Tyson Fury and his team were in a celebratory mood even before heavyweight title fight
Born to fight. Up for these occasions. The dressing-room mood in the bowels of the MGM Grand Garden Arena was just a glimpse inside the mind of heavyweight boxing’s No 1 fighter, Tyson Fury, when he readies himself for battle.
The man who calls himself the “Gypsy King” readied himself for battle against Deontay Wilder in the most extraordinary way. His hands were wrapped precisely by the best in the business, Jacob “Stitch” Duran, his entire team revelling in the relaxed mood Fury brought to the occasion.
Not once, from the moment he walked into the casino resort to his wonderful performance which will be etched into boxing history, did Fury show vulnerability or nerves. The pressure was all left in the training camp, in the conquering of his mental illness.
Cool, calm, collected was Fury, having fun in a preparation room with more than 20 people in there: the eight men who had lived with him through eight weeks in a mansion on the southern outskirts of Las Vegas, a home your correspondent visited a month before the fight where, indeed, the atmosphere was much the same.
Living with him, a team, an unbreakable group, were the fighter’s younger brothers Shane and Hughie Fury, the renowned chef George Lockhart, logistics manager Tim Alcock – one of Fury’s closest non-family friends – and strength and conditioning expert Kristian Blacklock, who has been with the boxer even before his contest with Wladimir Klitschko five years ago. Also Matthew Towey, his massage consultant, Brendan Lyons, his bodyguard (not that Fury needs one), and then the coaching staff of SugarHill Steward, of the Kronk Gym, Detroit, with Andy Lee, cousin of the boxer and a former world middleweight champion.
It was a team triumph, yet only Fury was stepping into the ring. With Alcock playing DJ, and music playing from upbeat to emotional tunes, all eyes were on Fury, who began to go through his paces, his shapes, with Steward, as the music of James Brown broke out. That was soon after referee Kenny Bayless had visited the dressing room, going into a huddle with the team to issue his pre-match orders that his commands “must be obeyed at all times” in the ring.
Fury, towering over Bayless, a tall man himself, never took his eyes off Bayless, focused on every word. It is no lie when Fury says that having a fight is as regulating a process for him as brushing his teeth in the morning, or heading down to the dump in Morecambe with bins full of rubbish and nappies from his life at home with wife Paris.
With Nevada State Commission officials on three stools in the dressing room, watching the scene play out was the only woman in the room, sitting on the only sofa, Paris Fury, a pillar of stoicism and strength. She watched her husband closely, masking her nerves. Promoter Frank Warren watched his fighter, having been through this scene so many times.
Lee, the co-trainer, and Steward, were intent on any request Fury needed. Every person knows their role, and is disposed at any moment to bring the fighter whatever his need is.
“How am I going to wipe my bum with my hand wraps on, now that I need to go to the toilet?” Fury joked. The entire room collapsed in laughter. That is Fury all over.
He danced in the crown he was about to wear into the arena. It was all about staying loose, in his zone. Shane, a huge man himself, marshalled the room, and insisted in no uncertain terms who should move in and out of his brother’s space, as the time ticked away to the walk-in with throne and crowned fighter, after the group prayer, led by Fury, which has been his ritual for some time.
I had the privilege of being invited to see inside Fury’s dressing room when he fought Wilder the first time in Los Angeles, in December 2018, and the mood was edgier, more nervous. There was a different atmosphere this time, in spite of the demands of the television cameras being even greater. It was more a celebration, a greater self-belief both from the fighter, and indeed his team. They knew the plan, knew their man could implement it. So did Fury. Simply because he was born to do this.