Until Lennox Lewis came along, Britain had a long history of horizontal heavyweights -- a tradition of crumbling English muffins who couldn't win the big ones.
In the 1950s and '60s, 'Hemoglobin' Henry Cooper -- a guy who shed more blood than the average el toro in Barcelona -- became the poster boy for the fistic futility that has haunted English heavyweights since longtime champ 'Fainting' Phil Scott was knocked out by Jack Sharkey, Young Stribling and Canada's own Larry Gains in the three bouts that mercifully ended Scott's career in 1931.
Cooper -- who was KO'd by Muhammad Ali (twice), Floyd Patterson and Zora Folley, among others -- was so afraid of Toronto's George Chuvalo that he outright refused to risk his Commonwealth title against the rugged Canadian, even though Chuvalo was ranked ahead of him for the better part of two decades.
Tonight in Essex, England's latest heavyweight sensation will attempt to win the national championship in only his eighth pro outing when six-foot-seven Tyson Fury (7-0, 7 KOs) takes on John Mc Dermott (25-5). If nothing else, the fight has sparked more than passing interest on both sides of the pond simply because Fury is already being touted as the "saviour" of Commonwealth heavyweights.
The fact the Manchester native isn't averse to shooting from the lip is good, too.
"It's not personal between me and 'McDonut', but his promoter, Frank Maloney, certainly has a lot to answer for," Fury told themirror.uk website this week. "Maloney has called me a rent-a-quote, which is amazing coming from him. He was just a mouth in a Union Jack suit for all those years he was with Lennox Lewis. My pet dog could have done for Lewis what Maloney did -- and he's blind with only one leg."
A win tonight would likely vault Fury into the world's Top 50 -- no small accomplishment for a fighter with so little experience. And it could set the stage for a challenge to Commonwealth champ Danny Williams before year's end.
If Edmonton promoters are on the ball, they should try to ensure Fury's future also includes showdowns with a couple of local big men: Sheldon Hinton and/or Tye Fields.
HINTON ON HOLD
Speaking of Hinton, Canada's No. 6-ranked heavyweight is still in hard training at the Beverly Bronx Gym, awaiting word on who -- or when -- he'll fight next.
Hinton was signed to meet world-ranked Monte Barrett last month at Telus Field, but the bout was rescheduled for tomorrow after he sustained an injury in training. Now it's been bumped back another month, which will likely take Barrett out of the picture.
"I'll be ready to fight and beat whoever is in the other corner; I'm training like a madman," Hinton said this week. "It's the waiting that's hard to deal with. I wanna fight, man."
When the card does come off (mid-October appears most likely), look for former Olympian Adam Trupish to make his pro debut, along with bouts featuring unbeaten Arash Usmanee, Omar Valdez and James Cermak.
Tye Fields, the six-foot-eight southpaw who relocated to Edmonton from Las Vegas last winter, is currently in Los Angeles, helping No. 3-ranked Chris Arreola (27-0, 24 KOs) prepare to challenge WBC champ Vitali Klitschko (37-2, 36 KOs) on Sept. 26 at the Staples Center.
"Arreola's people were looking for a big guy that would give him hard sparring, and Tye has really filled the bill," said Ken Lakusta, who trains Fields here. "Tye has worked with Klitschko before, too, so he's familiar with his style. From what I hear, he's even switching to orthodox for some of the sessions, so he's really giving Arreola some great work."