'Gypsy King' Tyson Fury prepares for hero's return
British boxer Tyson Fury celebrates after defeating US boxer Deontay Wilder in the seventh round. AFP
Tyson Fury will return to Britain hailed as a hero after his demolition of Deontay Wilder completed a remarkable redemption story as anticipation grows over an all-British unification bout against Anthony Joshua.
The self-styled "Gypsy King" brought Wilder's five-year reign as WBC heavyweight champion to a dramatic halt in the seventh round of their rematch in Las Vegas Saturday. It is an astonishing comeback for the 31-year-old, who battled depression, drink and drug problems that threatened to end his career in the years after he beat Wladimir Klitschko for the WBA, IBF and WBO belts in 2015.
The controversial British heavyweight has made no secret about his battles with mental health issues and cocaine use and said at one stage he considered suicide. Fury's licence to box was suspended by the British Boxing Board of Control in 2016 pending further investigation into "anti-doping and medical issues".
He was cleared to fight again in December 2017 by UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) after accepting a backdated two-year ban for testing positive for the banned steroid nandrolone. At one point the boxer, named after fearsome former undisputed world heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, was drinking 18 pints of beer a day with whisky and vodka chasers.
"When you have a goal in mind from being a child -- and you achieve it... I was lost, I didn't know what to do," he told the Joe Rogan podcast in 2018. "When I was an amateur I used to watch Wladimir Klitschko on TV and he was my target, when I beat him, that was my Everest. I tried retiring, but it wasn't enough. I tried golfing, clay-pigeon shooting, 4x4-ing, strip clubs but I had an emptiness inside."
Fury's weight ballooned to 28 stone (178 kilograms) and his mental state spiralled out of control to the extent that he considered ending his own life. "I would start thinking these crazy thoughts," he said. "I bought a brand new Ferrari convertible in the summer of 2016. I was in it on the highway and at the bottom, I got the car up to 190mph and heading towards a bridge. I didn't care about nothing, I just wanted to die so bad. I gave up on life, but as I was heading to the bridge I heard a voice saying, ‘No, don't do this Tyson, think about your kids, your family, your sons and daughter growing up without a dad.'"
In his autobiography "Behind The Mask" he thanks his wife Paris, whom he met as a teenager, for sticking with him through the bad times. "I can't really put into words how much it means to me that Paris stuck with me and the pain it causes me when I look back to how low I brought her, because she didn't deserve it," he wrote. Fury has found himself helping others who find themselves in desperate circumstances.
"A random stranger came to my house tonight and told me he was about to commit suicide but that he needed to speak to me first before he did it," he revealed to his social media followers in December. "So, obviously me being me I talked him out of it and took him on a three-mile run. He left as happy as Larry and it seems to have worked."
While his openness and honesty have earned him plaudits, he has attracted criticism for his controversial comments on issues including homosexuality and the role of women. Fury has said his outspoken remarks are linked to racism he experienced due to his Irish Traveller background.
"I went into the paid ranks off the back of an amateur career during which I was aware of racism against travellers," he said in his autobiography. "I felt I had to act out a role to seek publicity and to do that I had to be controversial and shock people with how I talked."
Fury and Joshua's promoter Eddie Hearn are both expecting Wilder, who has a re-match clause, to ask for a third fight with Fury but Hearn is impatient to stage "the biggest fight in the history of the sport". "No need for a third let's go straight to it in the summer!" he tweeted.
Fury's feats have captured the imagination of a nation. He is potentially one fight away from immortality.