Fury is enjoying a new equilibrium with lockdown proving a valuable time in his life
There has been a Zen-like quality about Tyson Fury in the build-up to his heavyweight world title fight on Saturday, and it could be ominous for opponent Deontay Wilder.
Fury’s mental health problems are well chronicled but he has found an inner peace – thanks, in part, he says, to the pandemic.
“Lockdown was a very good time in my life,” Fury, 33, said. “I am a normal family man at home, and don’t see myself as heavyweight champion of the world. But as we were all locked in our homes, I realised so many people were struggling out there, I was able to be open about my own mental demons, and the feeling that I was helping other people connected me to my own life. With the daily workouts I did with Paris [his wife] live on Instagram, day after day, we had so many messages it touched me. It made me calmer inside.”
The inner peace can surely only heighten his chances of beating Wilder in their World Boxing Council fight here.
Not that Fury has been racked by fear in the pair’s two previous fights. Anyone who had the privilege of being invited inside his dressing room would have witnessed his extraordinary lack of nerves in the final minutes before the lonely walk to the ring.
As Fury’s promoter in the United States, Bob Arum, has said, there is a quality about the boxer that is “other worldly” and it is almost as if Fury is in a trance before he fights.
Sports psychologists would likely call that “deep focus” – the combination of fear, thrill, adrenalin and having the control to be able to be present in the moment. After all, in Wilder, Fury is facing a very dangerous, powerful figure, whose game plan is always a heat-seeking knockout.
Around Fury, indeed, are both calm and experience, too. And the knowledge that he has done this time and again and has never been beaten.
Sugar Hill Steward, Fury’s American trainer, helps by being the calmest figure in the camp, and a man of few words. “The one thing I have compared and thought about is Tyson Fury having the characteristics of Lennox Lewis, of Wladimir Klitschko of Muhammad Ali, of Mike Tyson, of all the great heavyweights. He has all those characteristics and the mental toughness. He has everything they had and more. I think Tyson is a special boxer and he will have a special place in history. Everything is very balanced. It’s not all about boxing.
“I play a bit of golf and Tyson likes golf, we go for a ride, watch movies. It’s 20 months since the last fight, for me it’s not just making Tyson Fury the best Tyson Fury he can be. I’m trying to make him the best ever. He learns so quickly, and he has matured. That’s part of growth in anyone’s life, it’s why they say when you get to 40 you have much more wisdom. He has more wisdom now and that’s big in the sport of boxing.”
Todd duBoef, president of Top Rank Inc, Fury’s US promoters, said that Fury “has a swagger and a way about him that I wish I could bottle up and pass on to so many other young athletes”.
He added: “He has a spontaneity to him, an ease, a cleverness, a way of speaking and connecting with the people interviewing him. He never talks down to them. He has that Ali-esque personality. PBS has an Ali documentary out and watching it reminds me so much of Fury.”
The boxer’s father, John Fury, knows his son best, since he gave him boxing gloves as a tiny boy, to follow the family tradition.
“Tyson has a switch in him. He can switch from the husband, father, son, cousin, to the fighting machine and warrior. That’s what he’s done,” Fury Snr said. “While other people beat themselves up and worry about things that may never happen, Tyson is not like that. He enjoys the job so much. He loves it. If he’s not fighting, and on the big stage with all the glitz and glamour, Tyson can’t function. Tyson is the showman, the warrior, the fighter. He thrives on it. That’s what makes him the best.”
Fury Snr recalls how Tyson was born seven weeks premature, weighing just 2lb, and that it was touch and go whether he would survive. “He was so small, I held him in the palm of my hand.”
He named his son Tyson after Mike Tyson, because he could see that the tiny human in front of him would have to be a fighter to survive.
Fury Snr also recounted a story of a fortune teller approaching the family on holiday in the Mediterranean and singling out the five-year-old Tyson. “She said, ‘I see a multimillionaire sportsman. Some kind of top of the world’. She didn’t say a boxer. She didn’t know my son boxed. But she said multimillionaire sportsman and said he would be a champion of the world. She’d never met him or me.”
Tyson has already realised that prophecy, which might explain his current calm state of mind.
Fury Snr said: “Saturday night, he’ll be coming to the ring with no nerves at all. He knows what he has to do. He’s done it before. He’s put the work in, not left a stone unturned. There’s one thing that is food for the mind: knowing you’ve done the right thing and you’ve worked hard. Train hard, fight easy. That’s what he’s done.”