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Tyson Fury was first knocked down by Neven Pajkic – this is the untold story

A forgotten chapter of Fury’s career began quietly in Canada with Emanuel Steward in his corner for the only time, and ended back home amid interrogations about his chin

“I know I introduced him to the canvas,” grins the first man to knock Tyson Fury down, the man who started a chorus of questions about whether the future world heavyweight champion could take a smack.

It was a fight that the young and cocksure Fury chose for himself, an opponent that he chased to Canada and back over a barbaric year, a grudge match he did ultimately win but also one which raised troubling concerns.

The big lesson for the first man to knock Tyson Fury down? “He has a will to come back up”. He is no stranger to a mid-fight crisis, Fury, despite his 31 undefeated fights but at the time, with the giant heavyweight on the seat of his pants in his hometown, eyes were rolled.

The big lesson for the first man to knock Tyson Fury down? “He has a will to come back up”. He is no stranger to a mid-fight crisis, Fury, despite his 31 undefeated fights but at the time, with the giant heavyweight on the seat of his pants in his hometown, eyes were rolled.

Pajkic was the first man to knock down Fury
Pajkic landed an overhand right in the second round that hurt Fury

Neven Pajkic was the challenger to Fury’s Commonwealth title in 2011 but, more interestingly, he was an early indicator of the engaging and attractive rivalries that the British heavyweight could drum up.null

“He has an ugly face,” Pajkic said at the press conference.

Fury replied: “I like his hair-cut but when will he get it finished?”

Notably the 22-year-old Fury said: “If Pajkic gives me a hard fight I will retire because if I can’t handle him, I’ll never unify the division.”

In the second round of their fight in Manchester, Fury was floored for the first time as a professional. Pajkic knocked him down with an overhand right and Fury’s hometown crowd gasped. The hellacious round ended with Fury absorbing another massive punch and desperately clinging on.

“I only cracked him with 30 percent,” Pajkic exclusively tells Sky Sports nine years later. “I didn’t expect him to go down. I practised the right hand, left hook. To my surprise, he fell after the first punch.

“I hoped he would be groggy with the right hand then I would finish him off with the left hook. The right hand was supposed to be a set-up. I wish he hadn’t gone down because the left hook was coming and would have put him out.”

Pajkic won just five of his 18 fights by knockout but had seen Fury caught with a hurtful punch in his previous fight, just two months prior.

“Fury fought a guy I had beaten, Nicolai Firtha. A tough guy,” Pajkic said. “That fight told me everything I needed to know. Guys who study their opponents? I get it. But it’s a dog-fight, that’s it. I did what I always did – head down, move forwards, swing.”

Pajkic knew Fury had been hurt before.

“With the same punch that I dropped him with. I knew that. And I practised that punch.”

Tellingly Fury weathered the storm and charged right back into the danger zone – in the very next round he floored Pajkic twice and brought up a 17th undefeated fight.

“I gave myself a scare,” he admitted afterwards.

Fury eventually beat Pajkic in three rounds
Fury defended the Commonwealth title against Pajkic

“He overcame adversity on that night and showed his championship mentality,” Pajkic told Sky Sports.

The same spirit would allow Fury to defy logic by climbing off the canvas against Deontay Wilder in the 12th round of their first WBC title fight eight years later.

Two years after Pajkic, Fury was on the canvas again so a worrying pattern was threatening to emerge. Steve Cunningham, a former cruiserweight and a far smaller man who had knocked out less than half of his opponents, did the damage in 2013.

“Any man can go down,” Pajkic said when asked if he exploited a future weakness in Fury.

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