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Tyson Fury: a deeply flawed yet inspirational enigma

Tyson Fury’s rise from the depths of alcoholism and the verge of suicide culminated in a heavyweight title clash against the reigning WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder on Saturday 1 December.

By Daniel Dyson, second year Politics and French student

The following content covers sensitive themes in Fury’s career including mental health and prejudice.

Tyson Fury’s rise from the depths of alcoholism and the verge of suicide culminated in a heavyweight title clash against the reigning WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder on Saturday 1 December.

The fight ended in a thrilling draw and many felt he deserved to win, but Fury’s real victory has been his recovery from depression. However, considering his homophobic, anti-Semitic and misogynistic comments made in the past, in what light should we view the British boxer?

Having spent two-and-a-half years out of the ring, the unbeaten Fury attempted to put himself back amongst the boxing elite after only two warm-up fights in four months. He came up against an opponent with a record of 40 fights, 40 wins, with 39 by knockout.

Despite Wilder’s pedigree, on Saturday, Fury was dominant and out-boxed his opponent throughout the fight. Being so light on his feet for a heavyweight, he was able to evade the American’s extraordinary punching power. This ability to slip punches meant Wilder landed just 17% of his ‘power shots’ compared with 55% in his previous eight fights.

After being knocked down in the ninth round, Fury continued to dominate the fight until he was seemingly knocked unconscious by a right hook-left hook combination in the final round. Fury showed no sign of getting up until the referee’s count hit seven, when he suddenly rose from the canvas to miraculously beat the count before fending off Wilder’s advances for the remaining two minutes of the fight.

Despite the scorecards reading a draw, many spectators - including former world champions Floyd Mayweather, Lennox Lewis, Carl Froch and Tony Bellew - felt the decision was harsh and they believe the WBC belt should now belong to the ‘Gyspsy King’.

What makes his performance even more impressive is the fact that not so long ago, Fury’s life hit rock bottom. In 2016, a 27-stone Fury was driving his Ferrari at speeds of 190mph with the intention of killing himself. He has been remarkably open about this period of his life, which came after he became the heavyweight champion of the world by beating Wladimir Klitschko in 2015. Referring to the worst times of his life, he has stated that ‘it was so dark, it was pitch black’.

After his fight against Wilder, Fury dedicated his spectacular performance to those who are struggling with mental health problems. Speaking directly to the BT sport camera, Fury said, ‘if I can come back from where I’ve come from, then you can too. So, get up, seek help and let’s do it together as a team.’

For a sportsperson to show an ounce of authenticity and speak about their real-life experiences is a rarity. Clearly, his fight against depression is inspirational and he should be praised for his potential impact on those suffering.

However, we cannot overlook Fury’s past statements. Whilst at the top of the heavyweight division in 2015, Fury stated that, ‘there are only three things that need to be accomplished before the Devil comes home. One of them is homosexuality being legal in countries, one of them is abortion and the other is paedophilia’.

It goes without saying that comparing the legalisation of homophobia and abortion with legalising paedophilia, as well as making misogynistic and anti-Semitic comments is utterly abhorrent. For anyone, let alone a sports star, who many young people look up to, to say such things is unacceptable. Consequently, heaping Fury with praise of any nature should not and does not sit right.

Nevertheless, various media outlets have attempted to provide a discourse that, because of his help for sufferers of mental health issues, he is now making amends for his past comments and that we should view him as someone who is progressing from a bad to a good person. However, I believe this to be untrue, unhelpful and unnecessary.

Instead however, we can treat two contrasting sides of him separately. Conquering depression, providing inspiration for those who are suffering and breaking the stigma around mental health by encouraging people to speak out should not be ignored or detracted from. More sports stars, given their huge fanbases, should be following in his footsteps. Equally however, his despicable comments in 2015 should not be forgotten about and he should be disdained for such awful prejudice.

Featured image by Epigram / Henry Edwards

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