MANCHESTER, England >> Overweight, unhappy and in semi-retirement amid a doping ban, Tyson Fury was walking his dog beside a canal near his home when he thought about what fellow heavyweight boxer Deontay Wilder was saying about him.
“He said, ‘Tyson Fury, he’s done,’” Fury recalled. “I thought, ‘You know what, I’m a fat pig. Look at the state of me.’ I felt like jumping in the water and drowning.
“Then I thought, ‘I’m going to turn this around and knock him out.’”
So began the comeback of a fighter who shook the boxing world in November 2015 by ending Wladimir Klitschko’s near decade-long reign of the heavyweight division, then virtually disappeared from the sport entirely after getting caught up in drink, drugs and various addictions.
That he hasn’t fought since that life-changing night in Duesseldorf 2 1/2 years ago is a blow not just for Fury and his bank balance — he has estimated he has lost at least $28 million during his long period of inactivity — but also for boxing.
Wilder and Anthony Joshua have emerged as the headline fighters in the most glamorous division in boxing, but Fury adds something else: Humor, mischief and no shortage of controversy.
His first fight back is on June 9 in Manchester, his home city, against an as-yet-unnamed opponent.
Having ballooned to a weight of 350 pounds only a year ago, Fury turned up at the Lowry Hotel in Manchester today looking in good shape and, most importantly for him, happy.
“Tanned, sexy, baby-oiled up,” blurted out a smiling Fury, as brash as ever.
He turned his phone to the reporters, cameramen and others attending the media briefing, and said: “You’re all live on Instagram. Say yo!”
Every now and then, the 29-year-old Fury got serious.
“In November 2015, I became the best heavyweight fighter in my era at the time,” Fury said of winning the WBA, IBF and WBO belts off Klitschko. “That was the end of it for me. It took over 2 1/2 years to get that fire back. I didn’t think it was coming.
“I thought, ‘What is going on?’ Every time I went to the pub and had 10 pints, I thought ‘Yeah, I want to fight tonight.’ But in hindsight, I needed to get out of that environment, get away from all that, get my head back and get focused.”
What really kick-started Fury’s return was his decision in December to accept a backdated two-year doping ban for elevated levels of nandrolone in urine samples. That was separate to the suspension he received from the British Boxing Board of Control in 2016 for drug and medical issues.
Out went his long-trainer, Peter Fury (who is also his uncle) because Tyson thought their boxing relationship was getting “stale.” And out came the old showman in Fury, who told anyone who would listen that he could beat Joshua and Wilder with ease. There were more of those boasts today.
“I can tie one hand behind my back and beat Wilder,” Fury said. “They can pick which one they want; left hand, right hand.”
First of all, he needs “two or three fights under his belt … to get that ring-rust out of his system,” said Fury’s promoter, Frank Warren. Only then can the man who still refers to himself as the “lineal world champion” look forward to title fights again.
Having fallen into a state of depression, Fury says he is no longer just fighting for himself and his family.
“I want to inspire others to come back,” he said. “There’s a lot of people with mental-health problems out there. I want everyone to know that if I can come back from where I’ve been, then anyone can come back and achieve their goals.”
“When I had a lot of money, it didn’t make me happy anyway,” he added. “When it is Christmas Day every day, I can guarantee it doesn’t make you happy. Being active and content and having something to live for makes you happy.”
Fury and Warren were giving no clues about the identity of Fury’s comeback opponent. A 39-year-old cruiserweight, Nuri Seferi, posted on Twitter that he would be the one fighting the “crazy Brit” next, but that is still to be confirmed.
“There was a long period of time when I didn’t want to box. I had no interest in boxing,” Fury said. “Now I’m back and I want to box again. So I am. I’m really happy to make that decision to come out of retirement.”