Tyson Fury: How boxer fought back from addiction and depression to win world title

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Tyson Fury may be the self-anointed Gypsy King, but Comeback King may be a more fitting title after his stunning victory over Deontay Wilder capped a remarkable return to top level boxing.

The Mancunian beat US fighter Deontay Wilder in their WBC heavyweight showdown in Las Vegas, with such a dominant performance that even the legendary Mike Tyson could barely contain his excitement in the crowd.

Of course Fury has experienced such glory before – he was on top of the world back in 2015 when he defeated Wladimir Klitschko to claim all four world title belts.

But his highest high was quickly followed by his lowest lows, as public battles with depression and drug addiction ultimately cost him his accolades and saw him retreat from the sport he loved.

Losing his world titles

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Beating Klitschko in Dusseldorf saw Fury claim the WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO heavyweight world title belts.

Fury described it as “a dream come true”, although a quirk of how the bout had been arranged meant he was quickly stripped of his IBF title.

The contract for the fight had included a rematch clause, meaning Fury could not face the IBF’s mandatory challenger, and so his title was taken after just 10 days.

He gave up the other three in October 2016, after a year in which he was forced to back out of the planned Klitschko rematch due to extreme weight gain (he reached 27 stone), injury, and a charge from UK Anti-Doping.

Drugs and depression

The charge from UK Anti-Doping regarded the banned substance nandrolone – Fury and his cousin Hughie Fury, who was also charged, both denied taking the drug.

After Fury postponed the Klitschko rematch for the second time, declaring himself “medically unfit” to fight, it was reported that he had failed a drug test for cocaine the day before his announcement.

Following the positive test for cocaine, he opened up about his battle with depression and handed back his belts to concentrate on his “medical treatment and recovery”.

The boxer carried out an emotional interview with Rolling Stone magazine, saying he was “going through a lot of personal demons” and was a “manic depressive” – and admitted to having suicidal thoughts.

The comeback begins

Fury went back to training with an eye on returning to the ring in the spring of 2017, but needed his boxing licence to be restored after it was suspended by the British Boxing Board of Control over the nandrolone charge.

Following a potentially expensive legal battle between Fury’s team and UK Anti-Doping, the agency announced in December 2017 that it would resolve the charge.

Fury reapplied for his boxing licence in January 2018 and had his sights set on Wilder, and warmed up with wins over Albanian fighter Sefer Seferi and Italian Francesco Pianeta.

Fury’s fight with Wilder was booked in for 1 December, at the Staples Center in LA.

Healing his public image

Not only was Fury keen to prove himself again in the ring, he also had a public image to heal.

Even before he lost his titles, he caused widespread outrage for appearing to equate abortion and homosexuality with paedophilia in an interview in 2015.

Those comments, as well as controversial remarks about female athletes, saw the BBC forced to battle calls for him to be dropped from the running for their Sports Personality of the Year award.

Fury later apologised for his comments and has since been praised for his openness about his fight with addiction and depression, having said he has a “massive story to tell” and wants to “help and inspire others”.

Completing his transformation

With the Wilder fight on the horizon, Fury’s incredible physical transformation became even more apparent.

His depression had led to alcohol addiction, which he said saw him “drink 20 pints four or five times a week”, and his body suffered badly as a result.

An intense fitness regime was bolstered by a ketogenic diet, which cuts the carbs and sees high amounts of fat from foods like bacon and eggs burned as energy.

His social media followers watched with pride as he gradually returned to the impressive physique he had boasted when he defeated Klitschko.

Reclaiming the WBC title

Fury and Wilder both felt they had done enough to win their first match, which was controversially ruled a draw.

It was the first time in his professional boxing career that Fury had been denied victory, but normal service resumed when he beat German Tom Schwarz and Swede Otto Wallin – both in Las Vegas.

Fury clearly felt at home in Paradise, where he and Wilder agreed to have their rematch.

Fury dominated throughout at the MGM Grand arena before Wilder’s corner threw in the towel in the seventh round, capping a remarkable career comeback for the 31-year-old.

What comes next?

Boxing fans want Fury to take on compatriot Anthony Joshua, who holds the three other world title belts.

Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn has already tweeted “this fight is gonna and has to happen this year” – it would be a unification fight, with all four world title belts on the line.

Fury also expects another bout with Wilder, but he may value some rest and family time after his big win.

Fury and his wife, who met as teens, have five children – Prince John James, Prince Tyson Fury II, Prince Adonis Amaziah, Valencia Amber, and Venezuela.

 

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