Tyson Fury has never been bested in two reigns as world heavyweight champion, but the jeopardy on Saturday for the big favorite against challenger Dillian Whyte, without question, is that this is his fight to lose – and by some margin.
After all the talk and hype, the St George’s Day fight at Wembley Stadium in front of a UK record 94,000 live audience, on paper, pitches the huge heavyweight – from 10 generations of bare-knuckle fighters within the Traveler race who conquered his inner demons – against the battling warrior Whyte.
Fury is now a master of ringcraft, with freakish height and a range of skills in defense, movement, elusiveness and, latterly, a penchant for offensive desire. In short, after a trilogy of fights in the United States against former WBC champion Deontay Wilder, Fury, at 33, has become the complete heavyweight boxer. In that US sojourn, Fury added knockout power to his armory, and an appetite to finish his opponent.
But it is in Whyte’s hands to tear up that script, and secure a legacy moment in his extraordinary life. It is a narrative which has seen him grow up in abject poverty in Jamaica, move to London and become a father at 13, survive his teenage years after being shot and stabbed, before becoming a mature prizefighter and a grandfather by the age of 34.
Underdog Whyte has been on the outside looking in – waiting for three years – for his opportunity to challenge for the heavyweight crown as the WBC’s top-ranked challenger. Both heavyweights are in their prime, and it makes for an intriguing duel.
“It’s a way of life, it’s all you know and want to know,” Fury explained this week from the multi-million pound central London home with a three-acre garden that he has been loaned by a fan.
In discussing the brutal artistry of his sporting life, Fury looked back on the change in himself, and his fighting style, having first claimed three world title belts against formidable champion Wladimir Klitschko in 2015. In beating the Ukrainian he utilized his defensive elusiveness with his 6ft 9ins tall, 19st frame to emerge triumphant in Dusseldorf.
Then came the attacking verve displayed against Wilder. In that seven-year period, moreover, Fury has become an advocate for mental health issues, having suffered himself from depression, suicidal thoughts and a level of obesity that saw him balloon to 28st in two years in the wilderness when thoughts of boxing vanished.
Fury told Telegraph Sport on Friday that when his career is over, and he has mentioned retirement this week, he will embark on a global tour as a speaker on mental health issues. “I feel like I have been given a gift to do this, after what I have been through, and I want to help people,” Fury said. “My time in boxing is almost done. I’ve already promised my wife Paris that I would call an end to boxing.”
Promoter Frank Warren, whose company Queensbury won a $41 million purse bid to stage this fight, explained on Friday that working with Fury has been “the most satisfying journey” in his 40-year career building fighters due to his extraordinary life story.
“He won the world title, he has fallen and got up again mentally and physically, and he has become one of the biggest figures in British sport, and the biggest boxing story of our times,” said Warren.
“I remember when we sat down and talked [in 2017] and he was going to have to shift 10st when he was at his lowest, but I could still see, even then, the attitude and desire to come back in his eyes. Tyson is now switched on in all areas of his life, physically, mentally, emotionally-even in business terms-and his story and huge boxing ability he speaks to people.”
In Whyte, Fury faces a challenger known for giving his all, who has plied his trade for the last six years against top-10 ranked opponents, former world champions and world title challengers, with ebullience, raw grit, and a warrior spirit, improving fight by fight and becoming a fan favorite himself for his toe-to-toe ring wars.
Whyte, from Brixton, survived all but two of those 30 fights – losing to Anthony Joshua in 2015 after rocking the former world champion, and being knocked out by Alexander Povetkin during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, a defeat he avenged eight months later in Gibraltar.