HomeSportTyson Fury riled me up so I gave him his hardest fight...

Tyson Fury riled me up so I gave him his hardest fight and everyone was shocked at result

Tyson Fury was an undefeated, 21-year-old fighter already gaining notoriety for his size and name when in September 2009 he was matched with John McDermott, another traveller, for the English heavyweight title.

McDermott had earlier that year tested the proven Danny Williams for the second time and yet for all of his experience, his resistance in front of Fury – on the occasion of only Fury’s eighth fight, in Brentwood, Essex – was expected to be minimal.


Fury came close to losing his unbeaten record in his eighth pro fight when he boxed McDermottCredit: Getty Images – Getty
McDermott was far more experienced than his challenger


McDermott was far more experienced than his challengerCredit: Getty Images – Getty

“I am told there have been some massive bets among different factions in the travelling community,” said Frank Maloney, both the promoter that night and guiding McDermott’s career. “That doesn’t surprise me because travellers are pretty fearless when it comes to putting their money where their mouth is. There is even a suggestion that someone in Essex has taken a £50,000 bet on Fury winning the fight, which is nuts.”

“When I boxed him he was only a novice,” McDermott told talkSPORT of a fighter who had stopped each of his previous seven opponents. “He thought he was just going to go in there and wipe me out. I’d been around too long for him to do that. But even then he was good.

“I was a massive underdog. Opposite the [local] train station there was a bookies, so I went in there; I was ridiculous [odds-wise]. I said to the woman in there, ‘Bloody hell – you don’t give me much chance tonight’. I remember telling my manager [John Branch], and he said, ‘John, they think you’ve got one leg’.

“My family knew parts of his family. Someone knew someone; they was betting; my cousin had a bet with another bloke. But it didn’t really bother me. I was in training camp and that was it.

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“My trainer [CJ Hussein] took me away for five weeks to Marseille and Italy to spar [Italian heavyweight and Olympic bronze medallist] Paolo Vidoz. Then I was back for a couple of weeks with me family and I never really heard.”

Whether as a young fighter he felt threatened by McDermott’s experience and Maloney’s hostility while preparing to appear on a rival promoter’s bill or whether even then he simply recognised the value of self-promotion, in the build-up to their fight Fury taunted McDermott by calling him McMuffin, McDoughnut and Big Mac, and ultimately succeeded in getting under his skin.

“That done me a favour,” McDermott added. “I’m not naturally an aggressive person. [Boxing] was my job and I was good at it – and that was it. [But] that wound me up.

“My trainer knew how tall Tyson Fury was [6ft 9ins]; he put it on top of the big heavy bag. I remember walking into the gym and thinking, ‘Bloody hell, how am I going to hit this fucking bloke? I’ve made a mistake’.

McDermott wondered how he would beat giant heavyweight Fury


McDermott wondered how he would beat giant heavyweight FuryCredit: Getty

“But when you get riled up, it doesn’t bother you. Once you’ve crossed that line you’re not bothered – I don’t care if you’re 10ft 8ins. He was only young – he weren’t as stocky. By the weigh-in I knew what he was going to do. [By then] I’d heard loads of things.”

Fury’s punch resistance and engine have since proven among his greatest strengths, but having never previously fought beyond four rounds, against McDermott he had been scheduled to fight for 10.

“I’d trained myself to death,” McDermott continued. “I’d worked so hard.

“I give the man his dues – he had plenty of bottle; he stood in there. We had a good strategy. Right hand over the top; keep on him; moving your head; moving your head; slipping and sliding.

“A few times I hit him I see his eyes roll back. A few times I didn’t think he was coming back out for the next round. My corner told me, ‘John, you’ve got this. You’re at least six rounds in front’.”

McDermott – not without also taking punishment – consistently succeeded with strong right hands, hurting Fury in both the seventh and eighth rounds, and deserving to lead. Even when the challenger admirably responded in the ninth and 10th to win both rounds – ahead of the last he had been told by his corner that he was behind – the champion was widely considered to have done enough to have won.

“I couldn’t believe it,” McDermott said of seeing Fury instead awarded victory via a score of 98-92 by the referee Terry O’Connor. “I walked back to my corner. All of a sudden I see my trainer and my dad going absolutely nuts and I turned round, thinking, ‘What’s going on?’, and he’s put Tyson Fury’s hand up.

“That’s Terry O’Connor for you. I was shocked.”

Fury has been floored since the McDermott fight, but no one has come quite as close to beating him like his compatriot


Fury has been floored since the McDermott fight, but no one has come quite as close to beating him like his compatriotCredit: Esther Lin/SHOWTIME

Commentating from ringside, the experienced Jim Watt asked, “Did he have the names mixed up? I can’t explain that”. Maloney and McDermott even suggested that O’Connor had acted against the heavyweight because his father had beaten him when they fought 22 years previously at Kensington’s Royal Albert Hall.

It was also later revealed that Maloney had suffered a heart attack, while ringside. McDermott, who then asked, “I’m a nice man – what did I do wrong?”, appeared close to tears.

“It was a hard fight,” he told talkSPORT. “I was knackered for three or four days after that – I’d put so much into it. I could hardly walk.”

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Fury fought and won again little over two weeks later, when he outpointed the little-known Tomas Mrazek over six rounds. He also stopped the similarly lightly-regarded Hans Joerg Blasko, before a rematch was ordered by the British Boxing Board of Control.

When they fought again at the same venue in June 2010, McDermott hadn’t had another contest and the scores were instead kept by three ringside judges. Fury also noticeably resisted taunting his rival in the build-up to that second fight, for which as an improved fighter he proceeded to stop McDermott in nine rounds.




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