HE’S outspoken, shoots from the hip, says things he probably shouldn’t and is exactly the kind of character the heavyweight division needs. But ask Tyson Fury the wrong question, at this time of all times (as he looks to launch a comeback), and you’re likely to experience a little of what Wladimir Klitschko felt when the pair met in Dusseldorf in 2015. You’ll find him elusive and hard to pin down. He’ll leave you sweating, anxious, and swinging desperately at thin air.
“Terminated,” he might say.
This became clear a couple of weeks ago when Fury cut short an interview with an obtrusive ITV journalist keen to draw him on matters pertaining to everything but the intended narrative (The People’s Champ is Back) of the day. It was awkward, it was frosty, and it split opinion. Some sided with the journalist, praising him for asking tough questions, while others condemned the outsider for reopening old wounds and dragging up Fury’s past.
On reflection, the journalist was probably half right. But only half right.
He was well within his rights to broach the subject of Fury’s failed performance-enhancing drug test. That, after all, is the primary reason why a talented and charismatic former world heavyweight champion has been out of the ring for over two years. What’s more, UKAD’s (UK Anti-Doping) inability to provide clear answers or a simple explanation for the mess has left everybody in the lurch, and had us all wondering whether Tyson Fury is a returning drug cheat or a returning champion and saviour who was simply wronged by the establishment and the victim of a flawed and confusing process. Frankly, we’re still unsure.
All we know is there was a positive test for the steroid nandrolone (February 2015), some blame placed on contaminated offal, some personal problems, a positive test for cocaine (September 2016), a protest, a settlement, a backdated two-year ban (from June 2016), and then, finally, a scheduled return. But all of this, we’re told, is now in the past. With possible fights against Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder in the offing, it doesn’t really matter.
Only it kind of does. Because in much the same way a husband probably can’t get away with walking out on his wife, returning two-and-a-half years later, and terminating every one of her questions, Fury can’t expect to simply pick up where he left off without at least explaining his whereabouts.
“Where have you been, Big Poppa?”
“Terminated,” the husband says, sitting down at the dinner table, his chair positioned exactly as it was two years ago.
“Is it true?”
“Okay, honey. Sorry I asked. Would you like dinner? I’m about to cook the entrails of a butchered boar.”
The second question terminated by the ITV journalist was less interesting and less important. It centred on comments Fury had made in the past and shed no light on his comeback, his two-year absence or even his current state of mind. It was, therefore, begging to be terminated.
He should have known by now that Tyson Fury, 29, says stuff. He says stuff he believes and says stuff he knows will get a reaction. Which is why an apology (or lack thereof) for comments made years ago, or even comments made an hour ago, means very little in the grand scheme of things.
It’s also the reason why a press conference – an open opportunity to record, on video, him saying something controversial or crazy or ill-advised in the pursuit of views – is a dangerous place for a wild man like Fury. It’s a minefield. Often he will need protecting. Now and again he’ll need saving. But, equally, there are a few pertinent questions that will, in time, surely need to be asked and answered in this setting. (In any other sport, this would have already happened.)
Until Fury’s good and ready, though, here are some alternative questions that might go unterminated:
1. Are you going to fight again?
Of course Tyson Fury, 25-0 (18), is going to fight again. We’re told he’ll fight again on June 9 at the Manchester Arena. Why would he lie?
The problem is, it’s been a long time coming and there have been many broken promises. This makes it tough for anyone to believe the ‘Return of the Mac’ will get off the ground without further rickets. It’s official, yes, so benefit of the doubt must be given, but until we see the big man in the ring doing what he does best, a feeling of uncertainty will linger. (The announcement of a June 9 opponent, set for next week, will move us a step closer.)
2. What do you currently weigh?
The only thing more unpredictable than a Tyson Fury interview is the man’s weight. Up and down, it was so up at one point it became a health concern.
It’s to his credit, then, that Fury has managed to get himself back down to training shape and will, in a month’s time, have returned to fighting shape.
3. How many hands would you need to beat Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua?
The answer is “one”, but it’s a good question to ask more than once. Fury on Joshua and Wilder is always fun. He’ll call them athletic. He’ll call them bums. He may even talk about how well-endowed they are. But if he’s in a more serious and considered mood, the reasons why he believes he beats both are well worth listening to. Fury might be many things, but, when it comes to boxing, and boxing history, he’s certainly not stupid.
4. Where did Deontay Wilder find 50 million dollars?
This is the other heavyweight conspiracy doing the rounds and I’m sure Tyson Fury has the answer. Fury, lest we forget, has all the answers. He is The Messiah. The Almighty One. The Furious One. These other heavyweights, the “bare bums in the shower” who win belts and defend them, are mere mortals in his presence. In fact, without him, there would be no belts and no 50 million dollar offers. There would be nothing.
Or something like that.
5. What is your favourite Notorious B.I.G. album?
You can’t go around calling yourself Big Poppa and not have a favourite Biggie album. It would almost be as bad as the folk who wear Ramones T-shirts and can’t even identify Blitzkrieg Bop.
We need to know if Tyson Fury’s love is real. So: Ready to Die or Life After Death?
6. Can you please sing a song for me?
This question’s perfect when you need to pull the plug or lighten the mood. Perfect, too, if you attend press conferences for no other reason than to make friends with professional fighters.
Typically asked at the end of an interview, this is the great lubricator and will provide an indication of how much Fury likes you. Basically, if he sings a song, he likes you. (Either that or he’s bored and looking for a way out.)
7. What was on Wladimir Klitschko’s USB stick?
Destined to become one of boxing’s great unsolved mysteries, if there’s one man we can trust to locate and reveal what’s on Wladimir Klitschko’s USB stick, it’s Tyson Fury. He’ll know what’s on there. He’ll get to the bottom of it.
And, even if he can’t, he’ll have a creative and probably lewd take on what he suspects is on there. Especially if you remind him that Klitschko recently labelled him, “a fart in the wind.”
8. How did you make beating Wladimir Klitschko in Germany look so easy?
Amid all the Fury furore, this is the one moment that shouldn’t be ignored or forgotten. He beat Wladimir Klitschko before it became fashionable to beat Wladimir Klitschko and did it in a way that suggested his composure and ring intelligence was on a different level to the rest of the heavyweight division. It indicated dominance. A long reign. Potential greatness.
But then Fury lost the belts, hasn’t boxed since, and now none of us know what to think.
9. Do you feel disrespected by the British media?
This one always works. It gets him onside, makes him think you aren’t like the others (those scallywags who dare take shots at him and diminish his career achievements). In an us and them scenario, you make your allegiance clear from the outset. That’s important; the left jab of the interview process.
Worth noting, however, that when Fury has been asked this question in recent times he has done away with the bitter and confrontational stance of years gone by. Instead, he will now pooh-pooh the idea of disrespect, say he has been given plenty of credit, and then presumably tell any remaining haters to “suck his d**k” if they don’t like what he says or does.
10. Of all the different types of offal, what is your favourite?
If you really must pursue the whole Fury-failed-a-drug-test line of questioning (seriously, why would you bother?), this is probably the safest way of getting inside his reach.
Be warned: he might twig where you’re going with it and terminate you. There’s a very real possibility of that. But if Fury’s love of offal is genuine, there’s also a chance he becomes excited by the question, best asked when he’s hungry, and feels no way about explaining the nutritional benefits of tongue, testicles and tripe.