 1. The show is live on Channel 5 from 9pm