- Fury v Wallin:
- Saturday 14 September, Las Vegas
- How to follow:
- Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live and follow live text commentary on the BBC Sport website
Tyson Fury is sitting in a hot tub at the house he is renting before his fight with Otto Wallin on the Las Vegas strip on Saturday.
He is lean, glowing and a picture of health.
Next month, three years will have passed since Britain’s former heavyweight world champion first revealed his use of cocaine and alcohol to help battle depression.
Now the 31-year-old says he has found “true happiness” and, as he relaxes with his team around him, he sounds like he means it.
‘Happiness doesn’t come from achievements or assets’
Around 20 minutes from the Las Vegas strip, Fury’s house is set back from a secluded road. We enter via a garage with fitness equipment strewn about the floor. His security guard puts away the shopping and his chef serves him steak and mashed potato.
His team say Fury decided to start running the day after victory over Tom Schwarz in June. He is, they say, hooked on staying in shape having shed around 10st in two years.
All in white, bar the flash of a gold watch, he sits back and tells BBC Radio 5 Live Boxing’s Steve Bunce: “I might sound like a hypocrite here but I really don’t care – there’s only a certain amount you can spend in life.
“I have found true happiness within myself. I used to search for it. Everything I ever did in my life I was always searching and expecting more. Whether it be a wife, kids, championships – I was always expecting more and thinking ‘is this it?’
“I have really found out that happiness doesn’t come from achievements or assets. It comes from within, with contentment of who you are. I can’t be happier. If I had another 10 zeros on my bank balance it couldn’t make me happier. I can only wear these shoes and sleep in one bed. You can only drive one car – if it’s a Rolls Royce or piece of rubbish, they all do the same thing.”
‘I never want to go back there’
The newly clear-sighted fighter turning his or her life around is a familiar if sometimes short-lived story, but Fury has obviously thought deeply about his mental health and the triggers that affect him.
It is this same busy mind that ran riot in the dark days following his shock victory over then world champion Wladimir Klitschko in 2015. Those close to him say a negative conversation can still leave him preoccupied, rerunning what was said over and over. But, crucially, he is now aware of how to police his mind.
“Training makes me happy,” he says. “I had almost three years of being unhappy, as low as any man can go. I know it was the training I wasn’t doing that gave me a void. Training gives me a purpose. If I wasn’t getting paid millions I’d train for free.
“When I’m not in training camp I am training twice a day now anyway – it has become a lifestyle, a habit. When you have had that habit all your life, when you don’t do it for a long time you feel severely down, I never want to go back there.
“Now I am happy. Nothing will bring me down ever again. I used to worry about stuff years ago. Now I will never worry about things I have no control of.
“If I end up in a tent in a field, flat out broke, I will still look back on my life thinking I lived a beautiful life, did what I wanted to do and ended up happy.”
‘I’ve fought the best boxers of my generation’
Such is his stock in the US currently, following last year’s thrilling draw with WBC champion Deontay Wilder, that Fury says he is now fielding offers for minor film roles.
This weekend the billboards for his Vegas bout bump up against those for DJ Calvin Harris and rapper Drake.
At the house, he shares tales of his first amateur bout aged 16, when he wore his father’s shorts and odd boxing boots.
He won in three rounds at an army barracks. Asked when he knew he was good, he responds: “Immediately. I didn’t come to boxing to make a life out of it or make a living. I came to be heavyweight champion of the world or nothing.
“I have never lacked confidence ever. From the first amateur fight I was going to be world champion, no doubt. Everyone in my family believed it, supported it and it was just about me putting the work in.
“It was going around like wildfire that there was a big lad from Manchester, a giant, wanting to spar everybody. I was on a mission to get experience.
“I turned pro at 20. I was like a child at that age. It was just a good grounding.
“I have had the biggest fights of my generation, Wladimir Klitschko and Deontay Wilder. So this is just a bonus now. Let’s have fun fights, Wilder again – let’s have whoever. I have fought the best in my generation.”
Wallin… then Wilder?
By late evening, the Vegas heat has abated and a barbecue is burning nearby.
Fury records television promotional trailers in a single take. This weekend, it is rumoured his ring walk will feature a Mexican theme in acknowledgement of the country’s Independence Day celebrations.
Mexico of course now boasts the unified world heavyweight champion following Andy Ruiz Jr’s shock win over Fury’s fellow Briton Anthony Joshua.
Fury says he and Joshua now share light-hearted phone chats.
“They are just friendly banter really,” Fury says. “I will call him or he will call me. We have a little chat, tell one another we are going to knock one another out and that’s it.
“Imagine having lots of celebrities in your phone book – you’re getting them phoned aren’t you? Me and Wayne Rooney have quite a relationship, usually when we have had a few jars.”
On the face of it, Fury does not seem obsessed with regaining the world title.
He does however insist he has signed for a rematch with WBC champion Wilder on 22 February, although that date looks unrealistic given the American is yet to agree a date for his meeting with Luis Ortiz late this year.
“We both know all the details; the contract was signed,” Fury insists. “I am not stepping aside for any amount of money – I want the victory, not the money.”
But talk of Wilder is kept to a minimum. Trainer Ben Davison tells the media “life doesn’t exist beyond” Wallin. Defeat is unthinkable.
Fury says the 28-year-old Swede – who starts as a massive underdog – “has nothing to lose” and “everything to gain”.
But he sounds relaxed about the danger. Still unbeaten in the ring, Fury seems to recognise that the greater threat to his health and happiness has come from within.
As cries of ‘Viva Mexico’ ring out from the top floor of the house, this gang of trainers, minders and fighters keep up an energy Fury is clearly revelling in.
Interview done, he dives into the pool and emerges smiling – fit, happy and having fun.