Tyson Fury back in his element as he signs with Frank Warren

Boxing


LONDON — Tyson Fury is back in his element.

Bringing his own unique charisma and humour to his comeback news conference, Fury announced not only to his heavyweight challengers that he was coming for them, but also vowed to bring the fun back to boxing while seeking to become an inspiration for those suffering from depression.

“The ‘Mac is Back,’ and where better than in Manchester,” Fury said, his voice hoarse. “I’m glad it’s all behind me now. I’m back to reclaim what is rightfully mine, that’s the world because I hold it in my hand right there.”

As he sat in a plush central London hotel in a neat three-piece getup, there were no Batman suits, no escapades or surprise guests but there were reminders of the old self-appointed ‘Gypsy King’ ringmaster who had the heavyweight division dancing to the beat of his drum some 866 days ago when he defeated Wladimir Klitschko. His comeback will be on June 9 in Manchester against an as yet unnamed opponent, but the first canary down the mine is expected to be Shannon Briggs.

“Here’s the headline boys,” he said to the watching media as he ‘revealed’ how Anthony Joshua could beat him. “I’ve got a tip for him,” Fury continued. “Get a handful of rice and throw it at me, because that is the only way he is going to land anything on me.”

A slimmer Fury — just that morning he posted on his Instagram about his latest workout but was reticent to reveal his current weight — was still full to the brim with confidence. He talked of how on Wednesday he had three different 12-round sparring sessions. “Line them up. It’s the fittest I’ve ever been. Timing, reflexes are better than they’ve ever been.”

Conversations afterwards with Fury drifted from a very particular diet he says he’s been on, to depression, to the heavyweight division, to hopes, dreams, aspirations but underpinning it all: family. He talked of his pride at having two new additions to the family from when he fought Klitschko. This seems to be a Fury more comfortable in his own skin; victory in his eyes is being back in the ring having reached the bottom, as he put it, in the midst of his depression.

The news conference started just under an hour later than it was meant to, a time accepted given the wait from the Klitschko fight to now. During his absence from the ring, he has battled depression and served a backdated two-year ban for an alleged doping charge. The final full stop is yet to be etched on his boxing license but the British Boxing Board of Control say he has ticked all the requisite boxes, with the last step a mere formality, according to his promoter, Frank Warren.

“Before I was a boxer, but with the trials and tribulations I’m a real person,” Fury said. “This isn’t just a fight for Tyson Fury, this is a fight for depression, mental health problems. I’ve been as low as any man can go and as high as any man can go. You can always overcome these problems.”

But for those fearing the mischievous Fury of old might be consigned to his first boxing career pre the briefest of retirements in July and his two-and-a-half year sabbatical, he is still very much there: those eyes as roguish as ever.

Though there is a deep-rooted respect for Joshua, he still dismissed him as “a big old dosser, [a] belt carrier for me. By the time I get ready to fight, it’ll be an easy fight, no contest.” Deontay Wilder, the WBC titleholder, was also bracketed with Joshua as “sluggers, wild punchers” but he puts the American at the top of the heavyweight division due to his stamina and ability to win fights in closing stages. But, as it is with Fury, then it came with the qualification: “He’s a bit weak around the whiskers, and ain’t the best boxer in the world.”

But Joshua and Wilder will have to wait. Warren wants Fury to have three to four fights — ones he is adamant can be squeezed into 2018 — under his belt before talks with Joshua or Wilder commence.

“We’re not working towards anyone’s agenda, the agenda is Tyson’s agenda,” Warren said, but there was still a punchy message to the rest of his contenders. “I know for a fact they’re not the world’s best,” Fury said of Joshua and Wilder. “Given the right time and the right number of fights, I don’t think they’ll be much of a match-up.”

Fury was at pains to emphasise how he voluntarily surrendered his belts before his sabbatical. But though there was a nod to how he finished the first chapter of his career, there was also an unwillingness to discuss previous controversies. “Negativity… there’s the door, go through it,” he told one reporter.

This is a new Fury, but one perhaps with more a touch to his mortality than before. But do not mistake that for a lack of confidence. As he spread his jacket to illustrate his new, thinner physique, it was like a peacock spreading his feathers, showing off to the contenders wanting to have a crack at him.

Emblazoned behind him on the promotional material was ‘He’s Back: The real heavyweight champion of the world.’ But thoughts of titles and honours are for the future, the present focus is just on June 9.

“My ambition is to return and dance under the lights again,” Fury said. “From being so far away, and say he’ll never come back, my short-term goal is to get back in that ring and move around, having a good time doing it.”



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