The Beltline: Tommy Fury and the transition from prizefighter to influencer

FOR Tommy Fury, this wasn’t always the plan.

Back in 2015, in fact, I can recall seeing him walking around a hotel in Düsseldorf, Germany wearing a Team Fury tracksuit and using the imminent success of his brother to create dreams of his own. He spoke that day – the day of Tyson Fury’s life-changing win against Wladimir Klitschko – of his nerves and his excitement and he also made a point of telling me it was for moments like that he too had decided to get into boxing.

He was just 16 at the time, though Tommy already carried the frame of a boy much older. He was to get bigger, too, during the two-year period Tyson, his brother, managed to both climb to the top of the heavyweight division and succumb to a performance-enhancing drug controversy, which, combined with a bout of depression, kept him out of the ring for the entirety of 2016 and 2017.

Still, by December 2018, Tyson was back in action and Tommy had turned pro. A four-round drubbing of Latvian Jevgenijs Andrejevs at Manchester Arena got Tommy started and in his next fight he stopped Callum Ide, a man without a win in 28 per fights, inside a round. He was young, of course, so time was on his side. Moreover, while Tyson in the early years could afford to take risks here and there on account of his extensive amateur background, Tommy, boasting no real amateur background of note, wasn’t as fortunate. Indeed, whenever in the pro ring he appeared raw in a way all novices do. A way that screamed potential and red flags in equal measure.

By 2019, seemingly not content with reducing his own brain cells in the ring, Fury did his bit for lowering the collective IQ of the British population by participating in the ITV2 show Love Island. Pitched as an ideal opportunity to increase his profile (which of course it was), what Fury’s appearance on Love Island also ended up being was an admission of sorts; an admission, that is, that Fury was only half-interested in boxing, and that his true ambition was to reap the rewards of success, be it in the ring or elsewhere. In other words, he wanted to be famous. That’s it.

Unlike his big brother, though, Tommy wouldn’t, if it could be helped, continue getting punched in the head to receive this adulation. Instead, and in many ways the smarter move, he chose to use Tyson’s career and name to take the ultimate shortcut to fame: shallow people saying and doing shallow things for the entertainment of shallow people at home.

It worked, too. In 2019, Tommy didn’t just appear on Love Island, he finished in second place, doing so alongside his girlfriend, Molly-May Hague, a privileged young woman who would later ruffle feathers when implying that struggle equated to no more than laziness. Her fate was sealed by the tone-deaf line: “Everyone has the same 24 hours.”

Alas, in both boxing and life, this is what we have created. programs like Love Islandand promotions like Misfits Boxing, both served to us as “harmless entertainment” and “just a bit of fun”, are working to numb an already docile population, making, in the process, false idols of young boys and girls who are adept at perfecting selfies but unable to concentrate long enough to read even the acknowledgments page of their own biography.

As for Tommy Fury, one such idol, he was, post-Love Island, now caught in an awkward middle ground. He was, on the one hand, now a broad-shouldered hunk in the eyes of millions of screen-addicted young girls, yet, on the other hand, carrying on with the idea of ​​wanting to achieve as a professional boxer.

And why not? He was still young, still physically able, and still in need of something to actually do with his life. Being a reality TV star does after all have its expiration date, as well as its lulls and moments of monotony, even for the emptiest and simplest of minds. For Fury, 23, this meant boxing again. This time, however, he would box with more fans and more attention and, in many ways, more pressure as well. Now he was fighting to preserve not only the Fury fighting name but also his own celebrity brand.

This led him towards a weird parallel universe. There were soon documentaries made about his fights – fights that were utterly meaningless – and documentaries about his life with his girlfriend, a relationship no different than any other that both starts and ends in a Westfield shopping mall. There was then a sudden rivalry with Jake Paul, a YouTuber who, during the time Fury was dipping his toes elsewhere, had managed to corner the influencer-boxer market. Along with Londoner KSI, in fact, one could argue Jake Paul has done everything Tommy Fury wanted to do but for whatever reason, at the height of his popularity, didn’t do.

Now, with an on-off fight between Fury and Paul apparently set once again for February 25, we have a situation whereby Paul, if only due to his activity and ambition, has adopted the role of “boxer” to Fury’s “reality TV star ”. Now it is hard to see Fury the way we once did and cast him as the man – the professional boxer – elected to take down the pesky upstart with the audacity to think he can switch from YouTube to the boxing ring.

Maybe that’s simply an indictment of Tommy Fury’s so-called boxing career. Or maybe, in the context of the world in which we currently live, Fury, a man forever thirsty for fame, will see the fact he is no longer identified solely as a “boxer” as something like a success. Certainly, whether that happens to be true or not, thanks to the accepted dumbing down of both boxing and society at large, Fury, 8-0 (4), stands to make more money than many cleverer men and more money than many better boxers in the years to come.

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