It’s Saturday 28 November 2015. Tyson Fury had just been declared the World heavyweight champion after a scrappy, and quite frankly dull, points win over Wladimir Klitschko. To say I was unimpressed and unenthusiastic at the thought of the “Fury” era was an understatement.
Having followed his career, I had watched him take a fortunate decision over John Westgarth in their initial meeting before ending things more decisively the second time round. From there he never really set the world on fire, despite two wins over Dereck Chisora and capturing the British, Commonwealth and European titles. When he was knocked down by fringe contender Neven Pajkic and then Steve Cunningham on his way up, I felt that as soon as he came up against a top contender he would be found out and sent down to gatekeeper level. Also, while some enjoyed his candid views, I found him to be crass and lacking any real class in what was being described as “banter”.
But when he became champion, every comment he made and all his actions were now being scrutinised to the minutest detail. And it appeared that all this attention added enormous pressure on Fury, slowly chipping away at his confidence. Piece by piece he was coming apart, and when he entered the press conference for his rematch with Klitschko and flashed his expanding girth, it was apparent that the downward spiral was in full momentum. Relinquishing his titles and temporary retirement followed as his behaviour spiralled out of control. Oddly, it was here that I started to alter my perception of him. Having faced my own battles with depression, I could clearly see the signs of an individual crying out for help. The heavy drinking, drugs and partying were all a mask as he sadly struggled to come to terms with his place in the world.
But then the comeback happened. Having sought professional help to combat his problems, Fury took the first steps on the long hard road to recovery. Gradually, his love for the game returned, and his bond with new trainer Ben Davison proved invaluable. Physically, the weight came off as he dusted off the inactivity of his fistic tools. More importantly, though, his piece of mind found its rightful place again. The abrasive comments were replaced with genuine wit and humour, and his humility when discussing mental health was endearing. This Tyson Fury was certainly winning me over. He ended a three-year hiatus in 2018, shedding the ring rust with two wins before surprising many by jumping in to a WBC title shot against Deontay Wilder. Written off by many, Fury produced an inspiring performance, outboxing Wilder for long stretches before surviving two late knockdowns, to earn a draw that should have been a win. Then he blew away Tom Schwartz in just two rounds in his last outing, an expected result but still executed in an impressive manner, to reaffirm his position as the best heavyweight out there. His punches had genuine force behind them as he fought with a forceful approach that had been missing prior to Klitschko. “Now”, I thought “he really does look the part”.
Right now, Fury can do no wrong. American TV lapped him up in both the Wilder and Schwartz fights and his interaction with the fans is second to none in the division. And with the cheeky school boy grin and constant light heartedness, he really is one of the most colourful fighters in the business today.
Sometimes it takes someone to reach rock bottom before they assess what really matters in life. Their outlook readjusts as they put everything in to perspective to start a new journey forward. Tyson Fury has admirably done this and in doing so, has picked up a whole new set of fans and followers who are supporting and willing him on to return to, and maybe surpass, his former glory. And you can count this converted man amongst them.
By Dean Berks