TYSON FURY took great pride in publicising his ongoing mental health battle as he reflected on how the perception of him has changed in the last 12 months.
A running theme in Fury’s comeback following two and a half years out of the ring has been his willingness to discuss his struggles with depression in a frank and honest manner.
Fury shed around 10 stone in a bid to re-establish himself as the dominant heavyweight in the world and, ahead of his Las Vegas bow against Tom Schwarz, the Briton revealed he still has his low moments.
Yet there was satisfaction in his voice as he spoke about inspiring others with similar issues on a conference call to promote his showdown at the MGM Grand this weekend.
He said: “I get inundated with messages and things on a daily basis with people thanking me for the help.
“I’m just so proud that my journey and my story is inspiring other people to lose weight and get well again and be healthy.
“It’s an absolutely amazing feeling and I’m so happy that I came out to the public about my mental health struggles.
“Now people can see that nobody’s untouchable and no matter what you are, who you are, how big you are, how tough you are, mental health can bring you to your knees.
“But it also shows people that no matter how long you get, even though I was on the verge of suicide for a long time, you can always get well again and come back to the former you and be happy again.
“I have my days and moments. I’m in and out of depression all the time but we’ve just got to learn to maintain.”
Heavily criticised in the past for homophobic and sexist remarks, there has been a noticeable shift in Fury’s popularity, which increased after he rose from the canvas in the ninth and 12th rounds to battle to a draw against WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder last December – a bout many thought the Briton won.
Fury said: “To be honest I’m still the same old person. I don’t change with fame or glory or money or anything. But the love from the fans is very important to me.
“I was an outlaw, I was the bad guy and always had to play that role but the comeback, I’m just being myself and I think the fans have warmed to me and got to know me a lot more than they did before.
“This time, it’s the man behind the mask rather than me acting all the time and putting on a pantomime villain show.”
Bob Arum, Fury’s co-promoter, believes the interest levels are spiking to such a degree they put him on a par with Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, two fighters the lawyer and businessman once represented.
Arum said: “Tyson Fury is right up there with those two guys as the people’s fighter, the fighter that people can relate to. I’ve never seen the outpouring of fans like we have now who absolutely root for Tyson Fury.”
Fury (27-0-1, 19KOs) marks the beginning of a five-fight deal worth a reported 80million US dollars with ESPN on Saturday night, only a couple of weeks after compatriot Anthony Joshua’s shock loss to Andy Ruiz Jr.
“I just think he got done by a better man, that’s it,” said Fury, in a blunt appraisal.
It means the 30-year-old will make sure he is on his guard against Germany’s Schwarz, who has won all 24 of his professional contests but faces a significant step up in quality of opposition.
Fury added: “You can never overlook anybody because it’s heavyweight boxing and Tom Schwarz knows if he beats Tyson Fury then he’s set for life.
“He becomes a multi-millionaire, he gets to headline big shows and all his dreams come true. So am I going to underestimate a guy like that? I don’t think so, not at all.”