Darkness descends on a cold October evening in Sofia, and in the heart of the city, a boxing match is about to take place.
It involves a fighter called Fury. Fury, that all-too-fitting heavyweight boxer surname that we all now associate with a self-proclaimed ‘Gypsy King’ who taunts his opponents while gracefully waltzing round the ring.
But this isn’t Tyson. This is Hughie, Tyson’s junior cousin, a fighter who approaches the heavyweight bout with Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev with a near-unblemished record of 23-1. In round two of the fight, however, Fury’s hopes of his first major scalp disintegrate.
“I went in there with a cut above my eye,” he tells MM, reflecting on what could have been on that night in the Bulgarian capital.
“In the second round the cut came open, I had to put everything on the line – I didn’t go with my full ability after that.
“It was hard to come back from, but you’ve just got to take the positives out of it and move forward, and that’s what I’m doing.”
In a valiant effort in front of a partisan home crowd, Fury battled to round eleven, eventually succumbing to a fighter who was able to exploit his opponent’s vulnerability. For the Stockport-born Fury, it was heartbreak.
Seven months on, however, and Hughie Fury is back. This Saturday night, he faces Chris Norrad at Manchester’s Victoria Warehouse in his comeback bout, a fight on terrestrial television – Channel Five – and one in which he hopes can rebuild his previously-faltering boxing career.
— Hughie Lewis Fury (@hughiefury) April 9, 2019
“I’m really looking forward to it – I can’t wait to be back in the ring and enjoy it again,” he says.
“I’m feeling really good with everything at the moment – both physically and mentally. I feel good, look good, and can’t wait to go.
“You’re going to see a relaxed Hughie Fury on Saturday night – I’m finally enjoying it and I’m finally turning the corner.
“I’ve been working on different things, and I’m just looking forward to Saturday night to putting the stuff that me and my Dad (Peter, his trainer) have been working on on the spot.”
In a strange way, Fury is thankful for that fateful night in Bulgaria. He is determined to emphasise the significance of his setbacks in shaping who he is today, building his character into one capable of becoming a viable, competitive fighter at world level.
“Straight after the Pulev fight I was back on it, back in the gym,” he tells me.
“I have had a bit of bad luck with things in the past, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – I always keep saying that as they’re very true words.
“I take those losses as learning curves – they make me who I am today. You have got to take those setbacks – all those mistakes make me stronger. Everything happens for a reason.
“Now it’s time to turn the corner, and I’m looking forward to Saturday.”
‘I CAME HERE TO FIGHT’
The man who stands in his way will be no pushover, however. The Canadian Chris Norrad arrives in the UK with a flawless 17-0 record, albeit against a series of somewhat limited and obscure opponents.
Despite his widely-perceived underdog status, Norrad is insistent he’s not just getting in the ring to make up the numbers and help Fury rehabilitate his career.
“I came here to fight, I didn’t just come here to do a few rounds – I came here to win the fight, and that’s what I’m going to do,” he said on Thursday.
“I like to box – I can punch too, I’ve got a pretty good punch. I’m just going to go one round at a time and see what happens – I think I’m ready for this.”
While Fury’s and Norrad’s bout represents Saturday’s main event, the evening also showcases a plethora of young British talent on the undercard, most notably County Durham’s Savannah Marshall and Surrey’s Alex Dilmaghani.
However, if Fury can finish the night by sealing the dominant victory most pundits are anticipating, there’s no doubt he will steal the show and lay the foundations for his second coming in the sport.
— Billy Moore (@BillyMooreAPD) May 11, 2019
And if he gets through Saturday unscathed, he is more than willing to mix among the world’s elite.
“Whatever fight is lined up, I’ll take it,” he says.
“I’ve got a great team behind me, I trust in them – I trust them whenever I step in the ring.”
A victory on Saturday will restore confidence for Fury, instilling belief within him – and the wider boxing world – that he can mount a genuine challenge and follow in the footsteps of his well-renowned, albeit divisive, older cousin.
Such a development will be an unequivocally positive one for boxing, strengthening an already saturated heavyweight division that Fury describes as ‘exciting and wide open’.
First of all, however, he must get through Saturday’s test without that notorious cut inhibiting his progress.
“Everything has been fine with the cuts – I’ve got no concerns, everything’s great and I’m ready to go,” he says.
“I can’t wait now just to put it all together – I’ve made things hard before, but I just can’t wait now to breeze through the heavyweights.”
A morning of two halves: covering the unveiling of a rare 1938 cricket painting at @The_Lowry arts centre, then interviewing @hughiefury ahead of his comeback heavyweight bout in Manchester on Saturday night. All for @MM_newsonline. Stories to follow… pic.twitter.com/QMvK2xnbtr
— Will Jennings (@WilliamThomasJ) May 23, 2019