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The first instinct upon hearing Tyson Fury say he plans to retire after Saturday’s defense of his WBC and lineal heavyweight titles against Dillian Whyte at Wembley Stadium in London was to laugh and say, “Yeah, right."
I’ve heard it all before, and you have, too, if you’ve ever paid even a modicum of attention to the sport. Fighters say they’re going to retire all the time and the vast majority of them keep on fighting for years after they say that.
It happens for a variety of reasons. A lot of times, it’s emotional. Training camp takes a lot out of them and they are concerned about the fight coming up.
Sometimes, it’s for strategic reasons. Threatening to retire can sometimes make things happen contract-wise that are beneficial.
Fury, though, is wired differently. And he’s blunt enough and outspoken enough and charismatic enough that if he felt slighted, he’d speak out. Lord only knows Fury is skilled at using the bully pulpit.
The big reason to keep fighting beyond the Whyte bout would be financial, of course. Longtime rival and former champion Anthony Joshua will rematch with IBF-WBA-WBO champion Oleksandr Usyk later this year and the winner would be a natural opponent for Fury, should he defeat Whyte.
If Fury-Whyte is drawing 94,000 fans and expectations are that the British PPV could hit 2 million, a Fury-Joshua fight for heavyweight supremacy would dwarf those figures. It would almost be a license to print money. And while the U.S. pay-per-view figures from Fury-Whyte figure to be modest, they would be massive for Fury-Joshua or Fury-Usyk in the U.S. for an undisputed title fight.
It’s no stretch to suggest Fury could make $100 million, if not substantially more, on such a bout.
Fury sat down with Adam Smith for a brief chat on Top Rank’s YouTube channel, and he ruled out money as a reason to stick around. Though his answer was filled with double-negatives, the point was clear: If he fights again, he’ll only do so because he enjoys it and not because he’s fixated with money.
“I’ve got nothing to prove to anybody,” Fury said to Smith. “I’m just there to have fun, take in the atmosphere and enjoy the night. It’s the final farewell. It’s been a long ride and it’s quite emotional to me, to be honest: The ride of starting as a little kid and wanting to be heavyweight champion and to finally be hanging up the gloves … I know nobody believes me because they all think I’m after money or whatever else.
“There’s only a certain amount of people who know that money don’t mean nothing to me. I’m walking away. I have nothing to prove to nobody. I’ve done what I’ve loved to do. And this is it. Win, lose or draw on Saturday night, I’ll put up a good fight and I’ll go home. And that’s it.”
Fury said he had told his wife, Paris, after his impressive KO victory over Deontay Wilder in October that he was done. But Whyte has long been a mainstay on the British boxing scene and when the opportunity came to fight once more at home in front of what could become a record crowd, he made the choice to go one more time.
Saturday’s crowd is expected to be a European record as well as the largest crowd ever in Wembley.
That’s enough to satisfy Fury, who seemed at peace with the decision to hang it up without ever getting the opportunity to be undisputed champion that a fight with the Usyk-Joshua winner would bring.
“As the great Julius Caesar said, ‘There will always be somebody else to fight,’” Fury said. “And there will be. There’s a million young guys coming up. I can’t go on forever, just like Wladimir [Klitschko] couldn’t, Joe Louis and Mike Tyson and so many before me. Every good dog has his day and that’s it.”
Win or lose, Tyson Fury's résumé is complete
If he walks away, particularly after a win, he’ll leave a mixed legacy. He won’t have fought some of the greats of his era, including Joshua and Usyk. He’ll leave without facing Andy Ruiz, Luis Ortiz and Joe Joyce.
But with a win, he’ll be 32-0-1 and will have a win over every man he’s faced. And if you put him into historical perspective, he’d have to rank in the top 10 all time. He’s been at his best since 2018, when he had a disputed draw with Wilder, wins over Tom Schwarz and Otto Wallin and then a pair of dramatic finishes of Wilder in Las Vegas.
He’ll have come back from significant mental health problems when he ballooned to well over 400 pounds and contemplated suicide. He once was driving his car at a high rate of speed and planning to crash into the support beams of a bridge in order to kill himself, but he said at the last moment, he heard a voice that told him not to do it.
It’s a bit controversial to say he’s a top-10 heavyweight, but if you go back and look at the men he’d be in consideration with, it’s not that stunning. Joe Louis is regarded as a top-three heavyweight by most, but he was 6-foot-1, around 205 and had a 75-inch reach. Fury is 6-9, 270 and has an 85-inch reach.
The same would be true of Rocky Marciano. Joe Frazier was short and would never have been able to get near Fury to land that famous left hook.
Fury might have had problems with bigger heavyweights like George Foreman, Lennox Lewis, Larry Holmes and Muhammad Ali, but Fury’s size and boxing ability would have made him a challenge for anyone who ever lived.
A win over, say, Joshua, wouldn’t really do that much for him for a historical perspective. Those who believe Lewis/Foreman/Holmes/Ali et al would have destroyed him wouldn’t be swayed by him beating Joshua.
His résumé is complete.
He has always loved to fight and that may well be what brings him back.
It’s not, though, an outlandish suggestion that Saturday’s bout will be the last time we see Fury in a ring with gloves on his hands.
Win or lose, he’ll be committed to the history books.
And history, despite the inevitable naysayers, will judge him kindly.