Tyson Fury has a self-admitted obsession with time. A fixation on maximising the seconds, be it jabbing his way to belts, sterling and stardom as boxing’s peacocking sovereign, or being a dad, husband and gym-goer-turned-willing-bystander in mundane perhaps-soon-to-be life beyond the ring at home in Morecambe.
And so on Saturday night the heavyweight champion of the world slouched in his Wembley throne and panned in absorption and appreciation of 94,000 disciples as they serenaded his UK homecoming with the decibels befitting of British boxing history, Fury later laughing that the pause to take a seat had disrupted his ring-walk, hence him scurrying the final stretch with his security team in tow.
To proclaim greatness can be an over-exhausted self-assurance mechanism, to project it is an accolade few others can attest to, and Fury’s unflustered, era-leading ability to flick the switch between showman and assassin places him in an exclusive club, of which he might well be pushing for presidency.
Dillian Whyte had been the WBC’s No 1 challenger for upwards of 1,000 days, riding the momentum of a career-best training camp, embracing the animosity of lop-sided allegiances with nonchalance and composure, and arriving worthy of his shot. As you travelled in on the tube or strolled down Wembley Way or hovered around a bustling stadium concourse, Fury fanatics would concede the Brixton man’s knockout threat. Not once had Fury himself shirked the danger, either.
Six rounds later the Gypsy King was into his encore, leading a rendition of Don McLean’s ‘American Pie’ having just deciphered Whyte’s southpaw approach with ease, waltzed through ugly spells of elbows and near-head clashes, produced a distancing clinic, blitzed his opponent with surgical combinations and iced a dominant display with a vicious, pre-meditated uppercut to leave The Body Snatcher down and out.
“He didn’t fight no world champion tonight, I ain’t no world champion, I’m a legend in this game,” Fury told reporters afterwards.
“You can’t deny it, I’m the best heavyweight that has ever been. I’m not just being confident, 6ft 9ins frame, 270lb weight, can move like a middleweight, can hit like a thunderstorm and can take a punch like anybody else, I’ve got b**** like King Kong, the heart of a lion, the mindset of the Wizard of Oz.”
To admire his craft and to hang on every poetic monologue lures fantasising about a universe in which he and Muhammad Ali might share a stage, trading verbal art or nodding with a smirk of respect to one another after miraculously veering through a flurry of punches.
The UK saw the best version of Tyson Fury on Saturday night, in every sense of the meaning.
A man at the peak of his powers and who agreed he was getting even better as a boxer, but also a man that underlined the absence of a 22-month lay-off amid a battle with depression, and the absence of heartbreak in the wake of wife Paris suffering two miscarriages, and the absence of sleeping on a hospital floor six weeks before fighting Deontay Wilder while daughter Athena was in intensive care.
A man seemingly at peace, a man that, with or without a unification bout against Anthony Joshua or Oleksandr Usyk, will one day retire in peace. A man that, while at home in the ring, by now maybe feels the ring needs him as much as he had needed the ring.
This was a contrasting figure to the Tyson Fury that struggled to process the heights of defeating Wladimir Klitschko in 2015. This was fulfillment.
There is a telling moment in his post-fight press conference when Fury is questioned on whether he does in fact plan on retiring, at which point the adjacent SugarHill Steward reaches for the bottle of nearby hand sanitiser and squirts it twice onto his hands before sliding along to Fury, who adheres to the unspoken prompt and copies his trusted trainer.
Prior to the press conference getting under way Fury had called on a member of his team to bring Steward in to join him on stage, and earlier in the week had insisted on giving up his chair for his good friend while addressing the media alongside Whyte.
Fury’s thanks to those within his inner circle is no pre-rehearsed box-ticker, with Steward at the heart of his reinvention having been integral in supplementing the dinking and toying slickness with a once-undersold see-face punch-face knockout power that has now taken out Wilder and Whyte while glossing his greatness as one of the sport’s most complete fighters.
“I’m the linear heavyweight champion of the world, undefeated, and he’s the only man that could ever make me feel like a bum,” said Fury of Steward, who began working with him in 2020. “It takes a special mentality to go back to roots and start again.”
Fury went on to note how the uppercut that finished Whyte was actually a check hook that he and Steward had been practising at length during Tuesday’s public workout.
Steward himself, very much blinkers on to the fight week razzmatazz, jokingly strikes a pose or two for the multiple cameras facing in his direction. The two have evidently brushed off on one another.
Brother Shane interjects every so often, citing Tyson’s pre-entrance prediction of an exceptional performance and initiating a round of applause after certain answers, cousin Andy Lee shares a laugh with Fury over how much he had been enjoying ‘retirement’ after the Wilder trilogy, and another member of the team reminds of how Derek Chisora is now ‘homeless’ after betting Joseph Parker his house that Whyte would win.
The champion talks as if at the dinner table reflecting on his day in the office. It felt like a retirement conversation, regardless of whether it proves to be or not.
Promoter Frank Warren, meanwhile, barely stops smiling as he listens in awe. When he does speak, it is to further vindicate his man’s legacy.
“For me he is without a doubt the best heavyweight of our generation,” he said. “He’s the best fighter I’ve worked with.”
Warren’s stable over the years has included the likes of Ricky Hatton, Joe Calzaghe, ‘Prince’ Naseem Hamed and Nigel Benn. So it is some compliment, and it applies to both in and out of the ring.
Within that legacy has been the vulnerability and honesty to present himself as a beacon of inspiration when it comes to men’s mental health.
“I think he’s the most complete fighter personality, he is a personality, he’s got charisma, Canelo is a great fighter, people say he’s No 1, he doesn’t touch people like Tyson does,” Warren told Sky Sports earlier in the week.
“Heavyweight wise I don’t think there’s been anybody like him since Ali as a person.
“He’s been brave enough to come out and say what his problems were and how that affected his life. That touched with the man in the street, I think that’s why he’s such a man of the people, and if he can have mental health problems and come out and say how it is, people get inspired by that.”
If he wants to, Fury can rest. If he wants to, he can pump six figures into his account with an exhibition bout against UFC star Francis Ngannou, not that he cares about the money too much, explaining that he still drives an 07 Passat. If he wants to, he can mix it with the WWE. If he wants to, he can await Usyk or Joshua for the ultimate career-closing winner-takes-all showdown and ride off into the sunset.
If he wants to, he can be the friend that insists he isn’t coming out tonight, knowing full well he will be and planning his outfit as we speak.
Where he might have once felt underappreciated or forgotten, an electrifying Wembley atmosphere, combined with his Las Vegas heroics, leaves boxing reluctant to ponder life without the Gypsy King.