Tyson Fury Q&A: Controversial Star on Struggle with Depression, His Legacy, More

Ray Markarian@raymarkarianFeatured ColumnistNovember 30, 2018

Tyson Fury will fight Deontay Wilder on Dec. 1.
Tyson Fury will fight Deontay Wilder on Dec. 1.John McCoy/Getty Images

You don't have to search far to find challenges in boxer Tyson Fury's life. He accomplished the seemingly impossible in November 2015, when he ended Wladimir Klitschko's nine-year reign over the heavyweight division, but his life spiraled quickly after that.

As with any sport, being the best in boxing comes with the rewards of fame and money, but Fury's celebrity status also led him to dark places. Soon after the defeat of Klitschko, Fury ballooned to close to 450 pounds and contemplated suicide as his life was nearly destroyed by depression, drugs and alcohol.

Two years after his greatest victory, Fury set a goal to turn his life around and become heavyweight champion again, and he's won two fights since returning to the ring. On Dec. 1 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, he'll face his toughest test since Klitschko, when he takes on undefeated WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder, who has 39 knockouts in his 40 wins.

We spoke with Fury during training for the fight. In our discussion, Fury explained how he overcame his deep depression and substance abuse issues, reflected on his legacy in and out of the ring and had some characteristically colorful words for star heavyweight Anthony Joshua. The conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.


Bleacher Report: What do you expect to happen on fight night against Deontay Wilder?

Tyson Fury: You're going to see two men fighting, and that's it. No more, no less. It can't be any more. And it certainly won't be any less. And the winner will be the WBC champion of the world and the loser will go home with nothing.

B/R:  Not many undefeated heavyweight champions like you travel to someone else’s country to beat them. What motivates you to do that?

TF: Emmanuel Stewart once said, "In order to become a great star in boxing, you must travel to many different countries and fight their champions." That’s what I intend to do. Next up is Antarctica.

B/R: Antarctica for what?

TF: I want to travel to Antarctica for a heavyweight title fight. Because they haven’t had one there. If I can have a heavyweight title fight in Antarctica, it would be setting a precedent.

B/R: Are there boxers in Antarctica?

TF: No. But we would bring them there.

Fury fighting Klitschko in 2015.
Fury fighting Klitschko in 2015.Martin Meissner/Associated Press

B/R: After you beat Klitschko in 2015, you went through mental health issues, and you have been open about it. What triggered some of your challenges?

TF: Nothing triggered it. It's something I have been dealing with my whole life, and I felt it most after the Klitschko fight. Depression and anxiety. I felt it most after the Klitschko fight. I had climbed the mountain top. Mount Everest had been climbed, and I didn't feel like there was much to do in my life after that fight. So, I had been down and suffered mental health problems. I was out of the ring for two-and-a-half years, and then I came back, and I am on the brink of glory again.

B/R: How did you start thinking positively after being down for over two years?

TF: I have a goal in mind. I had everything that a man could possess on earth, but it meant nothing. You don't care about life. You don't care if you are going to live or die. You have no motivation apart from not living anymore. Nothing matters. Not money, not fame, not achievements, not glory. Nothing matters.

B/R: How did boxing help you get through the rough time of depression?

TF: Boxing didn't help me get through it.

B/R: No?

TF: Nope.

B/R: What did?

TF: God. The power of God touched me. And I came back stronger than ever.

B/R: Was there a specific moment that you can remember that triggered the power of God in your comeback?

TF: Yes. I remember calling out to God and asking for help. And after finishing praying, I got off my knees and felt the weight of the world lifted off my shoulders.

B/R: Did you come close to taking your own life?

TF: Many, many times. But when it's all over, if you decide to take your own life, all you do is destroy people's lives when you end yours. And you can only learn by experience. Am I going to kill myself if I lose? No. It's a boxing match. You win some, you lose some. As long as I get paid and everything goes well, and we both put up a good fight, the best man will win. There is no shame in being a loser. The shame is not even trying. There is no disgrace in failing. There is only disgrace in never trying. At least when you try and you're not good enough, you know you're not good enough. But if you never try, you will always think 'What if?'

I was happily retired. Rich, young, good-looking. I had everything. Plenty of money in the bank. No debts. Properties. Investments all over the country. Achievements, acclamation. Unbeaten record. Going down in history as only the second man to retire an undefeated champion in the heavyweight division. What did I need to come back for? I didn't feel I was finished. I still thought 'What if?' I still think I have something to offer. I didn't need to come back. I didn't come back for a few quid or whatever. I don't live an extravagant lifestyle.

Fury in training for his fight with Wilder.
Fury in training for his fight with Wilder.John McCoy/Getty Images

B/R: You just have a thirst to fight?

TF: Yeah, it's what I do. If it pays off, it pays off. And if it doesn't, well, I tried.

B/R: That's life.

TF: Life's a b---h.

B/R: Has life been fair to you?

TF: Yes. Everything that happened to me is for a reason. Whatever right or left turn that we take in our lives, you always end up where you are supposed to end up. My dad always said, "What's for you won't go by you." And it's true. You can worry about stuff over and over again, but worrying won't solve anything.

B/R: I think that's how everything is in life. It goes further than boxing.

TF: It's bigger than boxing. It's relationships. It's family. When I was a single man with no wife and I was in my teens, it was all about boxing. But when you get a wife and kids, those responsibilities far outweigh boxing. It's not even a comparison. When I go to the gym, it's all work.

B/R: How do you think your boxing career is going to end?

TF: With a punch in the face.

B/R: Are you going to get knocked out or are you knocking the other guy out?

TF: Whatever, does it matter?

B/R: Yeah. It does.

TF: Does it? Why does it matter?

B/R: It matters in boxing history.

TF: No one really cares about history, do they? It's in the past. Everyone only cares about today because that's the day we are living. Is that true?

Fury en route to a victory in his most recent fight.
Fury en route to a victory in his most recent fight.Photo courtesy of SHOWTIME.

B/R: Boxing history holds some weight.

TF: Not really. I retired undefeated heavyweight champion of the world. The second man in history to do it behind Rocky Marciano. What did that mean? It didn't mean s--t. It meant nothing. When you retire, you're f--ked. You're done. And then you have to envy current champions. If you retire with a 100-0 record, it doesn't make a difference. You're not active anymore. You're a has-been. You got your memories and achievements, of course, but it doesn't really matter. The only thing that matters is what you do on a daily basis. The only thing that matters is if you are happy or sad today. If boxing makes you sad in life, then don't do it. But if it makes you happy, then do it. It's not really rocket science. People can try to make life complicated, but it's very simple.

B/R: Why do you box if you've achieved it all in the sport?

TF: What do I box for? I box to feed my family. I fight to keep everyone happy and put clothes on their back. That's it, really. I have never been the person to want to have 25 title defenses and building a legacy and all of that. I'm not interested. None of that means anything to me. All I want to do is support my family and enjoy the life that I am living. As long as I am healthy and happy, that's it. That's all I need. I'll be OK.

B/R: When you stop finding happiness in boxing, will you be done with the sport?

TF: One hundred percent. That's when you have to start looking for something else to do. When you start losing happiness in what you are doing, you need to do something different. I think you fight because you have something to prove, and then it just stops. The fire goes away. Mine went away, and it has come back now. Like I said before, unless you really want to do something, don't do it. If anything is causing problems in your life, just get rid of it. What is boxing about, supporting your family?

B/R: Pretty much. It's a job.

TF: It's a job, isn't it? Just like anybody else's job. But we have to sacrifice more than the next person, and we get paid more. It is what it is.

B/R: That's why you said it doesn't matter if your career ends in victory or defeat?

TF: It's about my personal relationship with boxing. If I win one more fight or I win another 30, to me, it doesn't mean anything. It used to be about belts, titles and winning. Today, it's not about that. I have come to a point in my life where I have done everything I wanted to do in boxing. I achieved the unachievable.

B/R: You beat Klitschko. You beat the man.

TF: I beat the man, and that was what I wanted to do. I didn't want his belts. I only wanted to beat him. And now I want to beat Deontay Wilder, or else I wouldn't have taken the fight. And I am not interested in anything else.

B/R: You are only motivated to beat Wilder, and nothing else beyond that?

TF: Yeah. If I don't win, I don't win. But if I win, I win. If I lose, then I lost my first fight, big deal. If you look at life like that, you can never go wrong.

Fury relishing the spotlight at a weigh-in.
Fury relishing the spotlight at a weigh-in.Photo courtesy of SHOWTIME.

B/R: Where does Anthony Joshua fall in all of this? What do you think of Joshua?

TF: I don't think anything of Joshua at all, to be honest. I don't rank him. He is not even rated in my eyes. I think he is a s--t house. A man with no cojones, and a man that doesn't take pride in what he does. If he did, he would have fought Wilder. Instead, it had to take a fat man that has been retired for two-and-a-half years to fight the guy that is calling everybody out.

B/R: Would you fight Joshua?

TF: I would never give him the opportunity to fight me. The man is a s--t house.

B/R: How do you respond to the criticism you got about some of the comments you made about religion and homosexuality?

TF: I don't want to respond. No comment.

B/R: Do you think you are a villain in the sport?

TF: I used to be. My first career, I was a villain. Second career, I'm a fan favorite. But you can't please everybody. If they hated Jesus Christ, what chance do I got? I don't want everyone to like me. As long as my wife loves me, that's all that matters. I bet you that you can ask 1,000 people walking down the street who Mike Tyson is, and they wouldn't get it wrong, would they?

B/R: I agree. My grandma knows Mike Tyson.

TF: My kids know Mike Tyson. I think he's got to be one of the most famous people on earth.

B/R: Easily. He's up there with Michael Jordan.

TF: Mike Tyson is more famous than Jordan. My kids know Mike Tyson because they've seen him on the Simpsons, the movies or different things. From old to young, they know who Mike Tyson is. Then again, people know Muhammad Ali. He is famous on the same level as Elvis Presley. Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali, Michael Jackson, everyone knows those names.

B/R: Well that comes down to charisma, right?

TF: It comes down to controversy as well. When you look at what Tyson and Ali are remembered for, it's controversy. When you compare Evander Holyfield and Tyson, Holyfield beat Mike Tyson twice, but he is nowhere near as famous. Mike Tyson is bigger than boxing. I've had to do a lot of my own promoting. I self-promote very good. I talk a lot of nonsense sometimes, and it gets people talking. It divides opinion. And when you divide opinion, you get recognized, you become famous. Controversy equals fame. I don't believe there is any such thing as bad press, because if you are in papers for the right or wrong reasons, the average person on the street is still talking about you. So, when the normal person is talking about it, then you become a star.