by David P. Greisman

Ten months ago, Tyson Fury became the new heavyweight champion — not just one of the many men who wear title belts, but the true king of the division, the man who beat the man. The man he beat, Wladimir Klitschko, threw too little and landed even less, barely giving himself a shot.

Now Fury may abdicate his throne without ever defending it.

Fury hasn’t fought since he beat Klitschko last November. He did not face Klitschko this past July due to physical injury, a sprained ankle. He will not face Klitschko later this month due to mental issues significant enough to concern his family and lead to a declaration that he is “medically unfit to fight.”

Those who dislike Fury — and there are many, and many of them have good reasons — have bid good riddance to him.

They have tired of the offensive things he says outside of the ring that have no bearing on him as a boxer but otherwise represent him as reprehensible.

They have been angered by the many times he’s pulled out of fights, by the positive test for a banned steroid — dating back to early 2015, revealed just this June and otherwise still unresolved in the United Kingdom Anti-Doping organization’s process — and even for the recent revelation that he tested positive for cocaine barely a week and a half ago.

That feeling is their right. And that feeling is what Fury often intended. He has acknowledged his antics, which he feels make people want to see him, win or lose. He has apologized only when pressured, and only then for the possible pain he has caused, not for the actual beliefs behind them.

“I think I’m a screw loose in the head sometimes,” Fury said in a moderated face-to-face sit-down across from Klitschko filmed earlier this year for their rematch. “I’m not joking. I can wake up in the morning, everything’s fine. The afternoon, I could commit suicide.”

It’s impossible to know where the line is with Fury, to know how much of what he does is because of the way his brain works, how much of what he does is because of the way his brain malfunctions, and how much is a combination of both.

But no matter how you feel about Fury and what you believe about his words and actions, this much is something we all can agree on: His rise to the top of the heavyweight division has quickly given way to his fall, and no matter the cause, it is so far a sad case of self-sabotage.

Fury turned pro at 20 and was featured early. It wasn’t surprising. He’s a 6-foot-9 heavyweight. He’s hard to miss, even if he wasn’t yet must-see. But soon he was pushed into the main event in the United Kingdom as a prospect. Then he was in the United States, coming off the canvas to stop Steve Cunningham. And then he was a contender waiting for his title shot. And finally he was in Dusseldorf, Germany, standing across the ring from Klitschko.

Fury boxed well that night, using his awkward approach to take away Klitschko’s jab, which took away Klitschko’s desire to throw many of the shots that typically would follow.


It was a great win for Fury. It wasn’t a good fight for Klitschko or for most of those watching.

Fury was 86 of 371. That means he was just 7 of 31 per round. In terms of power shots, he was 4 of 17 per round.

Klitschko landed even less. He was 52 of 231. That means he was just 4 of 19 per round. In terms of power shots, he was about 2 of 6 per round.

There was a contingent that had traveled to support Fury. Their chants for him could be heard in the city’s Altstadt on the Friday night before, a section of Dusseldorf where the altbier flowed cold and the curry wurst was warm. They could be heard at times in the ESPRIT Arena as well, even though most of the approximately 50,000 people in it were there for Klitschko.

Fury wasn’t happy with the reception he got afterward, however.

“When he won the world title, he said to me, ‘I came back off the boat, I picked up the paper, I expected to be celebrated, and straight away the hate campaign started,’” recalled his uncle and trainer, Peter Fury, in an interview late last month with iFL TV. “He was complaining a lot about it. And he said, ‘We’re just not accepted. I just won the world title, and this is how I’m treated. It’s almost like a vendetta against me.’

“He’s said on many occasions, ‘What’s it for? Because if I’m not being credited for the work I’ve done and what I’ve achieved, why am I bothering?’ I think it’s created a lot of negativity in him as a person. It’s just the lack of respect on a global scale. That’s had an effect. He’d come in the gym for the rematch. He did injure his ankle. That was all genuine. He was having a good camp. But even so, he kept saying, ‘I’m going to do it, but I’m losing interest in this game.’

“From then, we had various issues with him. He was snapping a lot. He’s coming in the gym, his mind was elsewhere some days, and I think because of the witch hunt against him and the recent allegations and everything else, it’s put him over the edge. He said, ‘If this is what boxing’s doing, I don’t want it.’”

Peter Fury described Tyson as being at a breaking point and an all-time low. Tyson had “always been volatile, but not like this.” It may seem like something small and silly to push a person overboard, but mental illness can be illogical. It can be harder to think clearly and to get one’s emotions under control during an episode.

The multimillion-dollar payday, then, wasn’t as valuable to them as what the time off would do for him.

“Specialists have advised that the condition is too severe to allow him to participate in the rematch and that he will require treatment before going back into the ring,” read a statement issued late last month by Fury’s team. “Tyson will now immediately undergo the treatment he needs to make a full recovery.”

He may have cared about the public sentiment, but he didn’t care about the titles, at least not in his comments during the face-to-face with Klitschko.

“It’s all irrelevant to me, all that stuff: belts, titles, status. Doesn’t really mean anything, does it?” he said at one point, adding later: “Them belts haven’t seen daylight since I won them.”

“I’m still going to get paid if I lose or win,” he said at another point. “I’ve already beat him, so my job’s been done. I’ve already done the impossible, so if he knocks me out in 10 seconds, I’m happy. So what? I’ve been paid a lot of money. I’ve been the heavyweight champion of the world. And I’ve been involved in some big fights. Just because I lose one doesn’t mean I’m not going to be involved in big fights in the future.”

But he was inconsistent there, too: “I’m only boxing until I lose, and then I’ll quit,” he uttered later.

We didn’t need Fury’s words to know that he didn’t care about his belts. His actions showed that plenty.

Fury knew he was undergoing drug testing, both by his national anti-doping agency as well as by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association under his contractual agreement for the Klitschko rematch.

Yet there was cocaine in his system.

It’s not a banned substance when used out of competition, according to the World Anti-Doping Agency code.

But he could end up losing his titles anyway.

Fury has two major sanctioning body world titles: one bestowed by the World Boxing Association and the other by the World Boxing Organization. The WBO’s rules ban “the use of illegal or performance enhancing drugs or other stimulants before of during the championship contest,” though there’s no clarification on what constitutes “before.” Performance-enhancing drugs can have a benefit well before fight night. Cocaine would not.

The WBA says a boxer may be suspended for being “involved in illegal drug use” and says “no boxer who has tested positive for prohibited substances can be rated, retain a title or be permitted to fight in a sanctioned bout for a period of six months from the date of the positive test,” but it also says it will only base that judgment on testing done by the commission or at the direction of the WBA, ruling out independent tests unless authorized by the organization.

The other gray area comes from the WBA referencing “the list of prohibited substances is as published by the International Olympic Committee or other agency as authorized by the WBA.” Again, cocaine is an illegal drug under law but is otherwise not considered a banned substance for athletes out of competition under the WADA code.

But even barring the cocaine test, there’s still the matter of Fury’s inactivity. He’s now gone 10 months without defending his titles. Both the WBA and WBO mandate a defense for their heavyweight titleholders every 12 months. That time will likely lapse before Fury fights again.

For Fury, his family and friends, none of that matters. Nor should it, if the symptoms and circumstances they’re describing are worrying them to the point he’s stopping fighting so that he can seek treatment.

No matter what others think, no matter how many people Fury has upset, this decision is still a trade off worth taking.

The fighter is now falling so that the man has a better chance of rising again.

“Fighting Words” appears every Monday on Pick up a copy of David’s book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” at or internationally at Send questions/comments via email at