Tyson Fury has cut a controversial figure since rocketing to fame, but mental illness and drug use have lead to an unfortunate fall from grace.
The self-proclaimed Gypsy King seemed to have the world at his feet when he upset Wladimir Klitschko, but it all fell apart in a matter of months.
This week, Fury vacated his WBO, WBA and IBO titles following his ongoing personal issues that have seen him withdraw from two rematches with Klitschko.
The Mancunian also has a potential ban for the alleged use of performance enhancing drugs and refusing to take a drugs test hanging over his bald head.
Added to that, the British Boxing Board of Control is on the verge of taking away his boxing license – a license to which Fury practically owes his entire existence – after he admitted to taking cocaine in an effort to fight depression.
These are indeed tough times for the heavyweight, who just 11 months ago was celebrating raiding Klitschko’s wardrobe full of belts.
Fury turned heads following his second win over Dereck Chisora in 2014, which earned him the WBO International, European and British heavyweight titles.
Another win in early 2015 over Christian Hammer set him up for a shot at glory against the indomitable Dr Steelhammer last November, which he took with both hands.
You could see the sheer joy on Fury’s face when the ring announcer revealed there was a new heavyweight champion in town. The months of trash talking and not-so-subtle jabs at Klitschko’s advanced age had arguably paid off.
While he may not have been the poster-boy boxing needed, Fury certainly generated some excitement, even before the fight.
As impressive as Klitschko’s reign was, his calculated coolness and a squeaky-clean image were frankly a bit of a bore. Fury alluded as much in the preamble to the fight, calling the Ukrainian boring and a robot.
Always one to spice things up, Fury practically flew into a press conference dressed as Batman and apprehended someone dressed up as the Joker.
This year, he arrived at another presser with a team of cheerleaders – pompoms and all – in his wake.
Then during a public workout session prior to their 2015 fight in Dusseldorf, Fury took a moment to pay tribute to his opponent, turning the ring into a stage and banging out ‘The Wind Beneath My Wings’ to the boxer and his team.
However, this ballad proved just to be a warm-up.
Fast forward to the moment he beat Klitschko and – after a good handshake with the former champion of course – Fury was at it again as he proceeded to serenade his wife Paris with a romantic Aerosmith number, which has to be seen to be believed.
In Fury, the world had a charismatic and controversial champion cut from a vastly different cloth. Here was a man born into the Irish Traveller lifestyle, where God and family come first. The son of a bare-knuckle fighter, Fury received no formal education and had to make the most of his fledgeling boxing career.
Like most opportunities, Fury did not let it slip and quickly made a name for himself in amateur circles, winning bronze at the AIBA Youth World Boxing Championships and the EU Junior Championship with England.
With his colourful background, reckless confidence and unwavering loyalty to God, it should be of no surprise Fury got himself in trouble with plenty of offensive remarks in the press.
While his feat in the ring earned him a nomination for the prestigious BBC Sports Personality of the Year, Fury’s homophobic and sexist comments caused wave upon wave of criticism.
While I do not condone his words, it is hard to expect anything less from a man like Fury who wears his heart, along with all his beliefs, on his XXXL sleeve.
So what is next for the former champion?
At just 28-years of age and a streak of 25 undefeated bouts, Fury is in his boxing prime. However, the future is looking very uncertain.
While it is yet to be confirmed, given his admission to cocaine use, the British Boxing Board of Control arguably has little choice but to suspend his boxing license.
In terms of his alleged use of banned substances and a missed drug test, a hearing is scheduled for November with the National Anti-Doping Panel where he could face a lengthy ban from the sport.
While Fury only has himself to blame for these transgressions, it has been unclear what he has been dealing with behind the scenes.
In a compelling interview with Rolling Stone, Fury reveals his battle with depression, which has lead to alcohol and cocaine abuse.
He indicated that the depression is a new aspect of his life, something he didn’t have before he was world champion. The discrimination of his Traveller heritage by the British public at large since that fateful night in Dusseldorf has certainly played a part. Even some restaurants have refused him and his wife entry, saying they don’t serve Travellers.
While recent quotes from Fury and his uncle/trainer Peter have indicated that he is on the mend, the road to a comeback is sure to be a long one for a crestfallen Fury.
This is a shame, as boxing and Fury both need each other. Circumstances have taken one of boxing’s most interesting and charismatic champions away from the sport. For Fury, boxing is virtually the only thing outside of God and his family he has ever known.
For both their sake, let’s hope they cross paths once again in the not too distant future.
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