April 12, 2018
April 12, 2018
Tyson Fury undercard

Action Images/Reuters/Tony O'Brien

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IT’s the same question. Who is Tyson Fury? The former heavyweight champion of the world is a mass contradictions. Was his absence from the sport self-inflicted or imposed, as he needed to resolve the fall out from a failed drug test? Was he tormented during that exile? Or did he enjoy it? Is he ready to challenge once again for the titles he used to hold? Or is the Anthony Joshua fight going to be too difficult to make?

Did he suffer in that two-and-a-half-year hiatus from boxing?  There was turmoil. He reached his lowest points, battling with despair, ballooning in weight, partying in a way that was inconducive to the life of a professional athlete. But Tyson Fury of course is unrepentant. “I actually enjoyed being fat,” he declared. “I used think I’m a real Big Poppa now… It didn’t affect my confidence. We’re all beautiful no matter fat or thin.”

But being the heavyweight champion of the world is a strange place, he reports. Every day is like Christmas Day, says Fury. “That’s what it’s like when you’re a bad man like me. There comes a point in your life when you’ve dreamed a dream, like Susan Boyle did, she dreamed a dream. And the dream became reality It’s like okay, what next? When you’re living the dream every day, what do you do?” he asks. “If it’s Christmas every single day of the year, 365 days is Christmas Day, it gets a bit boring doesn’t it? When you can go out and do what you want, when you want, go anywhere you want, eat what you want, drink what you want, nothing becomes a treat anymore. So that’s what it was really.”

Can Fury come back from that though? His uncle Peter Fury was in his corner for his 2015 triumph over Wladimir Klitschko. Now he has a new trainer, the untested Ben Davison but Tyson of course maintains that he can get back to his best. Well, to be more accurate, he claims he’s back to his best right now. “I’m ready. I can beat AJ tomorrow night. I can beat [Deontay] Wilder, [Joseph] Parker, all of them. I can beat them all. I’m ready to fight. I’ve been sparring 12 rounds with three different guys, one in, one out. I’ve no need to tell you a lie. I’m better now than I was before,” he said. “I know nobody can beat me and I know I’ve still got it.”

Tyson Fury

While Fury recused himself, Joshua won the WBO, WBA and IBF heavyweight world titles, filled stadia across the UK and is surely one of the biggest names in the sport. Tyson, in his own estimation, is ready for that challenge now, but is happy to bide his time. “I’m looking to win a world title back this year actually,” Fury said. “The way I look at it is what’s going to be is going to be. If it’s a world title fight or John Murray in my return, it is what it is. It doesn’t matter who I fight in the return because it’s my personal ambition to fight again.”

Even though they are currently signed with rival promoters, Fury with Frank Warren and Joshua with Eddie Hearn, Tyson is adamant it won’t be the business of boxing that keeps them apart. “I’ve made it very, very easy now, this fight. I think it’s a fight that needs to happen. The biggest fight in British boxing history, in my opinion and I think it’s made it very easy now, to make the fight. When we announce the broadcaster in a minute [or at some later date], it’s going to be two of the biggest broadcasters in the country going head to head for the biggest fight of the century. So whoever’s got the most money will put the fight on,” Fury said. “[Or a] joint broadcast. Pacquiao and Mayweather were on HBO and Showtime.”

On Thursday, after announcing his June 9 return in Manchester, Fury declined to fire any verbal broadsides at Joshua. “I respect any fighter who gets in between the ropes. How could you not respect a world heavyweight champion. Wilder as well, Parker, all the guys. They’re all very good boxers. Anybody who can get in there and box at a high level deserves a lot of respect, credit. They deserve a lot of money and deserve a lot of attention. From me 10 times more, because me more than anybody else knows how hard it is. So they deserve everything that they get and I’m very proud of these guys. Because let’s not forget these guys didn’t come from a private education. They came from the gutter, they’ve come from nowhere. And now they’re at the top of the tree. You have to congratulate people like this,” Fury said.

Though he claims, “I am the lineal heavyweight champion. I have the status going back to John L. Sullivan. From the first heavyweight champion in history, I carry the lineage of the division and until someone beats me then they can’t take it. That’s just the way it is.”

He added, “To be the lineal heavyweight in my opinion is better than being any alphabetical title holder. Because there’s that many about today, come on, who really cares?”

With the prospect of trying to become a two-time heavyweight champion being dangled in front of him, historic precedents have been mentioned. But Fury says he’s not inspired by the champions of boxing’s glorious past. He conquered “his Everest” when he beat Klitschko. Now he wants to tame, or harness at least, the unsatisfied impulses that tore him away from the sport.

“The past is the past. I don’t look to other fighters for inspiration or anything like that,” he said. “This is more my personal self. Before it was about winning belts and earning a few quid, doing right and being remembered and all that. But now it’s about me. Being very selfish, it’s about me. I want to get there and prove to me that I can go through all those things and come back and still fight again. It’s not about winning a belt in my next fight or being rich or whatever. It’s about me personally getting in there and boxing. Here’s the point. There’ll never be another Tyson Fury.”

“There’s never been somebody in that position, what I done, to walk away from that amount of money and say no, not interested. Euromillions wins I walked away from. I said no, don’t care,” he continued. “It was what it was. I didn’t want to do it and I didn’t do it. Nothing or nobody could make me do anything I don’t want to do.

“To come back, do it all again, if I can come back and do it all again, I’ll be very blessed.”

He sounds the same. The brash man who promised he’d beat Klitschko 2015 still declares himself the best heavyweight in the world in 2018. But with the ascent of Joshua, and of Wilder, now he has something to prove all over again. Who is Tyson Fury? Once he finally steps into the ring and under the lights at the Manchester Arena on June 9, we’ll know a little bit more.