Tyson Fury had been urged to target London 2012 Games before Anthony Joshua won Olympic gold

June 17, 2020

Tyson Fury had been urged to target a gold medal at the London 2012 Games, years before Anthony Joshua became Britain's Olympic hero.

A teenage Fury had been left distraught. His Olympic qualification campaign appeared over, having been informed that David Price would take the only super-heavyweight spot for Team GB at the Beijing Olympics.

Great Britain's head coach Terry Edwards had called a meeting with Fury to explain his selection and tried to convince the 19-year-old to commit another four years to the amateur ranks.

"The chat that we had, I felt that he would be far better and far more experienced by the time the London Games came around, than Beijing, and I think that would have probably been correct," Edwards told Sky Sports.

"He didn't agree, obviously."

Amateur trainer Steve Egan had helped to hone Fury's skills since he was a 14-year-old and was frustrated that his fighter did not receive the chance to avenge a points loss to Price a year earlier.

"He was devastated. We wanted a box off with David Price, but they said, 'No, he's already beat him'. Yes, but he was a kid!

"We'll have it now, [but] 'David Price has already beat him, blah, blah, blah,' and they just wouldn't have it."

Fury's dissatisfaction with this decision prompted him to walk away from the British set-up, with his late attempt to earn a place on the Irish team ending in further frustration after he was deemed ineligible for selection.

A promising unpaid career was cut short by Fury, a few months before the opening bout in China, despite being encouraged by Team GB to pursue a gold medal in London.

Joshua instead emerged as Olympic champion in the capital, sealing a final win over Robert Cammarelle to set the scene for his own stunning professional success.

But any suggestion that Fury could have become Team GB's leading medal hope was swiftly answered by Egan.

"Yes, I think so. I told him that. I said, 'You win gold at home, you write your own cheque'."

T-shirts with Fury's name emblazoned on the front had been custom made for that decisive clash with Price in a local ABA final. Manchester's towering young talent against the proven champion from Merseyside.

Fury would send Price to the canvas, but eventually suffered a 22-8 loss.

"It was a massive fight," recalled Egan. "David was Commonwealth gold medallist at the time, and Tyson had eight or nine bouts at just 18, fighting a big, strong man.

"The scoring was a bit out, but for me he just edged it, because Tyson just wasn't quite there that day. I think the occasion got to him. He did drop him, put him down in the second round.

"He was gutted, but we explained it. You can't buy experience, it's an old saying and it's fact."

The more seasoned Price returned with a medal from Beijing, justifying the faith placed in him by Edwards.

"He [Fury] wasn't the potential medallist, for me anyway," said Edwards. "He may not have even qualified.

"David struggled to qualify, he did qualify, and David Price won a bronze medal in the end.

"But Tyson would have said he would have won the gold, I'm sure."

Fury took a sizeable step-up in class at the European Junior Championships in 2007, joining future Olympic medallists such as Anthony Ogogo and John Joe Nevin at the tournament in Serbia.

A defeat by Russia's Maxim Babanin meant Fury had to settle for a silver medal, a verdict that dismayed his trainer Egan, but he had demonstrated his raw qualities to Paul Walmsley, Team GB's World Class Programme Coach.

"He was a little unconventional," said Walmsley. "Wasn't the textbook, stand-up boxer. There was always potential there. You could always see there was something about him."

Fury preferred to fulfil his ambitions in the pro ranks and the graduate from Jimmy Egan's Boxing Academy in Wythenshawe had racked up a string of wins by the time Joshua was sought out by Team GB's selectors.

But could Fury, with a bit more patience, provided a selection dilemma for Walmsley and the other coaching staff?

"Well, if you think about it, AJ was so inexperienced, and if Tyson had of stayed on the squad, his experience would have been massive at the time, because he would have went to all the major tournaments when Josh would just be coming on to the development squad," Walmsley said.

"Theoretically he could well have been the hope."

A late entry into the sport meant Joshua had to cram in advice from coaching staff, who tried to refine his explosive power, and Walmsley believes his former student made faster early progress than Fury.

"I think he did, yeah. When AJ won his gold medal in London, three years prior to that he wasn't even boxing, so it was a a massive achievement.

"Fury is full of self-belief and so is Josh, but Josh is more in-depth of wanting to learn. 'Why does this work? Why doesn't that work? What should you do here?' He's just really in-depth about what he does, about learning."

Any lingering debate about Britain's two rivals could be ended next year after the heavyweight champions agreed terms in principle for a two-fight deal.

Fury was unable to fight on the world's biggest amateur stage, but he will now seize his chance to be crowned undisputed champion, according to old mentor Egan.

"Tyson can either box his head off, or put it on him and knock him out, whichever he wants to do.

"I think he will stop him. It could be early, it could be late, it don't matter.

"I can't wait."

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