The boxing world is still buzzing over Andy Ruiz Jr.’s improbable upset of Anthony Joshua. Nobody saw it coming. Except Tyson Fury.
The heavyweight contender, who fought Deontay Wilder to a memorable draw last December, could tell AJ was about to take his first L. Call it a sixth sense or whatever you’d like, but Fury (27-0-1, 19 KOs) noticed something was off when Joshua was walking to the ring. Kind of like how he’s noticed Wilder ain’t the same since they squared up.
“One hundred percent, he's mentally broke,” says Fury.
It’s the week before fight week for Fury, and the 30-year-old pugilist—a mammoth of a man who stands 6’9” and owns a pair of hands that will swallow yours when you dap up—is in Los Angeles to talk about his return to the ring after the memorable showdown with Wilder. His bout with Tom Schwarz goes down June 15 in Las Vegas (ESPN+), but it’s impossible not to talk about Wilder, considering the two just announced their highly anticipated rematch for early 2020. Their draw was a controversial, but basically guaranteed boxing fans another entertaining promotion and fight. Predictably, the Gypsy King thinks the second time around will be different.
“He couldn't beat a Tyson Fury with no ring time in three years, he definitely won't beat a Tyson Fury that's active and fit,” he says. “Like I said, if that was me and some guy come out of the blue from nowhere and beat the shit out of me, basically, I'd be thinking this is going to be a problem.”
Fury stopped by the Complex office in L.A. to talk about his surprising decision to sign with Top Rank and ESPN, why he enjoyed watching Joshua get washed by Ruiz, and why he feels Wilder is no longer the same fighter.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
You were very gracious on Twitter about Anthony Joshua losing and acknowledged Andy Ruiz Jr. having the moment of his life. How much could you relate to what Andy experienced because obviously you had a crazy moment years against Wladimir Klitschko?
I was very happy for young Ruiz. It used to be me who was the fat kid, fat guy. But now, now there's two. It's just a good show of you don't need a lot of muscles to be a good fighter because no matter who you are, what you are, it doesn't really matter. It's the fight that's inside of you. I think he proved that on Saturday night.
How can you call yourself a proper world champion if you have to rob a decision off a guy who's been to hell and back and had three years out of the ring?
Did you draw similarities to your experience of this ultimate win that was so unexpected?
Not really. Listen, he's a totally different kind of character to me. He did what he had to do, I'm happy for him. But is there any similarities to mine? You could say there is a little bit of similarity, because he went and he upset the odds, and he beat a good champion in Joshua. But similarities to myself, not really.
Why did you feel the need to be so gracious toward Joshua? Obviously, Deontay went kind of scorched earth with his tweet, but why did you feel that it was the right kind of tact to take?
I don't believe in kicking him when he's on the floor, but I have destroyed him lately. On the day after he'd been defeated, there was no need to kick him in the face and make him feel even worse.
You noticed when he came out that he looked a little bit different.
He looked...he was very un-warmed up. He had no sweat on him, he came out cold, he looked like he didn't want to be there. It was what it was. Sometimes when British fighters, and when all fighters, they travel over the world, it's called a little thing of shitting themselves. Some fighters perform under pressure, some fighters fold.
Top Rank CEO Bob Arum recently called you the most charismatic guy in boxing he's seen since Muhammad Ali and a comeback-ing George Foreman. Why is Bob Arum right?
Bob Arum's right because the story's unique, and I just be myself. I'm an easygoing, flamboyant type of character. Easy to speak to, very approachable, will talk and speak to anybody, got time for everybody, can make people laugh, I don't know. I'm an easy person to be around.
But when you hear him say that, being in the same breath as Muhammad Ali, the most renowned personality, if not in sports, certainly in boxing, I mean, to be grouped with those two, it's pretty incredible.
It's an incredible statement. I just got to prove him right. I can probably talk a glass eye to sleep. I talk like this because I can back it up. I backed it up 28 times before as a professional—unbeaten 11 years, won every single belt there is to win, what have I not got to be confident about? I beat every man that's ever stood in front of me. This is just why I'm confident and what I can do, and what I do, so I will talk about it.
Did the confidence waver when you were going through all your issues?
No, not at all, because I didn't about care about sports or boxing or a career. It didn't matter. For a long time I just thought about dying and hoped to die. So when I finally started to get back, and got me life back on track with the training and dedication again, it was a whole new life. I don't look at this as a business, or as a big thing like, “Oh, it's a fight, I get nervous.” I look at this as it's fun. This is entertainment for me. Something to do. I do boxing because I love to fight, not because I have to. I don't need to be here. I don't need to be thousands of miles away from my kids. I've made enough money in me career to retire and sit in the beach, drinking alcohol all day. I do this because I'm bred and born to do it. And I love to fight. I couldn't think of anything better to do right now than box or fight.
You had that line, I think in the promotion with the fight with Deontay about that you both kind of liked each other, and that you both...that you would love to have a drink with him after the fight.
He wasn't a man of his word, because I searched all over L.A. for that drink. I couldn't find it. He didn't even turn up to the press conference. He insisted he have a separate press conference. After a performance like that, so would I.
To have that performance in that setting and get back up from the knockdown, where does that rank in terms of your proudest moments of your career?
In me career it was a great moment but nothing will ever beat November 28, 2015, when I toppled the so-called “un-top-able” champion. The guy who thought he was unbeatable. The world thought he was so much better than everybody else. Until he met the Gypsy King. And he fell victim of another Tyson Fury defeat. That was the crowning moment. I always said no matter what I want to do in my life, as long as I beat Wladimir Klitschko, I don't really care what else [happens].
Why is that though?
Because that guy hated me from the moment he set eyes on me when I was a young lad, 21 years old. Emanuel Steward brought me to his training camp and I just could feel the hate. Emanuel kept telling him this is the heir to the throne. Tyson will be the most dominant heavyweight after you're gone, and he hated that fact.
Do you run into him at all nowadays?
No. Wladimir is a sore loser. And I was almost delighted by the fact that AJ got chinned by the fat guy because Klitschko tipped him to be such a great, dominant champion and oh my god he's my little brother, and my second half, and whatever else. It is what it is, but I was happy for both of them. These body beautiful guys both got beat by two fat guys. So I was very happy about that. Two-nil for the fat men.
I think with you it's like, you're taller than Deontay, you're taller than AJ, and sometimes people can get blinded by the fact that your limbs are obviously very long and if they’re not attuned to the boxing game, they deride you and don't really put validation into the fact that you can be a very good fundamental boxer.
People are always going to put you down. If I'd listen to all the negativity and naysayers, dream killers, I like to call them, people who can't live their dreams so they try and destroy somebody else's dream. Then I wouldn't have done anything in my life or career. There is no such thing as I can't, or I won't. I only believe in yes I can. Because I believe I can do anything I want to in life.
You are the eternal optimist.
There is no such thing as, “Oh, let's just settle for second place.” If you settle for second place, you end up like AJ or Klitschko. Beaten by fat men. Isn't it fitting that the two of the greatest conditioned athletes of the last 20 years have both been beaten by two fat guys? But it really goes to show that if you take your life and sport too serious, you're always going to end up losing.
Do people bring up your resurrection from the knockdown from Deontay often? Have you fully embraced it?
Yeah, I'd say probably memes, the Rocky memes, and Mickey talking in the background, and there's the Undertaker meme, I thought that was a good one. When you come home drunk at night, and you hear that phone unlock, your wife's got your phone, you just don't stand up. That was kind of a classic one, but, it was what it was.
Was it the hardest punch you've taken?
And what it'd feel like?
Didn't feel a thing. You don't feel punches in boxing. If you can feel it, you're all right. You think, “Oh, that was a hard shot, you're okay.” It's when you wake up on the floor. You don't feel.
Can you think back to those seconds when you were getting your wits about yourself, and on the mat, and rising up? Do you remember vividly what was going on through your head and through your body?
Yeah, I opened my eyes around four seconds, and I saw the referee say four, so I got up. I've obviously been hit. Time to get up and fight back.
Did you feel overall that you really surprised people through your performance against Deontay?
No. If it was me, the shoe was on the other foot. I was an active world champion, seven or eight title defenses, never had no time off, always been in the gym…and then some guy coming out from the verge of suicide, drinking every day, and taking drugs every day, and ballooned up all that weight, and had two rubbish fights back in, I think, “Fucking hell, I must be shit.” You got a guy who's never been in the gym for three years, and then I'm living life. And then he comes back after six months and beats me up. And I'm an active current world champion. It's got to hurt. Got to hurt. He's mentally fragile now. I've took his best shot, I got up, I've had three years out of the ring, and he still couldn't beat me. He ain't nothing. If he was something then he'd have beat me. After three years out of the ring and everything I went through. But he still couldn't beat me then. He doesn't have a prayer next time.
What will be different from the first time?
Difference will be I'm active this time, and I've had more than six months of activity. So, this'll be my two, three, it's been my four fights back. So, three years out, four fights back, and I'll have another one, that'll be five fights back. Come back to the best. He couldn't beat a Tyson Fury with no ring time in three years, he definitely won't beat a Tyson Fury that's active and fit. Like I said, if that was me, and some guy come out of the blue from nowhere and beat the shit out of me basically, it'd be thinking this is going to be a problem.
The way that you said that you could tell that AJ was off last weekend, watching Deontay recently, can you tell a difference in the man that you faced off with?
One hundred percent he's mentally broke. He's thinking he's in the gym everyday thinking, “I can knock anybody out, I am the best, blah, blah, blah, no one can stand with me.” His team is telling him the same thing. Everybody around him pats him on the back and says, “You're the man, Deontay.” They're all ass-kissers. Yes men. It's a disgrace because like I said, if I couldn't beat a man who had three year out the ring then quit boxing. How can you call yourself a proper world champion if you have to rob a decision off a guy who's been to hell and back and had three years out of the ring?
When you decided to sign with Top Rank and ESPN, just take me quickly through the machinations of that because I think it caught people off guard.
It was so appealing because there was a $100 million check on the end of it. That's quite appealing for something like this. Where you're from in the world, a $100 million dollars, it's a lot of money, you know what I mean? ESPN, big time in America and broadcast sports station. What's not to like? I get paid $100 million to have fun basically.
People know your back story—the things that you fought through, and the things that you have overcome. That's definitely humanized you in a way that maybe some of the other fighters, like AJ and Deontay, haven't been. So I'd imagine that's a great reason that people get behind you.
One hundred percent everybody loves a good comeback story and an underdog story, and it doesn't come much bigger comeback than my story. With all the depression and anxiety, and drug abuse, and alcohol abuse, and going from 400 pounds back down to 250, 260. It's a hell of a story.
And it's a story that I'm willing to talk about, and a story that I like to keep spreading the word on because I don't think that you can talk too much about mental health in sports. I think there's a lot sports men and women out there now, who are suffering in silence, that need someone like me to open up and talk about it because if it's all right for me to come out and say then it'd be all right for you to come out and say as well. I hold it dear to me because I've suffered with it my whole life. It's a very important subject to me.
What's the path to victory against Tom Schwarz?
Winning. I don't really look at these fights too much, to be honest. I'll figure it out when I'm in there. When I'm in the ring with these guys, I'll figure it out in 10 seconds. What I should do, and what I shouldn't do. I'm a unique fighter. You can talk about a gameplan outside the ring but as soon as you get punched in the face, it goes out the window.