Tyson Fury interview: Fists of Fury help mask a complex character

Alam Khan - Reporter 12:51 17/07/2014
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Aiming for the top: Tyson Fury is well on course for a world heavyweight fight.

Named after one of the most controversial, feared and face-crunching boxers of all time, Tyson Fury was somewhat destined to have a career filled with memorable moments or mayhem.

At 6ft 9in (2.06m) tall and packing 18 stone (114kg), a towering, hulking presence does not allow him to blend unassumingly into the background.

And like former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, and his footballing hero Eric Cantona – supreme sportsmen yet volatile characters – he has already displayed a combination of talent yet troubled soul in trying to create his own story.

Unsavoury headlines followed the 25-yearold over expletive-laden tweets, bust-ups and when he threw a table over and stormed out of a press conference to promote his forthcoming fight, a world title eliminator, with fellow Briton Dereck Chisora on Saturday, July 26 at the Manchester Arena.

“I believe I deserve all the criticism I get,” he says bluntly. “I don’t care what people say or think about me. To me I can dish it out as well as take it.

“Eric Cantona was in the papers for all sorts of crazy stuff, but he was being himself. I think every sportsman should be himself and not what people want you to be.

“What I’ve done in the past can never be denied. It happened and people can have their opinion and rank me with everyone else, but I can only do what I can do. Every man has to bear his own cross and I’m bearing mine.”

Like Cantona, though, he yearns to be a great entertainer too and remembered for being the best with WBA, IBF, WBO and WBC champion Wladimir Klitschko his target.

“As a kid I used to like, and try to be like, [ex-featherweight world champion] Prince Naseem Hamed,” he tells Sport360°. “But as I got older I realised heavyweights can’t do that because they will get knocked out if they tried; being reckless, outspoken, crazy, throwing awkward shots from awkward angles.

“But he was a showman, and I enjoyed that. There’s not many showmen in boxing anymore and the ones who are, are massive stars.

“To become a superstar being a nice guy doesn’t cut it. You have to have an edge. I know that this could be taken away from me at any time, I know what all this is about.

“Sports people are pieces of meat. We are here for people’s entertainment and amusement. Like the gladiators who used to kill each other and people used to applaud, we are here as entertainment too.”

A frank Fury, part of a Travelling heritage, is as decisive with his opinions as he is with the blows that have produced 16 knockouts in his 22 wins. And a revised attitude towards the sport has helped him cope with emotional difficulties.

In revealing a battle with depression, he admitted he felt like getting into a car and “running it into a wall at a 100 miles an hour”.

“Depression is only a hard thing for those who suffer with it,” he adds. “General people can never understand what it feels like to be depressed and sick of your life. But life is precious to a dog never mind a human being.

"No matter how low you can get there’s always a better and higher point. I didn’t have anything to be depressed about. I was undefeated, going well in my career, a nice wife, family and money, good with God.

“Everything was good, yet I was very very depressed, almost to the point where I was suicidal depressed, couldn’t see what life was about and thinking what’s the point of living.

“God helped, that’s it. If you put everything in God’s hands he will help you get through it and provide the answers.

“I now treat boxing as a business. It’s like Jekyll and Hyde. I can be a Hyde outside the ring, but when I get in there it’s kill mode, a light switch flips and bang it’s me or you.

“Sport can take over your life. When it was a personal thing, it was my life. I grew up around boxing so it was everything to me, I was the biggest fan in all the world. But when you get involved in boxing, what’s behind it, the politics, you realise it’s all about money. Since I’ve been treating it all as a business, not a problem, and no depression.”

Fury’s motivation is not money, nor titles, but recognition as he says: “I don’t think I’ve achieved anything really. Growing up I’d watch people like Danny Williams and Audley Harrison and Michael Sprott, who were British champions at the time. I used to think, yeah that must be a big achievement. But when I won the title, I didn’t think it was. I just thought it was routine.

“I’ve always aimed for the stars, it’s never about a domestic aim. Anything less is a failure in my opinion. Even the world title, what does that mean at the end of the day?

“I could fight for the world title in the morning against a man who is rubbish and I will be a world champion? It would be nice to officially become a world champion, but it doesn’t mean you are the best in the world.

“It’s about who you beat. I want good fights, I want to fight Deontay Wilder with his 31 knockouts, I would have fought David Haye, I would fight Wladimir Klitschko, I’m going to fight Dereck Chisora. I’ll fight anybody that makes sense.

"I don’t want to fight for 50 world titles, all I want is to fight Wladimir Klitschko and knock him off his pedestal. He can keep his belts, I’m not interested in belts, all I want is that win.”

While he relishes the prospect of facing Chisora – who he beat three years ago on points – and then Wilder or Klitschko, Fury is dismissive of another foe after their showdown never happened. Despite the hype, a cut and shoulder injury to Haye saw their bout cancelled twice and Fury fuming.

“That fight didn’t happen, it’s not going to happen. I couldn’t care less if he comes back to fight again. You know, if he died, I wouldn’t bat an eyelid,” he says. “I’m focused on Chisora and he ain’t going to beat me now. No way. He knows that, I know that and everyone in boxing knows that. I don’t think he has improved since last time. He was 27 then, a full-set man, two years older than me then than I am now.

“I was a kid, an untested baby, in that first fight and if he was going to beat me, then he would have done it then. I’m confident, it’s what I am and always have been.

“It’s not scary taking on these guys. If I’m in the park with my wife and kids and someone comes over with a gun, that’s scary, boxing isn’t. I’m going to do my job, something I’ve known all my life.

“I come from a long line of fighters in my family, bareknuckle fighters even going back over 100 years. It was mainly my dad who inspired me to box.

"Growing up around him, he was a British fighter and I always wanted to follow in his footsteps. In our culture of people he is a king and you have to try to follow him and make him proud.”

Dad John won’t be ringside, though, as he serves a nine-year prison sentence for assault. But Fury will aim to make him proud nonetheless.

“He’s out in February so hopefully he will then be able to see me fight.”

And maybe then with his son the heavyweight champion of the world.

LIFE OUTSIDE THE RING

Born: Manchester, England, August 12, 1988
Career: 2008-current; Fights: 22, wins 22 (16 KO’s) 
Hobbies: I enjoy going to the movies, The Notebook is my favourite. I do a bit of clay pigeon shooting, 4×4 too with my Land Cruiser.
Favourite other sportsman: I don’t admire others really, only God. I like football, a Manchester United fan. I’m looking forward to Louis van Gaal coming in as manager and resurrecting them because Holland have done well at the World Cup. It will be good to see what he can do.
Your dream dinner guests, past or present: Elvis Presley and Eric Cantona.
Best moment: Getting married [to Paris] and having kids. It’s good being a father. I’ve got two kids [Venezuela and Prince], and another due in December. That’s what it’s about for me. All the title fights, the big arenas, it’s irrelevant, it’s about family.

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Sport360 staff 16:49 16/07/2014
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Head Coach: French-Algerian Mehdi Baghdad heads up the Yellow Teamon Al Batal.

Al Batal (The Champion) has completed production and preparing for its second season on FOX Movies under the guise of a new format.

The revamp focuses on gradually transforming Al Batal fighters into world class athletes and the MMA reality show aims to provide fighters of Arabic origin with an opportunity to realise their dreams. 

Fighters are taken through an intensive training program, led by carefully selected teams of professional coaches, as they compete for the title of Al Batal.

For its second season, Al Batal has recruited 12 semi-pro fighters, 2 world-class MMA coaching teams, 1 professional athletic conditioning team and implemented an extensive training and nutrition program.

All of this is designed to help shape the contestants into better, tougher and smarter fighters.

American Ray Elbe, heading the Black Team, is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) black belt and MMA veteran with an impressive 25 – 11 record.

Ray Elbe: MMA fighter, coach and reality TV star

Currently teaching at Kuwait Combat Athletics, Elbe has been in the game for over 12 years and is considered one of the top MMA coaches in the region.

Elbe is assisted by coaches Ole Laursen and Saphaprom Sophaprom (Khunsuk).

French-Algerian Mehdi Baghdad, meanwhile, is the Yellow Team Head Coach.

Baghdad fights out of Team Quest in California, with a 9 – 3 record and is a regular sparring partner with the likes of Dan Henderson, Chael Sonnen and Tarec Saffiedine.

Baghdad proved his worth as a fighter by becoming the lightweight WBC Muay Thai World Champion in 2011 as well as K-1 champion of France and Belgium.

Mehdi is assisted by coaches Jorge Lopez and Cédric Escudero.

Dubai-based FAST Athletic Training Team will be providing professional athlete-standard coaching and training in strength, conditioning and nutrition.

This coming fall 12 fighters, eager to prove to the world they have what it takes to become the best, will have an opportunity to prove just that through their blood, sweat and tears.

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Sport360 staff 16:41 16/07/2014
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Manny in Macau: Pacquiao will fight in Macau, 12 months on from his bout with Rios.

Philippine boxing icon Manny Pacquiao is to fight unbeaten American Chris Algieri in Macau in November, the Filipino's US promoter Bob Arum has said.

Pacquiao is to stake his World Boxing Organization welterweight title against Algieri on November 22, according to Arum, head of Las Vegas-based Top Rank boxing promotions.

"Everything is done. Pacquiao is on board for the Algieri fight," Arum told reporters in Manila by telephone late Tuesday.

Algieri, 30, has a spotless 20-0 professional record, capturing the WBO light-welterweight title last month by split decision from Russia's Ruslan Provodnikov, a former Pacquiao sparring partner.

But the fight with the 35-year-old Pacquiao, once regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighter of his generation, would be the most high-profile bout ever for the Huntington, New York native.

Widely considered a national idol after becoming world champion in eight weight divisions, the Macau bout would be a test of Pacquiao's determination to stay at the top of his sport.

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His fighting skills and national fame have seen him earn fabulous wealth but he has since branched out into other pursuits, including as a Christian preacher, product endorser, television host, and elected member of the Philippine parliament.

He also plans to a coach an expansion team in the Philippines' professional basketball league.

Pacquiao suffered two consecutive defeats in 2012 to American Timothy Bradley and Mexican Juan Miguel Marquez.

He redeemed himself somewhat in winning a Bradley rematch last April, following a convincing victory against another American, Brandon Rios, in November last year.

The Algieri bout means boxing fans would have to wait some more for the dream match most of them want to see – Pacquiao versus another unbeaten American, Floyd Mayweather Junior.

There have been repeated efforts to negotiate such a fight but they have never prospered even as Mayweather, 37, declared that he will never face Pacquiao as long as he is promoted by Arum.

Mayweather is known to be on bad terms with Arum, his former promoter, whom he accused of shortchanging him.

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