By Terence Dooley
Peter Fury’s past caught up with him in April when he attempted to cross the U.S. border for Tyson Fury’s fight with Steve Cunningham. The trainer’s application for a Visa was knocked back by the authorities due to two previous prison terms — for possession and conspiracy to supply amphetamine and a later charge of drug-related money laundering — and it meant that he could not work his nephew’s corner at Madison Square Garden’s Theatre venue. Fury was left kicking his heels in Canada, where he watched Tyson get dropped in the second before rallying to stop Cunningham in round seven.
Fury is working on his Visa problem, he believes that he has shown that you can turn your life around and this will sway the U.S. authorities. In recent years the 45-year-old has gone from street fighter, trafficker and Category A prisoner to trainer, mentor and voice of calm in Tyson’s corner.
“I’ve got my lawyers working on that, I spoke to the authorities over there and they said they appreciated my honesty, and as long as they I’m no threat to them they’d look on my application very favourably. ” said Fury when speaking to BoxingScene about his Visa issue.
“All the information has to be collated from third parties, like the police and Home Office, so that’s the main part of it. We’ll put that dossier forward and see what happens. [Stand in cornerman for that night and former pro] Clifton [Mitchell] is a good trainer, but your trainer is someone you live and breathe every day with — you could have Angelo Dundee on the night and not connect. Boxing is psychological.
“They have it all to gain by beating Tyson so you have to expect fireworks, but Tyson put it (his chin) on a plate for Cunningham, and you can’t do that in heavyweight boxing. It was still a good performance and Tyson roughed him up then got him out of there. It went to his head a bit, he forget his boxing and tried to please the crowd, but that’s all part of growing up.”
Fury hopes that his Visa problem was the final reminder of a past that he has successfully overcome. Tyson’s next fight is here in the U.K., against David Haye at Manchester’s Phones4U Arena on September 28th, but his uncle believes that America will come calling for the Furys once again.
As for his past, Fury’s experiences have helped make him the man he is today. Indeed, the trainer offered no excuses when recalling his days on the other side of the law. He said: “What is prison like — well, when you go to the toilet, you just see the toilet and you don’t see the vermin down below it.
“There’s a life down there that you don’t want to see — that’s where you are in prison. You’re in hell on earth. That man sat next to you can easily put a knife through your neck because they’re in for life and are in despair with nothing to lose.
“Going inside made me realize what life was about and what I was missing. It was like being in the dark for 24 hours, people have no idea what it’s like, but you move on, learn from it and it makes you a humble person. They say that some bad things can turn into good things. Unless you’ve had that experience, you don’t realise how good life can be. ”
Fury could have followed his brother “Gypsy” John Fury into professional boxing, he honed his own fighting skills during sparring sessions with former British, Commonwealth and European light-heavyweight champion Crawford Ashley and had a single professional fight — a second-round loss to David Jules in 1988 — yet he knew that very few people make a living from the sport.
“Those were some hard rounds of sparring, Ashley is the hardest puncher I ever faced, he gave me black eyes and everything with his power,” he said with a laugh. “But I was wild when I was younger. I’d see someone walking down the street with a nice pair of trainers on and want to have a fight with them. Then anyone who wanted protection would come to me because I was seen as a tough young fella. They’d say: ‘This one or that one’s picking at me’, so you get dragged into a world where you don’t belong. One thing led to another. I went from looking after people, to looking after areas to looking after cities. Then bang, you’re involved with something without even having the realisation of what you’re getting into.
“I didn’t know whether I was coming or going. I lost my way. It is like riding on a wave. Then you realise that that was a load of sh*t. You have more wisdom in your middle age than you do as a young man, unfortunately. Now I’ve moved into boxing to move on in life. I spent nearly nine years locked up, and it does have an effect. I don’t want any problems with anyone at my time in life, I just want to get on and put something back into society.”
The wave crashed into the rocks in 1994 with Fury’s arrest and subsequent conviction. A life of luxury — the Manchester Evening News reported that he had owned a Ferrari at one point — gave way to living in close proximity with Britain’s most dangerous prisoners for almost nine years.
“You’re on a knife-edge,” he recalled. “They soon get to know if you can fight and stand up for yourself. If you are weak in prison then you get quickly found out. People get molested in there, used for wives and all sorts. I was regarded as dangerous, so I was locked up with IRA members and lifers. It was like being in the dark for 24 hours a day.
“I did have a few fights because you’re locked up with 1800 to 2000 inmates who are all doing weights and think they’re it. But I found fighting a way of release. I remember one visit with the wife where my hands were smashed to pieces.
“You can get beaten up in prison, you can get stabbed, but you can get all that on the streets as well — I’d dealt with that growing up. You sweat blood and tears in those cells — all these people who stick their chests out and say jail is easy are lying because there is nothing worse than being away from your family.
“Someone could put a million quid into a bank and ask me if I’d do my time over again for it. I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t even do 12 months for that paper, I value myself more than that and would advise people to do the same. When it happens to you, you could be a big, tough man, but in jail they’re smuggling heroin in to get it into their system and deal with their time. I did my time the hard way. I don’t take drugs, have never took anything, and trained each day like a Trojan.
“These guys are in there with no lives. What will they do when they get out and they’ve been on gear? Before you get yourself into trouble, you need to think about that and ask if it is something you can deal with in life. The main thing is that my kids all grew up right, my wife did a great job, and they’ve all kept out of trouble. I owe my family my life.”
It didn’t end there; Fury was hit with a Confiscation Order for £704,394 in December 2011 after an investigation into his finances by the Serious Organised Crime Agency. This investigation was prompted by a money laundering conviction and two-year sentence in 2008. The levy has been paid, but Fury has to produce detailed accounts of his spending for another eight years.
“I’ve just finished paying nearly a million quid to the Government,” he said. “Now I have to show people that I don’t get into anything. I’m a recluse, really. The police have a lot of informants and a lot of intelligence, so they know I’m not active in anything — I’m happy with that. If I got brought up before a judge again I’d get 30 years. I can’t trip over a pebble in the road without people looking twice. When you do crime you end up doing the time. Before you get yourself into trouble, you need to think about all of that and ask if it is something you can deal with in life.
“Every other person you talk to is a police informant, and if your best friend isn’t one of them then he’s talking to a bunch of people who are. It’s been 20 years of hell with the police. I’m not blaming them for that, I’d just like to shake hands with them and get on with the rest of my days in peace because I’m definitely giving them peace.”
His faith in God also played a part. Fury is a Christian and admits that he strayed from the path during his younger days. In prison, he had time to think things over and rekindled his faith in the process. This spiritual rebirth helped him overcome the physical and mental challenges that are thrown at you in jail, but he does not try to push his faith onto other people.
“I was brought up in it, but I had a long time to think inside,” he said. “You study things. I’m not one of these born-again Christians who walks around with a Bible, but my faith did get me through. When you’re in there, you’re picking days off on a calendar and see you have eight years and ten months left. All you have is your faith, so I’m a very strong believer in the Blessed Lord.”
Fury has moved on from his past. By the time The People published an article on famous gangland “Faces” by Russell Myers in February 2011, Fury was described as a reformed criminal and successful businessman. The perspicacity he had shown in his former life has helped him distance himself from his past.
“I’ve totally dedicated myself to my boxing, but it is hard for anyone to move out of that life and move forward because you’ve got people dropping your name every five minutes,” he said.
“I’m also in the position where people can say stuff to me and I’ve got to look the other way. People try to be cheeky or clever, but if you turn on them then, if they’ve got a gob on them, it only goes one way — they scream their heads off and the law comes into it. I just stick with my family and stay away from it all. Plus I’ve got my own gym in Belgium [where he spends a lot of his time] and we get much better heavyweight sparring in Europe — it saves us having to pay a lot of money to bring quality heavyweight sparring into England.”
Ironically, Tyson came to his uncle after his father, “Gypsy” John Fury, was sent to prison following a conviction for wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm in February 2011. Peter was quick to acknowledge his own past yet maintains that his brother’s jail term is the result of a fair street fight between two men.
“John went his whole life without getting into trouble and then he got into a fight at an auction,” said Fury. “Some fellas jumped onto his back, he knocked them off, hit one fella in the eye and took his eye out then got 11 years, dealt down to nine on appeal, but that’s outside fighting for you. It should never have come to that.”
Once a reclusive prisoner, Fury is now a keen Tweeter, his timeline is always busy and he enjoys interacting with fans while acknowledging that Twitter can be a double-edged sword. Tyson is also active on social networking sites, and he is prone to outbursts. Still, his uncle was keen to point out that the heavyweight contender has to put up with a lot of barbs.
“I get this abuse, you can’t train a toffee and Tyson’s gone chinny under me, but I’m not really affected by it,” he said. “It’s not nice because you try to give back to the fans and I like this new side of boxing, where real fans get to see how things are in our daily life. I definitely don’t enjoy some of the comments, but nothing’s going to change my opinion towards the good fans.
“I’m fortunate that [his son] Hughie [Fury] and Tyson are exceptional human beings. Despite the image he portrays, Tyson is the nicest guy on the planet and does a lot for charity — we’re doing something in Manchester this year for children’s hospitals. What do people expect from a 25-year-old man who is on Twitter and getting abuse? When Tyson gets a nice Tweet he acknowledges it, when he gets sh*t he fights back with sh*t.”
With that, the intelligent and gregarious trainer took a deep breath. “I love being able to breathe this fresh air every day,” he concluded. “That means more to me than pound notes.”
Check out the August issue of Boxing Monthly for an in-depth feature on Peter Fury, you can purchase back issues of the magazine by clicking on the following link: http://www.boxing-monthly.co.uk/backs.htm .
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