Just two months shy of Tyson Fury's anticipated rematch with WBC world titleholder Deontay Wilder on Feb. 22, the lineal heavyweight champion switched trainers.
Fury split with head trainer Ben Davison, a move Davison announced on social media Dec. 15. Shortly thereafter, Fury made a post of his own, in which he said he was "getting the old team back up and running" and returning to Kronk gym and Javan "Sugar" Hill as his new head trainer.
"It came about as a surprise to me," admits Hill, the nephew of the late Hall-of-Fame trainer, Emanuel Steward. "It was all last minute. Within a couple of days I talked to Tyson and he mentioned bringing me into camp, not as being the lead trainer.
"Then Sunday I spoke to him, trying to get some information about the training and running over some things. And he told me about being the head trainer, 'just you, by yourself.'"
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Hill awoke after a short nap to find that news of his new gig was all over social media.
Davison, who had been in the corner of Fury since Fury's return to the ring in 2018 after a two-and-a-half year hiatus from the sport, had been the trainer as recently as the weekend of Nov. 23, when he was in Vegas to scout Wilder, as he faced Luis Ortiz. He declined to comment beyond his initial tweet.
When reached for further comment on the change, Fury did not respond. Fury's father John, however, was very critical with Tyson's performance in September in the British press, when he had a tougher-than-expected time in a tough decision victory over Otto Wallin.
Hill and Fury met in Detroit a decade ago, as Fury sought out Steward.
"I remember when Emanuel first told me that Tyson was coming in the gym," he recalls. "I didn't know who he was. He said, 'There's this heavyweight coming to the gym, it's Andy Lee's cousin.'"
Lee, who briefly held the WBO middleweight title, was trained by Steward before Steward's untimely passing in 2012. Lee was so close to the noted trainer that he lived at Steward's home in Detroit.
"So, there's this big 6-foot-9 guy coming into the gym and I'm like, 'Golly,' I'm watching him move around. "'Damn, he can move like that? He can punch like that?'"
As he saw Fury gracefully float around the ring, Hill was immediately taken by the athleticism that belied his stature. What truly impressed Hill is how he translated that movement into live competition while someone else was throwing punches in his direction.
"He did exactly [to his opponent] what he was doing on the bag, the pads, he did all that during sparring," says Hill.
Fury spent a few weeks out in Detroit, and then later joined the Steward-led training camp of then-heavyweight title holder Wladimir Klitschko. But because of family obligations, Fury made the decision to train full-time in the U.K.
Steward prophesied that one day Fury and Wilder, who also sparred with Klitschko as a young prospect, would stand atop the division.
"[Fury] has matured. He's always been a fighter with a lot of energy, a lot of confidence, courage, he never thinks anyone can beat him. He's always going to put forth his best effort in anything," Hill says of his newest charge. "He likes a challenge, and this is a big challenge for him, the rematch with Wilder. He wants this fight to be won in a big fashion. He doesn't want there to be any doubt."
After getting tabbed to prepare Fury for the rematch, Hill, who had not watched the first bout because he had been in the corner of Adonis Stevenson that night, immediately viewed the first clash with Wilder.
"It was an interesting fight," Hill says of the first Wilder-Fury clash. "I thought it was a close fight, I thought it was a very close fight. Tyson, he made two mistakes and he got caught twice. Well, he made more than two mistakes, but he got caught twice for the mistakes that he made. And that proved pivotal in the fight which landed him a draw."
In Wilder (42-0-1, 41 KOs) they are facing one of the most powerful punchers in all of boxing. Hill drew parallels to one of the most famous alumni of the Kronk Gym.
''He does remind me of Thomas Hearns -- a big right hand that's the go-to punch," Hill says. "Tommy caught everybody with that right hand, it wasn't an accident. It was a bona-fide fact that when he hit someone with that right hand, they're going to get hurt."
Neutralizing and defusing Wilder's right hand will certainly be a priority as Hill begins to prepare Fury beginning in January in Las Vegas.
"[Fury] told me he wanted to be more technical, he wanted me to do more technical stuff," explains Hill, who currently trains Anthony Dirrell, Vladimir Shishkin and Shohjahon Ergashev, among others.
"He was telling me that there's a lot of trainers out there that he's looking at, but nobody is technical, nobody's teaching as a trainer. 'They're just training you. I need someone technical, I want you to be with me again, like we were before when it was me, you and Emanuel, when you were doing that technical pad work, showing me exactly how to throw the punches, the proper balance.'"
For Fury, going back to the Kronk Gym was the closest he could get to reconnecting with the departed Steward.
"That was the reason why he brought me back in, and that's what I want to give him," says Hill.