American heavyweight Kevin Johnson has expressed his admiration for Hughie Lewis Fury and backed the unbeaten youngster to fulfil his potential and one day win a world heavyweight title.
The 20-year-old Fury, cousin of Tyson, takes a major step up in class on February 21, when he meets Ukrainian puncher Andriy Rudenko over ten rounds in Monte Carlo, and Johnson, who has helped Hughie with sparring ahead of the fight, is amazed at the rate of improvement.
“I fell in love with the kid back in Canada when I first boxed with him,” he said. “He must’ve only been 17 or 18 years of age.
“What I love about the guy is he’s brought a little bit of the American craft and added that to his style. That’s unusual for fighters from over here. Most fighters from Europe tend to be pretty basic – one-two, one-two, one-two-three type of fighters. But this kid has learnt and developed the American way and that separates him from the rest.
“I see things in him that these other prospects don’t have. He has composure, poise and he can throw shots they can’t. He doesn’t just do the A, B, C, basic stuff. He’s always thinking in there and is able to improvise when he needs to. The kid can hit, too. He hits like a horse kicks. You can’t play with him.
“He’s coming up right behind Tyson already and he’s only 20 years of age. That’s incredible. I really do think he has the ability to go all the way.”
As for the test that awaits Fury on February 21, Johnson sees no reason why Hughie Lewis won’t be able to keep his unbeaten record intact.
“This is no easy walk in the park for Hughie,” said Johnson. “If he gets careless and gets clipped, he could get dropped or worse.
“Some people are surprised he’s stepped up so quickly, but I’m not. I always say this to myself: ‘If you plan on being the world heavyweight champion, why the hell would you worry about a guy who is 21-0? He’s not the heavyweight champion. He means nothing to me.’
“Well, I think Hughie is probably looking at Rudenko the same way. He sees him as a guy who is 24-1 and who has been beaten by Lucas Browne. Those are the cold, hard facts. Rudenko is not a world heavyweight champion and he probably never will be. Hughie, though, is good enough to one day win a world heavyweight title, so he should be confident of beating a guy like Rudenko at this stage.
“Does Hughie want to be a champion? If he doesn’t, this fight will be a struggle on February 21. He may find his level and come unstuck. But if Hughie does want to be a champion – and I’m certain he does – he’ll ace this test with flying colours. He’ll show he’s on a different level.”
Unsurprisingly, Johnson is enjoying his time with Team Fury in Bolton and sees the experience as perfect preparation ahead of a proposed fight against Anthony Joshua on April 25.
“It’s like a reality television show here,” he said. “When we’re not in the gym, we’re not in the gym. But when we’re in the gym, it’s about the gym and it’s about training and giving your best. You give everything. There’s no time to mess around with any foolishness.
“These are serious people and we’ve all got serious fights on the horizon. You have to give it your all because you can get hurt if you don’t. I love camps like this. It’s why I got into boxing. The atmosphere is just great. We work five days a week and do unlimited rounds. It just never stops.”
*** Fury vs. Rudenko is part of the ‘Thunderbolt in Monaco’ show on February 21 (Channel 5). Headlining the event will be the WBA Super world middleweight title fight between the fearsome Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin and Britain’s Martin Murray ***