BECAUSE very little of what Tyson Fury has done in the past two years has made much sense, it seemed somewhat appropriate that the UKAD (UK Anti-Doping) statement released this week – confirming a failed Fury drug test, while also telling us he’d served a reduced, backdated ban – was every bit as confusing and enigmatic as the boxer it discussed.
Revealing in the sense we know Fury is now free to box, providing his boxing license is renewed, the statement also quite brilliantly told us nothing at all. Guilty? Not guilty? Who the hell knows?
What we do know, or at least have been led to believe, is this: There was a failed drug test, a denial, a long wait and the threat of legal action. There was then a series of hearings (some postponed and rearranged) before, finally, on Tuesday (December 12), we learned that Tyson and Hughie Fury (Tyson’s cousin) had indeed failed a drug test, for the steroid nandrolone, but had blamed elevated levels of said drug on contaminated offal. After that, it gets weird. Weirder than before, in fact, as UKAD appear to have agreed to backdate the ban and reduce it from four years to two, meaning, if everything reported is correct, Tyson Fury will be free to box again in 2018.
Hooray (I think).
For some, those questioning how this whole mess has been handled, it will be the most muted welcome home party of all time. For Tyson Fury, however, 2018 represents the chance to reinvent and perhaps redeem himself, not to mention make an obscene amount of money in potential fights against Deontay Wilder, Tony Bellew, and, of course, the jewel in British boxing’s crown, Anthony Joshua.
“I’m a fighting man through and through and I’ve never backed down from anyone in my life,” said Fury. “I was certainly not going to back down from fighting this dispute.
“Hughie and I have maintained our innocence from day one and we’re now happy that it has finally been settled with UKAD and we can move forward knowing that we’ll not be labelled drug cheats. I can now put the nightmare of the last two years behind me.
“Next year I will be back doing what I do best, better than ever and ready to reclaim the world titles, which are rightfully mine. It’s time to get the party started.”
So long as he doesn’t party too hard, Tyson Fury will always be a welcome addition to the heavyweight division. Welcome by us; welcome by his peers. He is, we now realise, as important to them, his rivals, as they are to him – if not more so. It’s why they will embrace a Tyson Fury return the way a child greets the grandparent prone to slipping a fiver in their pocket each time they visit. It’s why, if you’re a heavyweight, there could be no better outcome than ‘The Gypsy King’ righting his wrongs and returning to the circus, bringing with him his unique brand of trash talk and headline-grabbing controversy. For Anthony Joshua, in particular, a Fury return is a victory of Wladimir Klitschko proportions, one that will already have Eddie Hearn, his promoter, salivating at the prospect of the two meeting in a ring at Wembley Stadium.
In the end, it’s this outpouring of goodwill, this desperation to see Tyson Fury back in boxing, which will help to gloss over a lot of what happened before. It’s also what will ensure most skim-read the UKAD statement, caring only that TYSON FURY IS BACK and HEAVYWEIGHT MAYHEM IS RESTORED. The rest is just small print. The drug stuff? Neither here nor there. The ban? That’s over. Who cares? This is heavyweight boxing, remember. Heavyweights – men like Luis Ortiz, Alexander Povetkin, Lucas Browne, Mariusz Wach, Erkan Teper and Bermane Stiverne – knock big blokes out for our entertainment, and that alone is enough to repent any sin. If they’ve got an inspirational story and a cool catchphrase – step forward, Shannon Briggs – all the better. Let’s go, champ. Let’s go, champ. Let’s go, champ.
Let’s face it, the heavyweight division, despite its collection of loons, is a place nobody wants to visit if Tyson Fury isn’t home. The heavyweight division without Tyson Fury is a kids’ birthday party without a clown, a stand-up routine without punch lines, a university without a student union. Without Tyson Fury, where’s the fun? Where’s the danger? Who do we have to blame when it all goes wrong?
In all seriousness, though, it’s good to see the big guy, in all his husky glory, back in the fold, back ready to fight. (Okay, ready to train for a fight. Let’s not rush things.) Early signs are positive and video clips of Fury on the pads, drip-fed to social media, have helped remind us how gifted and well-schooled he is in his safe place, the boxing ring, and how the attributes Wladimir Klitscho feared – the height, the reach, the speed, the composure – will forever be his to utilise, regardless of how much fat is attached to his face and midriff. (Which is to say, even in his current state, that of Morecambe’s resident Tony Soprano impersonator, the guy can really fight.)
Now, as we approach 2018 and wonder whether Tyson Fury, still just 29 years of age, is capable of doing more than looking relaxed and flashy on pads and s**t-talking Eddie Hearn between verses of nineties R&B, let us celebrate the fact a self-proclaimed fighting man is once again free to fight. Let us be thankful for it. Thankful he’s back. Thankful the whole charade is over.
To commemorate this moment, here are five opponents the former heavyweight champion of the world might (but most likely won’t) decide to face in his first fight back.
Recklessly steaming headfirst into a Wembley Stadium mega fight against Anthony Joshua is perhaps the most Tyson Fury move Tyson Fury could produce at this point. It’s risky, ill-advised and dumb. You know he wants to do it. That said, it probably won’t happen for some time. Which is a good thing, I think. Let it build. Let the new Tyson Fury become the old Tyson Fury again. Wait and see if that’s even a possibility.
On paper, Fury is seemingly too big for this to be a realistic proposition, and Bellew, a former light-heavyweight, has previously conceded this point. Still, let’s not forget Steve Cunningham, at six-foot-three and fifteen stone, wasn’t too far away from upsetting Tyson Fury in 2013. Let’s also not forget that a fight between Fury and Bellew, two larger-than-life characters with the gift of the gab, would be a lucrative one that would earn both men millions. And, ultimately, that’s kind of all that matters.
This one has a cute storyline: Parker somehow managed to defeat Hughie Fury in September, despite Fury showing ‘shades of Ali’ throughout the twelve rounds they shared. Ahead of that fight, Parker, the WBO champion, was nothing but respectful when asked about Tyson Fury, aware he is only champion today because Fury’s slaying of Klitschko and subsequent disappearing act released a number of the belts. Parker is also a man now in demand, a champion deemed beatable, which means Fury will have to be quick if he wants to get to the New Zealander before Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder.
It would be like childhood sweethearts hooking up following lives well-lived – marriage, kids, divorce, heartache. Apart for years, they would realise, before it’s too late, that they were always meant to be together. Also, if nothing else, the fight offers David Price the chance to prove he’s more than just a plumber from Liverpool.
Let’s go, champ. Let’s go, champ. Let’s go, champ. What more needs to be said?