How Tyson Fury overcame drugs and mental health torment to rule the heavyweight world

After celebrating weighing in at 18st 12lb with some ebullient dancing alongside opponent Dillian Whyte, WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury undertook some final pre-fight formalities.

Speaking to BT Sport, the man who has variously been an endearing, sickening, hilarious and disturbing presence over the course of a brilliant 14-year professional career was asked whether he was “at peace” before what he insists will be his 33rd and final fight.

“Most definitely. I said in this camp, I wanted it to be a great camp. I enjoyed every minute of it, taking it all in with it being my last one.

“Where better to do it than here at Wembley Stadium? With Dillian Whyte, one of my old training partners who’s made it big time.”

A fraught build-up – well, as fraught as it could be with Whyte truculently refusing to engage in any pre-fight promotion until this week – has exploded into a love-in, save for Fury’s father John intermittently offering to scrap with members of the challenger’s entourage or any man in London who fancies it this weekend.

If this is the end for Fury, the celebratory mood is also fitting after his American excursion over the past three years. He stands alone among British fighters to have crossed the Atlantic and signed up for the biggest fights, insofar as he emerged still undefeated and with his reputation massively enhanced.

And yet, the idea of ​​Fury being received as a hero in his homeland – for all his lavish gifts inside the ropes – never seemed inevitable. Indeed, it often felt unlikely and there are many with whom it will jar.

The self-styled Gypsy King’s journey from his first heavyweight title fight to this apparent curtain call is unlike anything before it in professional sport. Fury’s sporting redemption and battle against serious mental health issues has been a testament to his immense talent and strength of will. But it’s also a tale, with its anguish, pain, controversy and offense that you’d hate to see anyone have to imitate.

When did Tyson Fury’s mental health problems start?

Brash self-promotion has always come as second nature to Fury. But his early professional career, unblemished as it remained, often failed to live up to his own hype.

There were uneven performances, fluctuations in weight and trips to the canvas against smaller men. He did manage to stay on his feet from him the time he punched himself in the face against Lee Swaby in 2009, but he began to work steadily through British and European ranks and towards world level.

During this period, in a 2011 interview with Guardian, Fury said: “There is a name for what I have, where, one minute I’m happy, and the next minute I’m sad, like commit-suicide-sad. And for no reason – nothing’s changed. One minute I’m over the moon and the next minute I feel like getting in my car and running it into a wall at a hundred miles an hour. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m messed up.”

Under the guidance of his uncle and trainer Peter Fury, Tyson put the pieces together. A slick, switch-hitting version of Fury handed out a comprehensive beating to Dereck Chisora ​​in their second meeting for the European and British heavyweight titles in November 2014.

A year later, he had his shot at long-reigning unified world champion Wladimir Klitschko. Fury attended one pre-fight press conference dressed as Batman, hardly looking like the man to dethrone a modern great who had dominated the division for the best part of a decade.

In the ring in Dusseldorf, the clown became the circus master. Fury was magnificent as he outboxed, perplexed and befuddled Klitschko to take his WBA, WBO and IBF belts via a unanimous decision. It would be the last time he boxed for more than two-and-a-half years.

“I’ve not been in a gym for months. I’ve not been training. I’ve been going through depression. I just don’t want to live anymore, if you know what I’m saying,” Fury told rolling stone magazine in an October 2016 interview that remains an utterly harrowing read.

“I’ve had totally enough of it. They [the boxing authorities and the media] have forced me to the breaking edge. Never mind cocaine. I just didn’t care. I don’t want to live anymore. So cocaine is a little minor thing compared to not wanting to live anymore.”

Did Tyson Fury fail a drug test?

The Rolling Stone interview came a month after his scheduled rematch with Klitschko was cancelled. A statement declared Fury to be “medically unfit” to fight and a Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (VADA) drugs test that showed him to have positive for cocaine.

“What the f*** has that got to do with anything? That ain’t a performance-enhancing drug,” was Fury’s succinct take on the matter, but he would soon be stripped of his WBA and WBO titles – each of which would be hoovered up by Anthony Joshua, much like IBF belt that was taken off him for agreeing to a Klitschko rematch as opposed to a bout with unheralded mandatory Vyacheslav Glazkov.

However, the sense of Fury’s world collapsing in September 2016 was only heightened by news that Tyson and his cousin and then-training partner Hughie had tested positive for the banned steroid nandrolone in 2015.

Both Furys strenuously denied ever taking performance-enhancing drugs and blamed the findings on eating uncastrated wild boar.

tysonfury - Cropped

The UK Anti-Doping Agency (UKAD) concluded a prolonged stand-off with Team Fury in December 2017, with Hughie and Tyson handed retrospective two-year bans and cleared to continue their careers.

The controversy re-emerged in 2020, with Tyson Fury now the WBC heavyweight champion after his remarkable comeback. Farmer Martin Carefoot told the Mail on Sunday that he had been offered £25,000 to provide an alibi for the failed 2015 tests, relating to the provision of the contaminated meat – something Carefoot told the newspaper was untrue.

Fury’s promoter Frank Warren dismissed the story as “total bull****” and WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman said: “Personally, I prefer to believe Tyson Fury ahead of someone who has already admitted to lying in legal documents for financial gain.”

UKAD said: “We will always review any potential evidence in relation to any anti-doping offence, and take investigatory action where necessary. If anyone has information that could be of interest to Ukad and its investigations on any matter, we urge them to contact us.” Fury has not been charged in relation to Carefoot’s claims

What other controversies has Tyson Fury been involved in?

This rallying of support from the boxing establishment was something Fury felt to be entirely lacking in 2016 when things unraveled for him in such a frightening fashion.

In the Rolling Stone interview, I referred to a “witch hunt” and that word has come up again this week when discussing Daniel Kinahan – the alleged leader of a notorious drugs cartel, who was sanctioned by the US Treasury last week. The UAE, from where Kinahan is believed to conduct his operations, followed suit on Wednesday by freezing his assets.

Kinahan has also been prominently involved in boxing over recent years, serving as an advisor to several fighters including Fury, who thanked him in a social media video for putting a provisional two-fight deal in place for him to face Joshua in 2020.

Fury bridled at any media questions concerning his links to a man for whom the United States is offering a $5m reward for any information that might lead to his arrest.

But it is fair to ask a sportsman of Fury’s grand standing questions about his links to an individual such as Kinahan, just as it is fair to be disappointed by his obtuse stonewalling in response.

Tyson Fury

Similarly, Fury’s failure to specifically apologize for his previous homophobic and misogynistic comments is something else that tallies against the wholehearted embrace of a sporting hero.

“There are only three things that need to be accomplished before the Devil comes home. One of them is homosexuality being legal in countries, one of them is abortion and the other is paedophilia,” he said in a Mail on Sunday interview prior to the Klitschko fight.

In the afterglow of that success, in response to some of the backlash to those and other comments, he told iFL TV: I believe a woman’s best place is in the kitchen and on her back, that’s my personal belief. Making me a good cup of tea, that’s what I believe.”

Fury told Rolling Stone of the abuse he received on account of being a traveler and victimization of his community in general – abhorrent stuff that no human should experience. By the same token, if you are a victim of homophobic abuse or living within an abusive relationship, you might be among the people who stiffen at the idea of ​​the 34-year-old being considered a role model.

“If I’ve said anything in the past that’s hurt anybody, I apologize,” he said at the 2015 BBC Sport Personality of the Year awards ceremony, which felt a little too vague given the uncomfortably specific nature of the offensive comments. When these matters have been raised since, as was the case with the Kinahan affair this week, Fury’s approach has been to put up the shutters.

How many times did Tyson Fury fight Deontay Wilder

It is also fair to say that Fury has helped and inspired countless people with his incredible rise out of the mental abyss.

Suicide remains the biggest killer of men under the age of 35 in the UK and here is a man, the biggest and toughest of men, speaking time and again with remarkable candour.

And the most incredible sporting feat is testament to those words. Having ballooned to around 400lbs, Fury got back in training and back in shape via a couple of 2018 warm-up fights before traveling to Los Angeles to take on the fearsome WBC champ Deontay Wilder.

As in the Klitschko fight, very few gave him a chance against a chilling knockout artist who has an argument over being the hardest puncher in heavyweight history.

Fury relocated his best form, pot-shotting and outworking Wilder to bank rounds, only to be floored in rounds nine and 12, the latter promoting his unforgettable Lazarus act. The knockdowns salvaged a draw for Wilder on the cards and Fury decided nothing would be left to chance the next time.

Surprising everyone once again, after wins over Tom Schwarz and Otto Wallin, Fury split with trainer Ben Davison and joined up with SugarHill Steward of the celebrated Kronk gym. In his 30s, he reimagined himself as a front-foot counter puncher, sitting down on his shots and looking to do damage.

When he pledged to meet Wilder’s fire with fire in the build-up to their rematch it was generally dismissed as bluffing, but he did so with interest, flooring the Bronze Bomber in rounds three and five before earning a seventh-round stoppage.

Their third fight brought heightened levels of violence, with Wilder switching effectively to the body early on before being floored again in the third. He responded to deck Fury twice in the next session, but the champion pulled through again to put Wilder down in 10 and, conclusively, in 11.

Those brutal Wilder wars are the main reason Fury, in all his chaos and contradiction, will be cheered to ring by the bulk of a 94,000 crowd at Wembley as the WBC champion. As their champion. As his life inside and outside the ring suggests, once he and Whyte engage it will probably be nothing like what you expect.

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