Although Tyson Fury is the heavyweight division’s lineal champion and one of its best fighters in recent years, this British behemoth would be a gifted entertainer in just about any arena.
Whether he’s performing with brute grace inside the ring or poignantly retelling the story of his battles with substance abuse and depression outside it, Fury (27-0-1, 19 KOs) holds an audience spellbound like few boxers in recent history. He even loves to sing , particularly after his bouts — albeit with more enthusiasm than skill.
A man of his diverse talents is a natural for the sport’s biggest stages — and Fury is finally in the world’s fight capital on Saturday night.
Sin City has a mythic allure for many Brits in general, and for nearly all boxers — including Fury, who once told himself that he wouldn’t visit Vegas unless he was fighting there.
“Fighting in Las Vegas is an honor for a boxer, and I feel I’m ready to wear the part,” Fury said. “It suits me down to the ground.”
After starring in London, Dublin, Düsseldorf, New York and Los Angeles, the Manchester native finally gets his Vegas debut against Germany’s unbeaten Tom Schwarz at the MGM Grand Garden.
The 6-foot-9 Fury has already captured the attention of American fight fans with his performances stateside, none bigger than his theatrical rise from the canvas in the 12th round to earn a thoroughly entertaining draw with Deontay Wilder at Staples Center in his last bout six months ago.
Not many observers expect Fury to need similar recuperative powers against Schwarz (24-0, 16 KOs), who has never fought anyone close to Fury’s stature. But Fury still intends to put on a show.
“It’s very different, but it’s what I was born to do,” Fury said of his fights on the other side of the Atlantic. “I was born for U.S. fighting. The British are very reserved. For a confident, brash talker like myself, you have to come to America to be appreciated. I always wanted to be here as a boxer. Now that I’m signed with a big U.S. TV station, it’s my time to put on great shows.”
In the wake of Anthony Joshua’s stunning loss to Andy Ruiz Jr. two weeks ago, Fury says he is appropriately wary of the 6-foot-5 Schwarz, who hits hard enough to change any fight with the right shot. But Fury accepted this bout to stay sharp while he waits for a chance at the world’s other two elite heavyweights — actually, make that three after Ruiz’s shocker.
Fury and Wilder couldn’t agree to an immediate rematch after Fury signed with co-promoter Top Rank and muddied the political situation with Wilder, who moved on to stop Dominic Breazeale in the first round last month. Fury settled on Schwarz for his next showcase in promoter Bob Arum’s quest to turn him into a household name in the U.S.
While Fury has a history of offensive public statements, he has behaved much better with his substance abuse problems apparently behind him following a 2 ½-year spiral in the wake of his shocking victory over Wladimir Klitschko. He also takes pride in lessening the stigma around public discussion of mental health issues, including depression.
“People don’t talk to me about boxing anymore,” Fury said. “It’s not what I talk about with people. They talk to me constantly about mental health, because people are suffering. They feel it’s OK to approach me and speak to me about it. I get millions of messages from all over the world, people constantly talking about my problem. I’ve become an ambassador for mental health in sports.”
Fury doesn’t have the raw knockout power of Wilder or Joshua, and he won’t promise a knockout of Schwarz. He plans to use his elite boxing skill to earn a victory that will keep him on track for bigger, flashier stateside fights in the near future.
And if he breaks into song after the bout for his debut as a Vegas crooner, nobody will be surprised.
“I can only try and be myself,” Fury said. “I’m not trying to sell you a product. I’m just being me. If people like me, they’ll watch. If they don’t, then they’ll kick me out of the country.”
AP Boxing Writer Tim Dahlberg contributed to this report.