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Why Tyson Fury split with trainer Ben Davison ahead of Deontay Wilder rematch

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
Tyson Fury and Ben Davison are no longer working together, but remain friends. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

There would be no lucrative rematch with WBC champion Deontay Wilder for Tyson Fury were it not for Ben Davison. There may not even have been an initial bout between the two giants with claims to the heavyweight throne were it not for Davison.

Davison revealed on social media on Sunday that he’d split from Fury and would no longer train the lineal heavyweight champion, who fights Wilder in a rematch of their memorable 2018 bout on Feb. 22 in Las Vegas. On Monday, Fury announced that SugarHill Steward, the nephew of the late Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward, would be in his corner for Wilder.

Fury was more than 400 pounds and not far away from a suicide attempt when he’d hooked up with Davison. With Davison’s guidance, he dropped 140 pounds, fought Wilder to a controversial draw and signed a big-dollar co-promotional agreement with Top Rank to fight in the U.S.

Davison was far more than a trainer, and actually working on strategy and teaching Fury technique were the least of his contributions. He is the guy who, quite literally, brought Fury back to life. 

He was there as much for the way he could help Fury with his mental health problems as he was for his boxing knowledge. Davison is 27 and doesn’t have the years of experience that someone like Freddie Roach brings to the corner. He is a perfectly competent trainer, but there are hundreds, if not thousands, of perfectly competent trainers.

Davison was the Fury whisperer, a guy who was there for Fury during the many rough patches in his life. Fury has been public with his mental health demons, and Davison is one of the key figures who helped him through that. It’s going to be something Fury has to fight all of his life, but he’s in a far better place now than he was in those dark days after he’d beaten Wladimir Klitschko in 2015 to become unified champion and began to think of taking his own life.

He speaks publicly about his issues in a bid to help others face their problems. People are often reluctant to admit they have problems and need help, and Fury has tried to remove the stigma that surrounds them. One isn’t “nuts” simply because he/she suffers from depression or some other form of mental illness. 

Davison was there to support Fury and be an understanding voice and a watchful eye. He was the perfect trainer at the perfect spot in Fury’s life.

But as Fury has improved in that regard, he’s not in need of as much help as he was, and he’ll have former middleweight champion Andy Lee in his camp to serve that role.

Fury trained at the Kronk Gym in Detroit when Emanuel Steward was alive and got to know SugarHill from there. With his fight with Wilder essentially determining who is the world’s No. 1 heavyweight, it’s incumbent upon Fury to put together the best team possible.

He would have liked to have had Davison remain on as a No. 2, but Davison wasn’t interested in that. Davison is training Billy Joe Saunders and can now commit all of his attention to Saunders, who is in the running to be Canelo Alvarez’s next opponent.

Fury outboxed Wilder when they met on Dec. 1, 2018, in Los Angeles in a fight that ended as a split draw. One judge favored Fury, another had Wilder and the third had it even. Wilder’s knockdowns in the ninth and 12th rounds were what got him the points to earn the draw.

If Fury stays off the deck in the rematch, he’s almost certain to win by a wide margin. Fury is by far the better pure boxer and can win the fight by keeping a jab in Wilder’s face and keeping him at a distance where he can’t close the gap and land his powerful right.

Wilder is arguably the hardest puncher in boxing history, and is riding a wave of confidence heading into the rematch. He figures to be more dangerous in February than he was in 2018, so Fury needs to be comfortable that he’s doing all he can to be prepared to defuse those bombs headed in his direction.

If he feels Steward gives him the best chance to do that rather than Davison, then he needs Steward in his corner. The decision has nothing to do with Davison’s ability to train and all to do with Fury’s comfort.

Davison will go down in boxing lore for what he did with Fury, even if they never work together again. Bringing Fury back from the brink of death to within a single punch of the WBC belt is a monstrous achievement that won’t ever be forgotten.

He was that man for that time. SugarHill Steward is the man for the present.

Fury made the move that made the most sense for where he stands in his career at this stage, and no one should have a complaint or a second-guess about what he’s done.

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