LONDON (AP) — Sitting in nothing but some tight-fitting shorts, Tyson Fury grabbed the flabby part of his belly and started shaking it.
“I’m a normal-looking man,” he said, “an average Joe.”
No one quite mixes self-deprecation with self-promotion quite like this world heavyweight champion.
After all, moments earlier, Fury had reeled off all the titles he had won in a turbulent and headline-making boxing career that he might just have brought to an end with a brutal sixth-round stoppage of fellow Briton Dillian Whyte in front of 94,000 fans at London’s Wembley Stadium.
“I’m very proud I’ve won two English titles, two British titles, two Commonwealth titles, the Irish title, the European title, WBO intercontinental, WBO international, WBO super, WBA super, IBF, IBO, Ring Magazine, lineal, WBC — I’ve won every belt there is to win. There isn’t more to do,” he said in the bowels of England’s national soccer stadium.
“If this was a computer game, it definitely would be completed.”
Not quite, though. There is one final level that might, in the coming days, start to nag away at the man who says he is retiring as “the best heavyweight there has ever been.”
Could Fury really turn down the chance of holding all the heavyweight titles and becoming undisputed champion of the world? He has held each of the belts at some stage of his 14-year pro career — either side of a 3½-year break when he dealt with issues of mental health, drug use and depression during which he tried to kill himself — but never at the same time.
Beating the winner of the rematch between Oleksandr Usyk, the reigning WBA, IBF and WBO title-holder, and Anthony Joshua in a highly lucrative, legacy-defining fight would surely be the ultimate way to bow out.
Not according to Fury.
“I’ve fulfilled everything I’ve ever wanted to fulfil,” he said. “I’m going to retire as only the second heavyweight in history, after Rocky Marciano, to retire undefeated.
The 33-year-old Fury said he gave his word to his wife, Paris, that he would quit after completing his sensational trilogy of fights with Deontay Wilder with a victory in Las Vegas in October. He wanted to go out unhurt, unbeaten and on his own terms, and spend more time with his six kids.
Yet he was persuaded to get back in the ring for a homecoming fight against Whyte in front of the biggest ever crowd for a boxing bout in Britain.
With a 32nd victory in the bag, completed Saturday with a vicious uppercut that sent Whyte to the canvas, he gave his U.K. fans a walkaway knockout to remember him by.
If this is it for the towering Fury — and it still seems hard to believe we’ve seen the last of him — it was quite the career, in and out of the ring.
Ending Wladimir Klitschko’s decade-long run as champ in 2015 in the Ukrainian’s boxing backyard of Dusseldorf was the night he announced himself to the world. But it was the Wilder trilogy in the U.S., when he mixed his styles from a back-foot, pragmatic boxer to an aggressive, in-your-face approach, that really cemented his status as the best heavyweight of the past decade.
His links to Daniel Kinahan, named by U.S. authorities this month as one of the heads of an organized crime gang involved in international drug-trafficking operations and firearm offenses, have dogged him in recent years, especially ahead of the Whyte fight. He has come out with some homophobic and misogynistic comments that saw him get heavily criticized in Britain at a time he thought he should be treated like a king after dethroning Klitschko. There was a backdated two-year doping ban for having elevated levels of nandrolone in urine samples provided after fighting in 2015.
Others, though, prefer to see him as an icon for coming back from the brink — he ballooned in weight, became a drug user, drank heavily and said he attempted to kill himself after capturing the world heavyweight title for the first time — and becoming the No. 1 heavyweight.
He is also a born entertainer, singing in the ring after his fights and even attending a press conference dressed as Batman.
Most of all, he is a seriously skilled boxer, from a bloodline of bare-knuckle champions.
“There ain’t ever been anyone who could beat me,” the self-styled Gypsy King said. “You know why? My 6-foot-9 frame, 270-pound weight, can move like a middleweight, can hit like a thunderstorm and can take a punch like anybody else. I’ve got … the heart of a lion, the mindset of the Wizard of Oz.”
Fury says he could next be seen competing at a WWE event. He teased a potential hybrid exhibition fight with UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou.
More would want to see him fight Usyk or Joshua, though.
“I’ve given everything … and put it on the line every single time,” Fury said, “but enough is enough.”
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