By Lem Satterfield
At his nadir, Tyson Fury had lost his desire to live.
So debilitating were his depression and anxiety that the 6-foot-9 lineal heavyweight king cared little if anything for himself or his wife and children.
“The Gypsy King” did not even feel validation in November 2015 from his career-defining unanimous decision over long-reigning Wladimir Klitschko (64-5, 53 KOs), a feat that ended 6-foot-6 “Dr. Steelhammer’s” dominance at 22-0 (15 KOs) and 11 ½ years and made Fury the IBF/WBA/WBO/IBO champion.
“It was like having a fight in my own mind,” said Fury during a documentary interview with Showtime’s Mauro Ranallo, whose own issues with mental illness were chronicled in the network’s “Bipolar Rock-N-Roller” documentary. “[Mental illness] is a silent killer. It is almost like carbon monoxide poisoning because you can’t see it.”
So it seems unfathomable that Fury (27-0, 19 KOs) -- due in part to a therapeutic value within the discipline required for boxing – dreams of dethroning 6-foot-7 Deontay Wilder (40-0, 39 KOs), a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist seeking his eighth straight knockout in as many WBC heavyweight title defenses on December 1 on Showtime Pay-Per-View from The Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Once mired in suicidal thoughts brought on by low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness, Fury turned to alcohol and drugs, his weight ballooning to 400 pounds as he failed to satisfy mandatory defenses.
Fury tested positive for banned substances, ultimately leading to the suspension of his license in October 2016 by the British Boxing Board of Control.
But a pivotal moment occurred a year later, when Fury sought professional help, a decision which led to a diagnosis of bipolar disorder in October 2017.
Since returning with a pair of victories, Fury’s preparation quiets the savage beasts and demons in his head, serving as a pathway to psychic peace of mind, and replacing cerebral calamity with a spiritual serenity.
“I’m not so much the boxing, but it’s definitely the training that does help. When I don’t train, I tend to get down and low, so I need to train on a regular basis, and when I train, I’m fine,” said Fury, during a conference call on Tuesday.
“With the boxing side of things, it always gives me something to look forward to, something to train for, and it’s been a really big help to me for the last year or so. When you train, it’s the endorphins that make you feel good. That’s why I feel so good after training.”
Fury can supplant 6-foot-6 IBF/WBA/WBO/IBO champion and countryman Anthony Joshua (22-0,21 KOs) as the world’s No. 1 heavyweight in victory over the “Bronze Bomber,” who is coming off a two-knockdown, 10th-round stoppage of previously unbeaten southpaw Luis Ortiz in March.
Wilder was ringside in April 2017 at London’s Wembley Stadium as Joshua stopped a 41-year-old Klitschko 17 months after Fury, rising from a sixth-round knockdown, flooring Klitschko in the fifth and twice more in the last for an 11th-round TKO.
Wilder was also ringside in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in August for Fury’s unanimous decision over Francesco Pianeta, representing the 30-year-old’s second fight since Klitschko following June’s fourth-round stoppage of Sefer Seferi.
“I feel as if I’ve got the support of the world behind me at the moment, and not just the British fight fans,” said Fury, who resolves to “spread the word on mental health.”
“I’m jogging down the road in Los Angeles and everybody's cheering me name and saying, ‘Go on, champion,' which I'm very, very happy about. I'm sure I'll have as many fans at the fight as Deontay Wilder does."