If you'd glanced at boxing's heavyweight division 12 months ago you'd have been forgiven for thinking it had been cast into some sort of cryogenic state. As admirable as the Klitschko bothers reign had been for the previous decade, it had been achieved not with the flair and gusto that the sports blue riband event had been used to, but with a morbid philosophy and athleticism. The idea of getting things done in the ring and saying the right PR outside of it, a whooshing of thumbs up and down that may have pleased the corporate sponsors but turned off the watching masses in their droves as they turned to other combat sports for an edge that had simply evaporated between the ropes.
Whilst many had given up completely on the division however, what nobody saw coming was a November night in Germany when an unfancied gypsy fighter from Britain would turn the sport completely on its head. Enter Tyson Fury, a source of media ridicule up until that point, who gave world class press conferences but struggled to be considered a world class fighter. A man who was tolerated as a pantomime character until suddenly, and somewhat brilliantly, he found himself king.
From that point on of course, hypocrisy has reigned. Overnight Fury found himself both a social outcast and a target for those looking to defend the Left whilst blurring the idea of freedom of expression. The British Boxing Board of Control this week issued a warning over his controversial comments after the furore which surrounded his nomination for BBC Sports Personality of the Year, an award which it's hard to imagine Fury would consider himself fit to win. A curious organisation anyway, they're a bunch who only seem to get involved in the affairs of British fighters when they suddenly become world champions. It seems a draconian stance and also a misunderstanding of a man who's being forced to defend something that's a storm in a teacup at best, no matter how outdated his comments may have been.
Whilst there are exceptions, boxers are for the most part from pretty tough backgrounds, and as such lack not so much the intelligence but the social sophistication not to reign it in at times. By the very nature of the sport, it's difficult for us to expect fighters to be role models.
Have we learned no lessons from football, where the game was snatched from the hands of the Working Classes who had nurtured and supported it for so long, and sold off to corporate sponsors as a sanitised, family friendly 'experience'? Thanks to this we now have a Premiership full of PR trained media robots afraid to show any suggestion of a personality. It's become as dull as the legions of stat-obsessed fans who bicker on social media about a Latvian left back's passing accuracy. Boxing is a better sport for its characters, and we should be wary of the motivations of those who try and change that.