EITHEROn Saturday night at Wembley Stadium, the crazy numbers in the Tyson Fury game continue with his homecoming.
Fury fights his old, old friend Dillian Whyte for the WBC’s heavyweight championship of the world and the best part of about £25million. But, you probably know all that, those are the simple facts and figures.
There are other numbers that make up the complicated tale behind Fury and his bandwagon of hope and inspiration. Fury has fallen headfirst from that wagon many times on the road to the Wembley ring; the road with twisted turnpikes, great pain, suffering and criticism. And a healthy dose of redemption on both sides of the ropes. His battle with good, bad and mad has been very public.
There is more than just a title fight at Wembley on Saturday night. It might just be the endgame in one of boxing’s most lurid and watchable tales.
Whyte is the perfect man to expose all the raw and tender sides of Fury in a fight that he has taken on a life of his own. They were friends, then they never spoke, they were enemies and earlier this week, they embraced; their entourages were poised like two biker gangs ready to whip out the chains and instead of the expected and desired carnage, they smiled, shook hands and uttered compliments. It was not for show, it was for real, but that passivity has nothing to do with what happens at 10.10pm on Saturday night when the bell sounds. And, did I mention that 94,000 will be there?
Fury has promised to sail off in a new yacht and get fat and happy away from the ring after this fight. There are some smart boxing people who believe him; there is an argument that he is the happiest he has ever been and ready to start his life after boxing. That makes him dangerous and relaxed.
The scars and years of abuse and devotion to the brutal trade have taken its toll on the big lad; the cocaine, the booze, the depression, the deaths of loved ones have hurt him. The fights have made him hard, both inside and out. He has been on his mountain top now for a long time and there might not be any more reasons for him to stay. It might just be: “Ahoy there, Capt. Fury.”
There were 51 months between Fury winning his world titles; the first night was as the underdog against the great Wladimir Klitschko in front of 50,000 in Düsseldorf. The second time was in Las Vegas against Deontay Wilder. In those 51 months, Fury fell out with life. He tried to die, he tried his best to annihilate his boxing history from him. It was utter despair and he gained about 10 stone in comfort fat. He was lost, gone from the sport.
Wlad was untouchable at the time and Wilder had made 10 defenses; these are facts and numbers that should never be ignored. Fury was brilliant and pure in both fights.
Whyte is the fearless dance partner Fury needs for the fight he has promised; there will be no retreat from Whyte, no attempt to nick a verdict under the dark and cold north-London sky. Fury will obviously move, which is his most impressive boxing asset from him, but he will deliver on his sacred vow to stand and fight. It is the wrong tactic against Whyte, but good heavyweight men always have great nights when they are confused. Fury against Wilder II is the perfect example; Fury fought like a slugger, surrendering height, reach and sense to smash Wilder in a savage seven rounds. Nobody believed it; the following year Fury did it again. The two Wilder wins took a physical toll on Fury and perhaps that painful mileage is part of his plan to buy a yacht and sail off.
Also part of the retirement plan is an inner contentment that he has nothing to prove in the ring after Saturday night, and that the waiting for Anthony Joshua is a game he no longer wants to – or needs to – play. The tiresome saga of that collapsed fight will haunt boxing long after they have gone.
Whyte is here to ruin everything and he is capable of that. Fury is here to leave with that legacy enhanced and he is capable of that. They are not ordinary fighters and this is not an ordinary fight. A mobile Fury builds a lead and holds a bit; an aggressive Whyte makes Fury work at a pace and tries to push him back. They will both take risks, they have to; they promised they would and they are fighting men of their word.
Fury will start very fast; Whyte will have been in the chilly ring for a good 10 minutes at that point. The minutes before they are called together by the referee will be critical; Fury grows big and manic in those final seconds and Whyte must not shrink. In Las Vegas, in 2020, Wilder was beaten before the bell sounded. I saw him vanish in front of me, the latest magic trick in the city of mirages.
And then they will fight. Fury will find a way. I would be amazed if it is easy. I would not be shocked if there is controversy. Please, sit back and enjoy two British heavyweights making history on a night in London.
Watch Fury vs. Whyte. Available on BT Sport Box Office