Fury is much more interested in ‘annihilating’ Anthony Joshua than being a part of this Sunday’s Sports Personality of the Year award show
Tyson Fury is feeling festive. The WBC world heavyweight champion has a new sideline in designing his own Christmas jumpers (sporting his face and one of his catchphrases, ‘You big dosser’) and allowed himself some rare time off from the gym this week to complete some last-minute shopping, even if he will be back there on the big day itself. As he points out, “Christmas is just another day in the office for me. I’ll be training twice.”
There is, however, a limit to even his Yuletide goodwill. Fury is one of the six nominees for Sunday’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, a recognition of his epic victory over Deontay Wilder in February, but is adamant he wants to be removed from the list, even going so far as to threaten legal action if the corporation does not acquiesce.
There is, inevitably, history between Fury and the BBC. His nomination for the 2015 Sports Personality award generated a swirl of controversy, with petitions demanding his removal due to homophobic comments Fury had made in the past, although he was retained and eventually came fourth.
But Fury insists his current position is nothing to do with the past. Rather, he says, he simply does not need the validation.
“Honestly, it’s got nothing to do with the past, I just don’t need the gratification from the BBC,” he told The Daily Telegraph. “They shouldn’t have nominated me. I’m not interested in their awards or anything they have to say because it’s really unimportant to me.
“I’ve told them to take me off. I don’t want any part of it. I do not need a s—– award from a TV company to say ‘well done’ for what I’ve done this year. I know who I am, I know what I’ve done.
“They’ve not listened and they’ve had a letter from Robert [Davis, his long-time lawyer], a serious letter as well. I hope they do the right thing. I don’t want to take it away from somebody who it would mean something to. Give it to someone who deserves it. I don’t work for it.”
Given the BBC have indicated they have no intention of removing Fury from their shortlist, the row appears set to rumble on, especially if the ‘Gypsy King’ defies the odds – which currently favour Lewis Hamilton – and wins.
Either way, Fury will not be giving it too much thought. He has other issues on his mind, not least the prospect of two fights with Anthony Joshua in 2021, which – if they happen – would comfortably be the biggest in British boxing history, worth at least £200million. Both heavyweights are close to their prime, with compelling if contrasting back-stories – Joshua, the street-smart North Londoner who overcame a drugs conviction in 2011 to become the nation’s darling; and Fury, the rough, tough Lancastrian whose Traveller family are steeped in the art of bareknuckle fighting.
A victory for Fury, still undefeated in his 31 bouts, would see him claim the title of this era’s undisputed heavyweight champion – one held only by the true greats of the sport, such as Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis. And nothing Joshua has done, including his victory over Kubrat Pulev last Saturday by ninth-round knockout, is giving him cause for concern.
“I’ll fight anyone – I’d annihilate all of them anyway so it doesn’t really matter,” he says. “Listen I’m on the record saying I want the fight so let’s get it made. I don’t want to be the one person pushing it if he [AJ] is not even willing to take it. He got asked the question about who he wants to fight next [against Pulev last Saturday night]. He doesn’t know what he wants.”
What did Fury make of that performance by Joshua, who had Pulev down twice in the third round and twice again in the ninth? “He should have got him out of there, but it is what it is. It was good he did what he had to do and now we’ll see if he’s got the guts to step up to the plate.
“I’ve already beaten the biggest puncher in the history of boxing [Deontay Wilder]. So I’ve got nothing to fear, that’s for sure. Boxing is an all on-form game. I’m the on-form fighter, not him. In his last two performances, he doesn’t look great at all to be fair.“
Fury’s confidence is not a front, and neither is his sense of contentment, which is a world away from his personal nadir of 2016 and 2017, when he succumbed to depression and drug addiction, and contemplated suicide. A man with his history of mental health issues might have be expected to dread Covid-enforced lockdowns, but Fury – now 32 and comfortable in his own skin – has found solace in the gym, and the reassuring rhythms of training. He posts footage of his workouts – many of which feature his wife Paris and sometimes his five children – on his social media accounts, and they have also formed the basis of a book, which came out last month.
“I love training and working out, it’s a massive part of my life. Without it I would be suicidal again in a short period of time. I’d balloon up in weight and I don’t want to do that. I know to be a good person I have to stay on the straight and narrow. I have to stay healthy and I have to stay fit.
“That’s the best job in the world, staying fit. Anyone listening who is having mental health problems, training is an excellent way of having a release. I’m hoping the book will help a lot of people out there. How to train and remain positive. It’s more background on my mental health battle. To be honest, doing it during lockdown and training five times a day for 12 weeks kept me sane. I thought it was boxing that made me happy, but actually it was the training.”
Fury is now warming to his theme. “A lot of people want a lot of things. They want knowledge, power over others, they want everything. All I want is a bit of happiness and contentment. I’m not interested in all the championships and money in the world. I don’t want to conquer the world. All I want is happiness.
“I’m happy now – very happy. I’m in camp and healthy. I’m out of trouble. My kids are happy, my wife is happy. I’m a very, very content person. All the money and all the belts and everything that comes with it couldn’t make me any happier than I am now. Every day we wake up is a good day. Everyday to breathe God’s fresh air is a good day.
“Life is precious to an insect, a dog, never mind the human being who can talk to others and see nice places. There’s got to be more to life than wanting all the time. I want to stay happy, stay out of trouble and live my life as a normal person.”
Fury sceptics – and there are plenty of them – might wonder quite how long he will be able to maintain his Zen-like demeanour, especially if and when the Joshua fight edges closer. Even by boxing’s standards, the hype will be off the scale, but for now at least Fury is retaining a sense of perspective.
“It’s only a boxing match, it’s not the end of the world,” he says. “You can dress it up all you like. Biggest fight of the century. Biggest fight in British history. Biggest heavyweight fight to ever happen. It is what it is. Two men who will go in there and box the living daylights out of each other. Who goes down in history or what goes down in history, like I’ve always said, I don’t really care.
“I beat Klitschko. I beat Wilder. I’ve beat them all. Does it make me feel any better? No. Does it make me feel superhuman? No. Am I still just a husband, a father, a brother and a son? Yes. Am I still just a normal person who gets up every day and does the same thing as everybody else? Yes. We all do the same things day in, day out.”
There is a pause, and then a loud chuckle down the phone. “Although I’ve not even had a shave today.”