ROMANI PRIDE OF BRITISH-IRISH BOXING STAR TYSON FURY
“I’m proud of what I am” says Tyson Fury, the British Irish boxer of his traveller roots. Strong words from a very strong man, the Manchester-born athlete is considered one of the best boxers of his generation and is ready to compete for the British Heavyweight Championship.
It was announced recently that he will later this year face current British champion David Haye in a high-profile bout in the UK, the like of which the country has not seen for years.
Named after the American fighter Mike, the rise of Tyson Fury has happened at a furious pace, and he has become a cult figure among British sports fans.
His increasing spotlight in the public eye brings with it some detractors, naturally, but with Fury’s traveller roots some such critics resort to ethnic slurs about his heritage.
However, Fury seems unmoved :”I get it every day. It’s mainly just Facebook warriors, and I don’t react as I know it hurts them to see me succeeding.”
At 6ft 9in it is perhaps no surprise that his enemies unleash their bile from the keyboard rather than in person. Fury’s progress comes at a time where Romani communities in the UK have been gaining more attention in the mainstream media.
However, unlike the boxer’s rave reviews in the newspapers, the UK Roma have been shown in a deeply disrespectful light in the Channel 4 TV series “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.”
In a tone that goes beyond sneering, the reality TV show tells the stories of several Romani families as they prepare for a forthcoming marriage celebration.
It has attracted widespread criticism for alleged pandering to stereotypes, mocking the community for their traditional rituals.
Not surprisingly, Fury is an outspoken critic of the show and has called it “fake”.
He insisted: “If you took all of your knowledge of the traveller communities from that show, then you’d be well off the mark.”
While critical of the show’s producers, Fury also pointed at the supposed acting of its main characters.
He added: “Those crazy dresses, they just know they’re going on TV. It’s a big put-on.”
However, while the Romani boxer has condemned this particular piece of popular entertainment, he was less vocal about Dale Farm, where several traveller families were evicted from their homes in 2011.
Somewhat depressingly he predicted: “They (the Roma) are going to get this sort of thing forever. It’s the world we live in.”
But despite this bleak outlook, Fury is relentless in promoting his own Romani identity and mentions it in almost every single public appearance.
“I like the feel of being a gypsy. The traveller background gives you the determination to win, and to dig deep” boasted Fury.
Winning has certainly become a habit for him, with his latest victory a knockout against Steve Cunningham in Madison Square Garden in New York.
Indeed, his professional record is so far flawless with 21 wins and no losses. It has taken hard work and great character to recover from a significant setback in his amateur career.
Competing to represent the UK at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Fury was ignored in favour of another boxer David Price, with whom he has had a long running public feud.
However, as a professional Fury has now soared to a number 2 ranking with the imminent Haye fight giving him the opportunity to stake a claim for a shot at the world title.
At the age of 24, Fury should still have his best years ahead of him and his continued success provides a platform from which to speak up about the discrimination so often encountered by Roma in his home country and the countries in which he competes.
Inspiration is not something in which Fury appears to be lacking, but the story of Johann Trollmann (ADD LINK TO PREVIOUS ARTICLE) would surely appeal.
Like Fury, Trollmann was of Romani origin and was a very talented boxer however the latter had his career and life viciously swiped from him by Nazi Germany.
A religious man, Fury insists that the riches that have come with his talent have done nothing to change his beliefs, nor has it affected the connection he feels with the Roma.
Acknowledging the dangers inherent to his sport, he stated poignantly “People die in the ring. If anything ever happens to me, I am happy I have found God.”