Inside Tyson Fury’s training camp: The truth behind a ruthless reshuffle ahead of Deontay Wilder rematch

Challenger has drastically chopped and changed his entourage since his first fight against the WBC champion

Steve Bunce
Las Vegas
Wednesday 19 February 2020 11:55
Wilder Fury 2: BT Sport's fight promo

After six weeks in a big house, in a bland suburb up against the desert out here, George Lockhart was slaving over the pans, preparing Cajun creamed rice and blackened salmon for one of Tyson Fury’s last meals.

Fury’s brother, Shane, was marinating a loin of pork with a secret mix of Lockhart’s spices at the counter and Fury, meanwhile, was looking at his laptop and comparing the prices of 35-foot canal boats. Welcome to a routine night inside the last few days of a long, long boxing camp.

Fury has drastically chopped and changed his boxing entourage and team since the last time he fought Deontay Wilder, back in December 2018 in Los Angeles. It is a tighter unit this time than I have seen surrounding the big lad since the night in Düsseldorf in November 2015 when he beat Wladimir Klitschko in front of 50,000 to win the world heavyweight title. Fury was a boxing baby of 27 that night, king of the world and just weeks away from the edge of his own destructive oblivion. He never lost any of the three championship belts in the ring, but he has lost a lot of men on the way to Saturday’s fight at the MGM.

The arrival of the famed nutritionist, Lockhart, who prepares food for Conor McGregor and dozens of top mixed martial artists, is just a sign of Fury’s serious intentions in what is the fight of his life. Lockhart fuels the body, prepares it for hard battle and does not get lost in any debates over his athletes having “abs”.

In Los Angeles the three men working in Fury’s corner for that dramatic fight are all gone, left behind, exiled, culled; first out the door was veteran Freddie Roach, who was critical of Ben Davison, who was the trainer at the time. Davison and Fury finally parted ways, amicably they insist, in January. Ricky Hatton was the third man and he was always there as a talisman, a veteran of savage big nights and a friend to Fury during those dark months when he ballooned to nearly thirty stone and looked at suicide from an intimate distance. Davison had himself replaced Peter Fury, the boxer’s uncle, in 2017.

Davison certainly did nothing wrong that night in Los Angeles when the fight finished in a draw, and in the two subsequent wins last year out here. However, Fury’s father, John, was heavily critical of Davison after the Otto Wallin win in September, insisting that the young trainer had to go or he would “ruin” his son’s career. The writing was clearly on the wall and it was scrawled in that familiar colour of family unity. ‘Gypsy John’, as he was known when he fought as a pro, might have been a bit harsh with his comments, but Davison’s days were numbered.

A man called Javan Sugar Hill Steward, once a Detroit policeman, has been drafted in to train Fury, replacing Davison in a smooth bloodless coup over Christmas. Steward is the nephew of Manny, the man who built the Kronk boxing empire in Detroit, built it from nothing into a world-renowned franchise of excellence. Fury met both Stewards ten years ago when he went to the Kronk to train for a month. Manny is dead now, recognised as one of the sport’s finest boxing trainers and thinkers; Steward predicted eight years ago that Fury would one day be the dominant heavyweight. “It’s a family affair,” Javan told me. It remains a switch that many in the business find inexplicable.

Also in the new line-up at the temporary mansion is former world champion, Manny Steward’s protege, Javan’s close friend and Fury’s cousin, Andy Lee. “It really is a family affair,” added Lee, who has one of his boxers, Limerick’s unbeaten Paddy Donovan, staying with the team. It is a new alliance, but the men are not strangers in the game, they are certainly not novices, or untested in the cruel ways of the boxing world.

Tyson Fury’s harder side can often be ignored 

And the final addition is boxing royalty.

Fury has hired a man with one of the sport’s finest reputations, Stitch Duran, to work in the corner on any cuts once the first bell sounds. Last September Fury was cut twice on his right eyebrow in the Wallin fight and the nasty injuries required 47 stitches to close; Duran is being paid to make sure they are not a factor in the fight if Wilder can open the old wounds. Duran’s hiring is another statement of just how serious Fury is. Men like Stitch do not come cheap.

The switch to Lee and Steward is sure to be scrutinised and they will be blamed heavier in defeat than they will be praised in victory; it is rare for a winning boxer to drop his trainer at such short notice and before such a monumental fight. There is pressure, but Steward is only concerned with the fight: “I never think about being on trial, it’s about winning,” he said. Steward is a particularly cool cat, Lee has ice in his veins and they will not be found wanting in a crisis.

Fury certainly only thinks about winning and his ruthless reshuffling is a hard side of him that is often ignored once the karaoke-light showman enters any building; the new men, from Lockhart to Stitch, have not been employed to laugh at his jokes, their smiles are just a bonus in the old game.

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