If there’s anything predictable about the historically unpredictable boxing journey of Tyson Fury, it’s that the WBC heavyweight champion rarely lets a day go by without successfully controlling the current narrative at play.
So it should come as no surprise that as the “Gyspy King” prepares to snap an eight-month layoff on Saturday in a trilogy fight against faded contender Dereck Chisora (33-12, 23 KOs), most pundits have focused more on the debate — conveniently created by the champion, himself — about whether Fury (32-0-1, 23 KOs) is mentally fit to fight instead of complaining why this largely unnecessary bout is even taking place.
The truth regarding the latter is quite simple. Fury, 34, chose against waiting an additional four months for unified champion Oleksandr Usyk (20-0,13 KOs), the man who twice upset Anthony Joshua to seize control of the division, to heal from injuries before signing on for the first four-belt undisputed championship bout in heavyweight history. Instead, Fury fancied a stay-busy warmup against an opponent he has already decisively beaten twice, including once via stoppage in 2014.
No one would’ve chastised Fury, of course, had he just been honest about his intentions at the outset. But Fury wasn’t. In fact, the largely manic six-month period before the Chisora trilogy was officially announced saw Fury alternate on almost a daily basis between public threats of retirement and offers to the recently defeated Joshua regarding a super fight that often felt disingenuous.
Will Fury, who has been installed as a -2500 betting favorite, collect a third victory over the 38-year-old Chisora and move directly into negotiations with the highest international bidder (given his American travel ban due to connections to alleged crime boss Daniel Kinahan) against Usyk? Or does his constant flip-flopping on the topic suggest he’s just as likely to retire or rejoin WWE before entering a fight that could cement him as the best heavyweight of his day?
Again, trying to pinpoint which daily Fury ramble is the one most soaked in truth has never been an exact science. But if Fury isn’t spreading misinformation regarding the state of his own mental health as a way to distract the boxing public from a title fight it never actually wanted, the reality of his words serve as a potentially grim red flag about his future.
Fury, who returned in April to knock out Dillian Whyte in front of nearly 100,000 fans at London’s Wembley Stadium, told multiple outlets this week that the retirement he announced shortly after was very real. But as he explained to BT Sport’s Carl Frampton, the same dark thoughts that once led to his well-publicized implosion into depression, drug abuse and obesity after his 2015 upset of Wladimir Klitschko returned.
“I really meant retirement and I swear to God. I couldn’t have been more sure of something in my life,” Fury said. “[But] without boxing, I just felt like I didn’t have any purpose in my life still. I was around the gym training twice a day and was around Joseph Parker’s camp and Andy Lee and Tommy [Fury] was there. I realized training with these guys that I am never going to be able to let that go.
“What the other side to this coin is, I have to train every day. So is there ever going to be a right time to let this go? I’m boxing today for no reasons, for no gain and for no goals. It’s like I am treading water. Until I meet someone who is very hungry and not treading water, who needs to fight to pay their bills, that day is going to be a sad day for me. Isn’t it?”
Fury openly admitted that he no longer has a heart for boxing but remains too addicted and afraid to actually give it up again.
“I’m back for more punishment. An idiot, really, but what can we do?” Fury said. “I can’t let it go. Maybe there is a doctor out there who can help me to let go of this thing because I’ve got this bull by the horns and I’m riding it. How much longer I can hold on for, who knows? What I know is at 34, I’ve had operations after operations, I’m in bits. How long can this continue for?
“I’ve lived a terrible lifestyle outside of boxing. I have ballooned up in weight and have had so many problems with the boxing game. I’m fighting fire with fire. They say you can’t burn the candle at both ends but I’m in the middle right now. I don’t know how much longer I can continue this for and that’s the brutal and honest truth.”
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Even if there are merely kernels of truth to what Fury is sharing, it’s not out of the question to ask whether he’s actually fit to compete on Saturday inside Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in his native England.
Fury is entering a fight no one wants and has openly said he’s not doing it for the money. Aside from concern for his mental health, Fury is also taking the risk of ruining such a lucrative and historic fight against Usyk by welcoming in the possibility of an upset loss that would cost him his title.
The irony here is that Fury previously dodged a similar bullet in 2019 that nearly cost him his perfect record and lineal heavyweight title.
After fighting Deontay Wilder to a disputed draw in their first meeting in 2018, Fury pushed off a rematch for over a year and chose to stay busy in a pair of fights against unbeaten (and unheralded) opponents in Tom Schwarz and Otto Wallin. But the Wallin fight nearly became a disaster when Fury suffered a horrific cut above his right eye — caused by a punch — that later required 47 stitches. He was lucky to go the distance and earn a decision in a fight most commissions would’ve stopped and ruled a TKO loss.
Asked by Frampton how he assumed his career might eventually end, Fury countered with an uncomfortably dark tone.
“I don’t know. It probably will end in death and that’s the truth,” Fury said. “The answer to that is I don’t know.”
That’s also the same answer to the question we face each time Fury answers a question about his health or his future. Is he telling the truth? Are his comments about his mental health an obvious cry for help? Or is this all just one more illusion to distract from the realities of a fight that few, if any, could argue the need for?
I don’t know.