By Manouk Akopyan
Tyson Fury stood in the middle of a Starbucks a few blocks away from the Los Angeles International Airport, fresh off an hour-long flight from Las Vegas, waiting for the caffeine to kick in.
He was sipping on a Venti Americano with steamed milk and sugar free cinnamon dolce syrup when I serendipitously walked into the same locale.
Although I’d covered Fury’s U.S. debut in Los Angeles when he outboxed Deontay Wilder to a draw last year, I headed to his direction and officially re-introduced myself because we both had the same agenda this Friday morning.
The undefeated lineal heavyweight champion of the world was about to head out and meet the man he was named after, and I was there to document the heavyweight encounter between him and Mike Tyson.
We just needed coffee first.
The boxer-turned-businessman Tyson holds court nearby at Tyson Ranch, his cannabis company headquarters in El Segundo. Fury was going to make a guest appearance on Tyson’s hit podcast Hotboxin’, a conversation that will be released in the coming weeks ahead of the Fury’s fight against Otto Wallin on Sept. 14.
Fury was joined at the Starbucks by his coach Kristian Blacklock and longtime friend Tim Allcock when the Brit immediately got into storytelling mode in the java house. Aside from meeting Tyson, the big development of the day was adding ink Allcock’s arm.
Allcock had a tattoo on from his shoulder down to his elbow featuring Fury, Iron Mike, Muhammad Ali and Rocky Marciano. Today, he was going to get both Tysons to autograph his arm, and then get a tattoo artist to go over the signatures for permanent display.
My camera was rolling when Fury was giving a blow-by-blow commentary on Allcock’s arm, and the festivities that were going to take place after.
Full breakdown of the tattoo given by Tyson Fury, and Mike Tyson signing the arm, can be seen here:
Feeling that an outspoken and unordinary champion like Fury deserved an atypical interview, the camera kept rolling, and the 6-foot, 9-inch heavyweight fielded questions for the first interview of his life ever conducted at a Starbucks.
The tower-tall Fury was unbothered by the patrons, a sign that he still has a lot of stateside steem to build in order to be a can't-miss, star attraction.
Full video interview with Tyson Fury can be seen here:
On his fight against Otto Wallin …
“You think I’m going to look at Otto Wallin and think, ‘oh, this is given?’” No way. He knows that if he beats me, he can have all of his dreams come true. Nothing is ever given in life. You have to work your ass off for everything that you want. You think I got to this position by being given stuff? No. I worked hard for many years. The first one in the gym, and the last one to leave. I dedicated and sacrificed myself to this sport to be here today, and elevated into this position.”
On getting more rounds after quick KO against Tom Schwarz …
“No overtime paychecks. Otto Wallin, demotion job on him. Deontay Wilder, much of the same. They don’t know what they’re facing. They’re not facing a man who was out of the ring for three years anymore. They are not facing a man who overcame mental health problems and drug addiction and alcohol abuse, losing 147 pounds and jumping in there with the current heavyweight champion of the world — and still beating those guys. They are not facing that anymore. They’re facing an animal. A leo. A king of the jungle. The Gypsy King. The best fighting man on this planet.”
On motivation …
“What keeps me motivated? The fact that I’m the greatest of this era, and the fact that I need to cement my legacy for a long time after I’m dead and gone.”
On fighting in the United States and becoming a stateside star …
“Tyson Fury is the new king of Las Vegas. You had Elvis Presley, who was the former king, and now you have me, right now. I’m taking over. Big time. ESPN is a massive station all over the world. They’ve done a fantastic job promoting me. Big shout out to Bob Arum and Top Rank and all of the guys who work hard in me becoming a global phenomenon. I’m already an A-list name in Europe. Every country I go to, they all know me. That will be the aim, for it to happen over here. It will only happen by fighting here on the regular. Giving the sporting fans a chance to see the Gypsy King in the flesh.”
On Deontay Wilder …
“That is the Hector and Achilles of our generation. It is. It’s the two best heavyweights of today. First best being me, second best being Wilder. Big shoutout to Ring Magazine for finally getting it right. I hope the belt is going to be on the line for the rematch. It’s a big fight. Everyone wants to see it, including myself. [If Wilder doesn’t get past Ortiz], I don’t know what happens. The heavyweight landscape keeps changing. You never know what’s around the corner. Nothing is given in life.”
On the Andy Ruiz Jr.-Anthony Joshua rematch …
“Joshua fought Ruiz like it was a given, like an easy fight. Ruiz was like the eighth option, short notice, knocked his ass out. I think Andy Ruiz Jr. wins the rematch, of course. One, because he’s already knocked him out. Two, because he’s won the mental game, and physically. And three, when you become a champion, you improve 40-to-50 percent. And four, he won’t be taking this fight on short notice anymore. And five, if you’ve already have beaten a man once, you go and beat him the second time.”
On Ruiz Jr.-Joshua taking place in Saudi Arabia …
“Very interesting. This is prizefighting. Heavyweights fight for a prize. But I’m not so sure Saudi Arabia is the best country to go to for a heavyweight title fight. I think it would make sense in America, where all of the big fights happen. Even the Gypsy King crossed the Atlantic [Ocean] on a small rubber dinghy to fight in the U.S.A. This is where the land of opportunity is, and where all of the big fights happen. I’m the new king of Las Vegas, so maybe they can become the prince or sheiks in Saudi Arabia. Who knows?”
On the current state of the heavyweight division …
“I think it’s on fire. The glory days are back. Thanks to the Gypsy King, the heavyweight division is back alive. I breathe life into the division. And now, I’m entertaining in Vegas. Does it get any better than that? I don’t think so. Ruiz knocking out A.J. That was quite good, from a giggle. We’ll see how the landscape changes over the next year or so. It’s a very exciting time to be a heavyweight. My message to the heavyweights is come along, have a go, bring your gloves, bring your bag and lets have some fun. It’s an exciting time. Every great generation and era of heavyweights has had great dance partners. Look at Muhammad Ali. What made him so great was George Foreman, Joe Frazier, Ken Norton. It was a great era, and now, with all of these guys, it’s going to be a great era of heavyweights. Let’s just hope we all fight each other.”
Manouk Akopyan has been a member of the Boxing Writers Assn. of America since 2011 and has written for the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, the Guardian and Philadelphia Inquirer. He can reached on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan or via email at email@example.com.