Comeback king Tyson Fury proved he is one of life’s great winners as the boxer was crowned heavyweight world champion for the second time.
The Gypsy King took the WBC belt from Deontay Wilder in a knockout rematch – leaving the Bronze Bomber so dazed, bloodied and wobbly his corner threw in the towel in the seventh round.
After the win in Las Vegas in the early hours of yesterday, Fury declared from the ring: “The king has returned.”
And as the showman then sang American Pie to the crowd, talk turned to him now facing fellow Brit Anthony Joshua, who holds the other three big belts – the WBO, WBA and IBF – plus the IBO.
The unification bout is being touted as a £250million spectacular and the winner will go down in history. And that Fury, 31, is a contender for that legacy is astonishing after the knockdowns he has had in life while fighting his way to the top.
The 6ft 9in Mancunian traveller has beaten drug and booze addiction, weight issues that saw him hit 27st and clinical depression that made him suicidal.
He also had to give up the belts Joshua now holds after first becoming a world champion and was pilloried over controversial comments.
But as Fury proved in his first clash with American Wilder, a draw in December 2018, he is impossible to keep down.
His fighting nature was clear from the start, born three months premature at 1lb and given little chance of survival.
Dad John said: “When I put my hand on his small frame, I could feel the life in him. I said to the doctor, ‘He will make it’. He has defied the odds since day one. Maybe this is just who he is.”
John and mum Amber named him Tyson after heavyweight champ “Iron” Mike Tyson in recognition of his fighting spirit. Fury left school at 11 to join John surfacing roads, already boxing.
His dad was a heavyweight who won eight of his 13 licensed fights – but earned most of his money in bare-knuckle bouts. Fury rose through the amateur ranks and turned pro at 20, notching up the wins to earn a 2015 shot at heavyweight world champion Wladimir Klitschko.
Defying the bookies and pundits, he beat the Ukrainian to claim the WBA, WBO, IBF, IBO and Ring Magazine titles.
But the victory only brought him pain. Instead of being the nation’s new sporting hero, many felt he was a bad role model.
Now under the spotlight, devout Christian Fury was blasted for saying homosexuality and abortion should be criminalised.
He said: “The Gypsy King and the heavyweight champion of the world will not be silenced. I’ll always speak my mind, like it or lump it, in Jesus’s name.”
Ill-judged comments about women were also condemned. Fury later apologised and has since been praised for his openness about his fight with addiction and depression, having said he has a desire to “help and inspire others”.
When a rematch with Klitschko fell through twice in 2016, Fury hit the drink and drugs, and was stripped of his IBF title. He was then suspended after admitting to cocaine use due to his depression and vacated his WBA and WBO belts.
For four months, the lineal champion was snorting cocaine, drinking 18 pints a day and getting “fat as a pig”.
His lowest point came when he tried to commit suicide in the Ferrari F12 his win against Klitschko had bought him, deciding to plough it into a bridge.
He said: “I got the car up to 190mph. I didn’t care what anybody was thinking. I just wanted to die. As I was heading towards that bridge, I heard a voice say, ‘Don’t do this. Think about your family, your boys and girls growing up with no father, everybody saying their dad was a weak man, who took the easy way out.’
Instead of ending his life, Fury drove home and re-started it, seeing counsellors as he battled clinical depression. He also hit the gym as wife Paris, 30, and their five kids supported him.
Fury said: “I came out the other side very strong. I turned my life around.”
Fury has bared his heart on his struggle and discussed plans to do more for mental health causes upon retiring, becoming an ambassador for the illness.
And on his newfound peace, he said: “There have always been two characters to Tyson Fury– there’s Tyson Fury, the man, and there’s the Gypsy King, the entertainer. It was two totally different people. You wouldn’t believe how different those two people are, it’s like another person sat there. It’s not me today, it’s an entertainer, it’s somebody who has never been affected by mental health – if that makes any sense at all.
“The Gypsy King has been very pissed off with Tyson Fury because the man has been affected by stuff that can bring everyone down. But the Gypsy King has never had any defaults. He’s done everything asked of him, he’s gone all around the world and boxed all the best champions, and he’s never, ever defaulted.
“When I’m in the ring doing my stuff and entertaining, the Gypsy King comes out and thrives. But while I’m at home doing day-to-day stuff and just a normal person, a husband, a father, then Tyson Fury, the man, is where I want to be.”
At the weekend, Tyson Fury and The Gypsy King both had plenty to celebrate.
After the fight at the MGM Grand Arena defeated Wilder, 34, was taken to hospital for checks while the new champ partied long into the night. Fury arrived at the Hakkasan nightclub to wild applause. Many revellers were Brits who had travelled to support him.
As former 1D star Liam Payne sang on stage, Fury wrapped himself in a Union Jack to dance with Paris, then took the mic to belt out songs including boxing anthem Sweet Caroline.
He was joined by his boxer brother, Love Island star Tommy, 20, and Towie star Mark Wright, 33. But as they partied, eyes were already turning to the potential blockbuster with Joshua, 30.
Both fighters have spoken of their desire to fight and unify the belts – with fans demanding a UK venue.
Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn said the Londoner wants to fight Fury this summer. He is due to face Kubrat Pulev in June but is ready to sidestep that.
Hearn said: “I’ve already spoken to AJ and he wants to go into this fight next.
“We have to make this fight happen. We will never, ever get the chance for two Brits to fight for an undisputed heavyweight world championship.”
Wilder has an option for a third fight with Fury this summer but Hearn hopes he will not take it, saying: “I don’t think anyone wants to see a third fight, (Fury’s win) was that conclusive.” Fury’s promoter, Frank Warren, also said they were keen to do a deal.
Team Joshua member Mark Seltzer, a boxing manager and cutman with 50 world title fights to his name, said a £250million clash is definitely possible.
He said: “Wembley would be the obvious choice as few stadiums can hold the crowd it would attract but Cardiff under the roof is also a contender.
“When you consider gate receipts, pay per view, worldwide broadcasters, the bout could exceed the biggest deal for any unification fight in boxing history.”
He said although Joshua has the most belts, the purse would be split 50/50.
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