When Tyson Fury destroyed Deontay Wilder in their Las Vegas rematch in February, he did so by unleashing a blisteringly aggressive gameplan on a completely outgunned ‘Bronze Bomber’.
But while new trainers Javan ‘SugarHill’ Steward Andy Lee clearly did a sensational job in helping Fury perform what Adam Booth described as “as much of a 180 as I’ve ever seen in boxing,” this wasn’t the beginning of Fury’s relationship with the iconic Kronk Gym in Detroit. That began more than a decade ago…
This week Fury spoke to WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman via video conference on a wide range of topics, including his first introduction to the Kronk, its methods and it’s godfather – the late, great Emanuel Steward (uncle of ‘SugarHill’). ‘Manny’ passed away back in 2012, but not before he’d predicted Fury’s future greatness after seeing his potential at very close quarters.
Fury explained how the story began, saying: “I was a young kid when I went there, 21 years old. This is an absolutely crazy story. It was 2009, I was the English heavyweight champion, I think I had 12 fights unbeaten – 12-0. I thought to myself, I wanna go to America and train – and I want to go to Emanuel Steward, the world’s greatest trainer at that time – legendary trainer.
“So I got on a plane from Manchester to Detroit, I didn’t even know where I was going, went on my own to Detroit from Manchester as a young kid. I flew into Detroit airport and I went to a cab driver ‘can you take me to the Kronk Gym please?’. He said no problem. He took me to a place and when we got there he said: ‘Oh, the Kronk Gym’s closed down, let me see if it’s moved somewhere’. He got on the phone and told me it had moved, whatever, five miles away. He says ‘I’ll take you there’.
“I’d never had any contact with Emanuel Steward, I’d spoken to him on the phone maybe a year or two before when he was working with Andy Lee in Ireland. I just turned up out of the blue – before I walked in I told the taxi driver to wait outside for 10 minutes – and walks into the gym. Back then I had a lot of curly hair, a big mop of curly hair – I was very handsome back then, not like the beast from the east that you see today.
“So I walks in the gym and I says ‘Is Emanuel Steward here please?’ and ‘SugarHill’ said to me ‘Who are you?’ and I said ‘I’m the next heavyweight champion of the world Tyson Fury, and Emanuel’s probably expecting me’. He gets on the phone to Emanuel and he says ‘Manny, there’s a crazy-looking white dude here saying he’s gonna be the heavyweight champion of the world’. Manny said ‘what’s his name?’ and he said Tyson Fury, and he (Manny) said ‘send him down to me’.
“He was in a restaurant a few miles away with HBO, having a meal. I goes into the restaurant, he makes me feel very welcome, he didn’t know I was coming, it was just out of the blue randomly. He takes me back to his house, invites me into his home and he says to me ‘I want you to stay with me for a few weeks and we’ll work together’. And although I’d just met him for the second time, briefly, I felt like I knew the guy for like 10 years already.
“He invited me into his home, I slept in the next bedroom to his – he bought me a giant bed, a seven-foot bed, to sleep in. The next day we went down to the gym, and he treated me like a world champion even though I’d only had 12 fights.”
Those weeks spent with Steward clearly remain golden times and precious learnings for Fury (30-0-1), who is really starting to show that ‘Kronk style’ now as WBC, Ring magazine and lineal world heavyweight champion.
“He would sit me down and bandage my hands up, wrap me up for 40 minutes at a time. Teach me the basics – we worked on the jab, the right hand, the left hook, the footwork, balance. We worked on basic stuff and we talked a lot as well. We talked a lot of boxing – he was quite impressed with my boxing knowledge.
“I asked him a lot of questions about boxing, and I was supposed to stay there for a couple of weeks – my return ticket was a couple of weeks – and he actually extended it an extra two weeks. He said ‘I want you to stay for another two weeks and I want to work on some stuff with you’. He said ‘you’re gonna be my next heavyweight champion of the world. I had a dream about a tall fighter with a long back that I was gonna work with, and I never knew it was gonna be a British guy’.”
So while much was made of the influence of ‘SugarHill’ and Lee in that Wilder rematch, Fury’s affinity with Kronk and its style is a story which is more than a decade in the making.