On November 28th 2015, Tyson Fury reached the summit of heavyweight boxing. With a cool, composed performance against Wladimir Klitschko in Düsseldorf, Fury ended the Ukrainian’s 10-year reign as heavyweight champion to win the WBA, IBF, WBO, IBO and lineal titles. It was the kind of display that Fury had become famous for – powerful punching, swift movement, and the occasional moment of showboating.
What happened in the months and years following that win is well-documented. Fury either vacated or was stripped of his titles after a mixture of doping offences and mental health struggles saw the boxer sink to a dark place. Having achieved all there was to achieve in the sport, Fury had suddenly lost the drive that fuelled his march from the amateur game to lineal heavyweight champion. Having climbed the mountain and reached the summit, the only way was down.
Fast-forward to 2020 and Fury is once again a major force in heavyweight boxing. Next month he takes on WBO heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder in Las Vegas – a rematch following the split-decision draw between the pair in December 2018. The odds on Tyson Fury winning the fight are shorter than those for Wilder, and that speaks volumes of Fury’s mental fortitude and determination in recovering from his travails.
At one point it looked as though the wheels had completely fallen off for Fury. His weight had ballooned, he had developed a problem with recreational drugs, and dark thoughts were plaguing his mind at every turn. He has since admitted that he “gave up on life” at that time, but he has overcome his inner turmoil and is now back on the right path – a resurgence he credits to his family, his former coach Ben Davison, and God.
Boxing is a sport that encompasses the full spectrum of human emotions. Joy, despair, excitement, pain, fear – all are manifest in a boxing match, the most intense mental and physical experiences boiled down and concentrated into those 12 rounds in the ring. All these emotions rear their heads no matter what the eventual outcome of the fight is. For Fury, the despair came when he had won it all. The anticipation of knocking Klitschko off his perch and becoming world champion proved to be much more rewarding than the actuality.
Fury has had to rediscover his love of boxing and his love of training. It was always the prospect of the next fight that kept him going on his road to dethroning Klitschko. Now he has that motivation back. Fury is a man on a mission to regain one of his heavyweight titles, to beat a man who no-one else has beaten, to knock out heavyweight boxing’s king of knockouts.
But win or lose, there is to be no repeat of the crippling come-down Fury felt after the Klitschko fight. He is a man in command of his priorities in life, appreciating the importance of faith and family. Fury has said that his retirement lies upon the not-too-distant horizon, that a few more fights will do him before he hangs up his gloves. With a new-found positive state of mind surrounding all aspects of his life, boxing is no longer the be-all and end-all.
His first fight with Wilder offered a microcosm of Fury’s rise from the ashes in just a few short seconds in round 12. Wilder, having struggled throughout the fight to gain a foothold, finally caught Fury flush with a two-punch combo. The Englishman crashed to the canvas and, flat on his back, looked for all the world as if he had been knocked out for the first time in his career. But as the referee counted down, Fury suddenly rose, climbing back to his feet after a punch that would have sent any other boxer packing. Fury is a unique force in boxing, and in those five or six seconds he demonstrated all the resilience that he showed in the three years previous to overcome his mental tribulations. Once again, he was down but not defeated.