Tyson Fury is on a roll. In a wide-ranging interview, Fury has already covered his plans for 2023, told how he helped save the lives of suicidal fans and picked Wembley as the venue he wants to host his fight with Oleksander Usyk.
And now, the subject of a knighthood comes up.
It was Wayne Rooney, no less, who stated the case earlier this month for Fury to land the gong. So what do you reckon, Tyson? “A few sportspeople have it,” he says. “Sir Mo Farah, Sir Steve Redgrave, Sir Lewis Hamilton, Sir Andy Murray. Well if all them people have had it, then I’d like something that no one else has had, especially a sportsperson. I’m a normal man but a limited edition, so I’d like something different. Maybe King Charles could make me the Emperor of the North of England.”
This is Fury in his natural habitat, the place he is most comfortable outside the ring: holding court, veering from the serious to the ridiculous on a moment’s notice. Now, the serious. His own struggles with mental health are well known but Fury’s power to help save lives is a tale less well told.
“I’ll say this to you,” muses Fury, in the green room behind Indigo at The O2, as he prepares to go on stage as part of a 30-date UK tour. “I mean this, honestly. Going out on a Saturday night and getting paid to punch someone’s face in, winning and entertaining the crowd is one thing. That’s good. But saving somebody’s life – that can’t be bought.”
Spencer Brown, an old friend and the brains behind the tour’s promoters, Goldstar Promotions, relays a video to the boxer of a young woman, Holly, who is in the queue at the O2. “I was suicidal… and Tyson’s words of advice helped me,” she explains.
Fury leans forward and replies: “You see? This happens every day. When I have my bad days – and they are all the time – seeing these things now makes me think ‘keep persevering, keep pushing forward’.
“I had a letter from another young girl, 17, two days ago,” Fury adds. “She painted me a picture and she said she’s been self harming for the last six months but said she had taken my message of keeping going, so it’s always a very special moment when people come up to me and say, you’ve saved my life or you’ve helped me with my mental health. I’m very very proud of that.”
Fury had plunged into a depression seven years ago, ballooning to 28st after defeating Wladimir Klitschko in Germany to become heavyweight world champion for the first time.
But having achieved “a goal I had had from the age of 14” his world collapsed around him. “It wasn’t just that moment that caused it – I’ve suffered with a lot of mental health problems my whole life, OCD, depression, anxiety, paranoia – and having reached my Everest I didn’t know what was left for me in life. But now I know what it is. I have to deal with it.”
Fury explains: “Look, I’m a big, fat bald guy who can box. 154,000 came to watch me box at Wembley Stadium and Spurs this year… but after the fights I’m depressed. That’s why I go on my speaking tours around the country after my fights. When you fight and win or become heavyweight champion these are the highest highs, followed by the lowest lows. That’s the best I can explain it. Knowing so many others relate to my journey is a good thing.”
There are those who also believe that Fury’s 2023 will be a tough one. Usyk, whom he will face next in a heavyweight unification fight, is tricky and elusive and then Joe Joyce, the Briton who is likely to follow, a bulldozer of an opponent.
The finishing touches are being put on the Usyk fight, with promoter Bob Arum suggesting this week that a venue remains the only sticking point. After a year spent fighting in England, beating Dillian Whyte at Wembley in May and Derek Chisora at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium earlier this month, Fury is in no doubt where he wants it to be held.
“We have the best fans in the world, and if you want to see a proper boxing match you want to do it at home in a stadium in England,” he declared. “Ideally I’d fight Usyk at Wembley Stadium, it’s a huge fight here but my promoters Frank Warren and Bob Arum have interest from the Middle East. So we’re waiting for the offer to come in, if they do, they do, and if they don’t, they don’t, so the undisputed world heavyweight championship, the last one being held by Lennox [Lewis] could take place here or in the east.
“We have the ability in a short space to put this on, and why is it a short space of time? There’s a million sanctioning bodies with mandatories so Usyk will be dragged out of it and be forced to fight his mandatories. If it doesn’t get done early it doesn’t get done at all.”
‘When I get hold of Usyk he’ll be crushed’
What of Joyce? “Yeah, he’s come out of nowhere, big Joe Joyce the Juggernaut, he’s worked his way up there, and now he’s ranked very highly by all the organisations, and he’s got an open door as well, and he’s a very tough opponent. He’s 6ft 7in, 19½ stone, undefeated on knockouts, he’s a real challenge for anyone for sure.
“But I’m going to try my heart out to do this Usyk fight for the undisputed championship, it’s a fight that he wants so he says, and I want, we all put it all on the line again and we’ll see who wins, I don’t think he’s big enough and strong enough to stand up to the punches, and he’s a natural lighter man, when we were both younger, as amateurs, Usyk was a middleweight at the same time I was super heavyweight and weighed 110 kilos.
“It’s a challenge, but he’ll be running away like a little b—- all night,” says Fury as the alter-ego returns. “And I will hunt him down and when I get hold of him he’ll be crushed.”
There he is, the Gypsy King Tyson Fury, in his many changing guises. Champion, mental health advocate, motormouth – but not, for now anyway, Knight of the Realm.