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Tyson Fury’s return to boxing after a 32-month absence ended in farcical fashion when opponent Sefer Seferi was pulled out of the contest after four rounds at Manchester Arena.
Former world champion Fury had danced his way to the ring and spent the opening two rounds posturing, with little action in the ring.
After a fight in the crowd caused a distraction, the Briton – who was warned for a lack of activity in the second round – began to punch with more menace, landing a solid right hook to the temple.
That was as intense as it got, and when Seferi’s camp brought an end to the bout, some fans threw objects from the stands.
Fury’s return ended 924 days of inactivity following his stunning win over Wladimir Klitschko to land the WBA, IBF and WBO world titles.
Among those present at ringside were celebrities such as former footballer Paul Gascoigne and chef Gordon Ramsay.
But when Fury’s music played after the fourth round, the mood turned hollow as a crowd of about 15,000 emptied.
Fury said it felt “fantastic” to be back after battling depression, losing his boxing licence and facing a period of ineligibility while a UK Anti-Doping investigation played out.
He will return to the ring on 18 August in Belfast, where he is likely to face a stiffer test.
“I’ll be better next time. I’ll have more rounds and fight a better opponent,” said Fury.
“I learned two and a half years is a long time to be out. I’ll take my career very seriously this time and enjoy every moment.”
Searching for signs of greatness
Fury has had a colossal fall from grace and is now focused on claiming world titles he believes are “rightfully” his, and which he never lost in the ring.
Losing seven stone from a peak of 27 stone during his time out of boxing has garnered positive headlines, but this return will be quickly forgotten.
There was little time to see if he has retained any of the sublime footwork which set him apart from his peers, and little chance to see the ringcraft which bamboozled Klitschko.
Seferi – almost five stone lighter and 11 inches shorter than the Briton – attempted to rush his rival in pockets, but one or two glancing right hands aside never threatened to upset the 1-1,000 pre-fight favourite.
There had been a processional feel to fight week, with the intensity of competition lacking as both fighters repeatedly embraced at events.
And those who want to see Fury in a stiff battle will have to wait as, by his own admission, he will not rush his comeback. He has pointed to Muhammad Ali’s return in 1970, questioning if ‘The Greatest’ allowed himself enough time to shake off ring rust when he lost a world title shot against Joe Frazier after just three fights.
If nothing else, he has got the hype surrounding his return out of the way. There were a handful of spiteful right hands, countless feints and jabs, and one well-timed uppercut in the fourth.
It proved too much for Seferi, beaten for the second time in a 25-fight career spent largely a weight division lower.
Patience to re-climb the mountain
The promotional hands of Frank Warren will be key in Fury’s short-term future, as it is likely the former world champion will prove hard to match over the next 12 months.
Another stepping-stone bout is likely, but at least one testing challenge will surely be needed to ready him for the big heavyweight names.
His 26-fight unbeaten record remains intimidating and his ring walk alone underlined the entertainment he brings to the division.
But, at some point, things will have to get serious.
By his own admission, he has to face the likes of WBC world heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder or IBF, WBA and WBO title holder Anthony Joshua if he is to build a lasting legacy.
The champions, though, are increasingly likely to each fight once more before facing each another early in 2019, meaning any window of opportunity for Fury is 12-18 months away.
He will happily use that period to sharpen up, but expect him to tell the boxing world he is ready for the biggest names right away.
‘The public are behind him’ – what they said
Former British heavyweight champion David Price on BBC Radio 5 live: “It will have taken a bit of getting used to for Tyson Fury – being in the media spotlight again.
“For all his laughing and joking, he will have known this was a big occasion for him, and there will have been some nerves.
“I think a fight between me and Fury would create a lot of interest.”
Trainer Jamie Moore on BBC Radio 5 live: “It was a fantastic ovation for Tyson Fury when he came to the ring, and I think he’s the type of character who needs that.
“He’s been vilified in the past – rightly or wrongly – so he’ll be really happy to know the public are behind him.”
BBC boxing correspondent Mike Costello: “Despite laughing about the quality of his opponent pre-fight, Tyson Fury had to think about this.
“Sefer Seferi was lacking in technique, weight and height, but he was really trying to make something of this.”