Upbeat, in-shape Tyson Fury relishes the final buildup to his showdown with Usyk

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A lean Tyson Fury was enthusiastic during the grand arrivals for his anticipated showdown with Oleksandr Usyk (Photo by Richard Pelham/Getty Images)

by Declan Warrington | 

In the build-up to his victory over Tom Schwarz in Las Vegas in June 2019, Tyson Fury was every inch the natural showman.

A few nights before the Las Vegas debut he had long dreamed of, he held court with a group of friends – then-trainer Ben Davison, promoter Frank Warren, and a privileged few media members – and animatedly broke down the defeat Anthony Joshua had suffered little over a week earlier at the hands of Andy Ruiz.

At that week’s final pre-fight press conference, he arrived early, took to the microphone on stage to ensure it started when it suited him, and relished and commanded the attention of everyone present like only the most experienced of performers in Vegas could.

He explained how his ambitions of fighting in Sin City had meant he had resisted opportunities to travel there before his professional career demanded he be present as a prizefighter. He also, rightly, recognized the extent to which seeing one casino on the Vegas strip meant coming close to seeing all of them, and on his way to the ring that night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, he emulated Apollo Creed’s ring walk from Rocky IV.

Tyson Fury makes his grand entrance to fight Tom Schwarz at MGM Grand Garden Arena on June 15, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by MB Media/Getty Images)

Fury, without question, on the occasion of his first fight since agreeing to promotional terms with Top Rank to be broadcast on ESPN, was reveling in very deliberately selling himself to an American audience. He was also, without question, excited about the fact that for the first time he was preparing to fight at the same venue as the great heavyweight he was named after, and that it was his name in lights on a small corner of the Vegas strip.

To see Fury that week – and it is relevant that he was such a significant favorite over Schwarz – before he won inside two rounds and continued performing at his post-fight press conference was to see him consistently thrive. To see him in Riyadh, at the start of the week that could define his decorated career more than any other and end with him winning the undisputed and Ring Magazine heavyweight championship, is to remember how he had been five years earlier, in 2019.

When Warren and others left Fury’s rented villa that evening in Vegas, they almost had to adjust to the change in energy that followed no longer being in his presence. “Have you ever met a character like him?” the promoter rhetorically asked with sincerity, years after regularly having dealt with, among others, Mike Tyson and Don King.

Unlike the obvious attempts from almost everyone else involved in the “Ring of Fire” promotion, Fury isn’t tempted to lie and pretend that, unlike that week in Vegas, he had ever dreamed of fighting in the soulless city of Riyadh, nor anywhere else in Saudi Arabia or the Middle East. But he is carrying himself with a similar sense of anticipation – of believing he is on the verge of his crowning achievement – and increasingly, unlike when he struggled past Francis Ngannou in October, he appears both fit and well.

As with other fighters, the condition of his skin, so often, is the giveaway for Fury. In Riyadh he looks like he has been living cleanly for a long time – perhaps since the fight with Ngannou, when he was overweight and out of shape – and like he has lost weight even more steadily, as became possible as a consequence of the cut he suffered in sparring forcing the postponement of his fight with Oleksandr Usyk for a second time.

Tyson Fury takes the stage at BLVD City – Music World on May 14 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, ahead of undisputed heavyweight championship showdown with Oleksandr Usyk. (Photo by Richard Pelham/Getty Images)

Fury was untroubled by the behavior of his father John on Monday – the parent who named him after Mike Tyson headbutted one of Usyk’s associates and left the scene with his head smeared in his own blood – and he spoke with a sense of perspective about not only the picture of his career but the tragic death of the debutant Sherif Lawal. At Tuesday’s grand arrivals at BLVD City, the even more soulless, remote entertainment center so close to the Kingdom Arena at which he will fight Usyk, he again relished his moment in the spotlight, and to the extent that he even briefly sang on stage.

If Usyk is an even more naturally talented fighter than Fury, he is not even more – nor less – composed in the boxing ring. By comparison the Ukrainian – at 37 two years Fury’s senior – is regardless the epitome of professionalism and consistency, so to see him looking every bit as healthy, relaxed and ready far from came as a surprise.

“For me it is sport but for a lot of people it is a business,” Usyk said when he explained why, regardless of whether he wins on Saturday, he will forever place greater value in his winning an Olympic gold medal at London 2012. “It’s money; belts; fame. For me, first, it is a sport.”

Oleksandr Usyk reacts to the media presence on the stage at BLVD City – Music World on May 14 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Richard Pelham/Getty Images)

Fury, by contrast, insists that he sees it as business and his most rewarding route to financial security, but almost everything else about him and the way he has long spoken about his profession’s history suggests that he sees it as something more than that – and that he is the most ready, in mind and body, he has ever been for his biggest test.

“What are we in this for?” said Fury on Monday. “Money. If I can get double-bubble for one job there’s not much more to be said.”

His schoolboy’s grin when he said “double-bubble” was another giveaway of how upbeat he is, much like he was in the days before he fought Schwarz and before his first fight in 2018 with Deontay Wilder, when it is little exaggeration to say that as the underdog he fought to a draw that should have been scored as a victory – and ultimately changed his life.

Before his stoppage of Steve Cunningham in 2013 – his first fight in New York – Fury asked a respected photographer to follow he and his wife Paris around Manhattan and to take photos of them together and explained that he wanted to make those memories because he knew how quickly his promising career could end.

Eleven years on he is still fighting having surpassed so many expectations, and instead of making him weary the promise of creating history has inspired a renewed enthusiasm that seems likely to ensure that one of the sport’s most compelling and enigmatic fighters will perform at his best.

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