In his comeback 'from the brink,' Tyson Fury's mental health must be considered above all else

Combat columnist
Yahoo Sports
Tyson Fury (25-0, 18 KOs) opened as a whopping -20000 favorite over Sefer Seferi. (Reuters)
Tyson Fury (25-0, 18 KOs) opened as a whopping -20000 favorite over Sefer Seferi. (Reuters)

Tyson Fury’s victory over Wladimir Klitschko on Nov. 28, 2015, was essentially like hitting the lottery for him. He claimed the IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight titles in a monumental upset and set himself up for a series of highly lucrative fights.

Fury, though, hasn’t stepped foot inside a ring since that night and he turned into one of those lottery winners whose life spiraled miserably downward.

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Less than a year after winning the title that once was known as the greatest prize in sports, Fury gave a remarkable interview to Rolling Stone in which he revealed he has bipolar disorder and was doing plenty of cocaine.

“They say I’ve got a version of bipolar,” Fury told Rolling Stone. “I’m a manic depressive … I just hope someone kills me before I kill myself.”

It’s a frightening tale and makes one fearful for his well-being. The pressure on any notable boxer is enormous, and it’s doubly so with Fury given his position in boxing’s hierarchy.

Fury, who will return to the ring for the first time since the victory over Klitschko, opened as a whopping -20000 favorite over Sefer Seferi for their Saturday bout in Manchester, England which will be streamed live on Showtime’s YouTube channel.

The goal for Fury will be to get through the fight safely, mentally even moreso than physically. He is the man reporters want to speak with and he is the man whose story can captivate millions.

The only fight that matters now in boxing’s heavyweight division is the one between WBC champion Deontay Wilder and IBF-WBA-WBO champ Anthony Joshua.

But if Fury, who after abandoning boxing ballooned to nearly 400 pounds at one point, shows any semblance of his once formidable skills, then he’ll join that mix.

A healthy, committed Fury makes the heavyweight division far more compelling. (Steven Paston/PA Wire)
A healthy, committed Fury makes the heavyweight division far more compelling. (Steven Paston/PA Wire)

A Fury versus Joshua fight would be bigger than any other in the U.K. and would also be a license to print money.

Fury’s mental health must be considered before all else, though. Fighters are given thorough pre-fight medical screenings, but mental health care is rarely discussed. Have little doubt that Fury will be physically fit to fight, even if he will be a bit pudgier than usual.

His mental state, though, won’t be given the same kind of exam, even though it’s the issue that has kept him on the sidelines for 30 months.

Fury sounded all the right notes in an interview with BBC Sports, indicating that he has a self-awareness few have given him credit for previously. He came across like an advocate for mental health care, offering a hand to those similarly suffering who are unable to get the help they need to treat their illness.

It doesn’t, he pointed out, have to be all about that downhill spiral.

“I woke up every day wishing I would not wake up any more,” Fury said. “But I am living proof anyone can come back from the brink. There are a lot of people out there suffering with mental health problems who think all their days will be gray, but life can improve again and you will start to enjoy the little things again. I could not pinpoint what made me depressed. I was rich, successful, young, healthy, had a family, fame – everything a man could dream of – but I was still depressed.

“To subsidize that depression, other things happened. I needed the rest. I felt tired of boxing, drained. I needed to be rejuvenated. One hundred percent the break benefited me. There are challenges out there I want to take on. I want to achieve more. I was at the top and didn’t feel there was more to do. Now new champions have risen. A structured routine in life is key, having short-term and long-term goals. I advise living a healthy clean life. What good is drinking? It poisons the body. There is nothing better than getting in the gym and getting the endorphins going.”

A healthy, committed Fury makes the heavyweight division far more compelling. He’s been a magnet for controversy – he’s been banned for using performance enhancing drugs, and has made homophobic comments in the past – but he’s a top-tier fighter when all is right.

For his sake as well as the sake of his family, hopefully all is right with his mental health. The pressure and the scrutiny an elite boxer faces is suffocating, and no one wants to see a man have a mental breakdown in the middle of a boxing ring.

Hopefully, he’s gotten the care he needs, because if Fury can return to the top, it will be a redemption story like no other.

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