In 1997 a young Joe Calzaghe made his way to the ring at the Sheffield Arena. His sights were firmly set on taking, the then vacant, WBO super-middleweight title. Standing in front of him was the ageing but still handy Chris Eubank.
Calzaghe, the Welsh warrior, performed astonishingly. Putting the domestic legend down in the first round on his way to a convincing unanimous decision victory.
Was the world of boxing prepared to give him the ‘champion’s respect’?
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No. The British public still didn’t really know who the boy from Newport was. To the world of boxing, he still had to prove himself. It wasn’t until 18 fights later that he would get that opportunity.
Jeff Lacy made the trip across the pond from USA shores in 2003, only to have every flaw in his game picked apart by the world champion. For 12 rounds, the American was beaten across the ring. The man dubbed as mini Mike Tyson with ‘Left Hook’ emblazoned on his shorts would soon have his reputation destroyed along with his ego.
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It was a boxing masterclass.
Calzaghe then and only then, really got the fights he was looking for and the respect he deserved.
Ricky Hatton had 39 fights before he was recognised as a ‘worthy’ champion, dethroning Kostya Tszyu in Manchester. Even then, critics claimed Tszyu was ageing.
For Carl Froch, 24 fights and might have been even longer if the “super six” tournaments not been available.
Finally, we have “The Greatest”. The late Muhammad Ali converted to Islam and his refusal to join the army cost him four years of his career. However, he was still able to return to the ring and become one of the most celebrated boxers and sportsmen of the last century.
The list goes on and on.
The fighters mentioned all have one thing in common: Champions overcome adversity and challenge themselves.
Most of all however, champions have class. With their hall of fame status and titles they’ve won, we will always remember what it was that set these fighters apart. Whether that be heart, skill, class or sheer entertainment - or in Ali's case all four.
For the public, it’s incredibly frustrating to watch when fighters claim they never ‘get their dues’.
Tyson Fury's father John, had an interview with IFLTV last year where he stated: “My son did what no one has been able to do” and “still isn’t accepted”.
He also claimed that if Anthony Joshua had taken the route his son took to the title; he’d be ‘having dinner with the queen’. Suggesting that the reason Fury hasn’t received the same credit as the Olympic Gold medalist is due to Fury being part of the travelling community.
However, this is far from the case.
A champion has never been defined by the fight that wins them the title. Nor where he or she lives, what religion they live by or what culture they have.
In the world of boxing, there will always be critics.
To all fighters wondering why they’re not getting the love they feel they deserve: Chase the fights that matter, the fights the public want to see. Win us over and your credibility will rise with your reputation. Don’t expect to win a title and gain more supporters in an instant.
Hatton won the public over with his ‘all in’ fighting style and out of the ring charisma. His speed, work rate and humbleness were all factors that contributed to his popularity, as he proved by finishing third in the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year award in 2007 - the same year Calzaghe pipped him to winning it.
What will Tyson Fury be remembered for if he retired tomorrow? The poor showing against Dereck Chisora? Not once, but twice. The homophobic and sexist remarks made? The overweight physique he was proud enough to flaunt during a press conference with Ukrainian giant Wladimir Klitschko?
Yes, Fury, you did beat Klitschko. Well done. We must give you credit for your win, If you’re looking for love, though, you’ve got a lot of making up to do.
A fight with Deontay Wilder might go some way and even a loss could help his cause as the public do love a comeback story.
Unfortunately, Fury is not currently displaying the qualities required to be able to call himself a true champion. Self-promotion is about entertainment, not being offensive.
If the champion can bear this in mind it will certainly benefit him in the long run.
Fury has still got some die-hard fans out there that have turned a blind eye to the controversial remarks, the majority, however, haven't. Win this section of the public over and the 27-year-old will get what he feels he deserves.
Maybe he will even be the one eating dinner with the Queen one day.
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