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How Tyson Fury emerged from depths of depression to headline heavyweight clash in Vegas

Las Vegas Sun - 6/15/2019

Jun. 15--Tyson Fury was so fat and out of shape he couldn't bend over to tie his shoes. He remembers losing his breath when attempting simple tasks.

Fury's days consisted of excess consumption of alcohol and street narcotics with no regard for his well-being. He was suffering through a depression so severe that taking his own life was a regular part of his thought process.

Surprisingly, the boxer was at the top of the sport, accomplishing his goal of beating longtime heavyweight division force Wladimir Klitschko to become the unified champion in 2015. He had everything.

But, with nothing left to accomplish, and with little care for fame or fortune, the British fighter's life fell into a reckless cycle. He weighed 400 pounds.

Still in his 20s, he was convinced a heart attack would kill him, if he didn't kill himself first.

"I wanted to die on a daily basis," he said.

Fury soon sought professional help for his mental health. There, he realized what was missing -- being in the gym training. It was more than a profession; it is what kept him sane.

In less than a year, he shed about 140 pounds and got himself back into fighting shape. Now, his handlers at Top Rank believe Fury could bring the heavyweight division back to prominence, because not only does Fury have a great story to tell, he is downright entertaining telling it. He is fighting in Las Vegas for the first time tonight, taking on Tom Schwarz at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

"Our job with Fury is to make him the most popular fighter in the minds of the American people," said Bob Arum, the veteran Top Rank promoter, who easily can recall stories of promoting the likes of Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and George Foreman when the division was king and nothing beat a Saturday night of heavyweights in the spotlight.

Fury, at 6 feet, 9 inches, is a massive man. His reach is 85 inches. His weight, depending on the day, is down to 250 pounds -- so slender and fit, it's hard to imagine him being more than 400 pounds.

He is witty and charming when speaking, so eloquent that it's easy to see why Arum hopes he can resonate with the American fight fan and spark a rebirth of heavyweights. The legends of yesteryear, whether it was Ali or Foreman, were each larger-than-life personalities. They were entertainers.

"This is fun and games for me," Fury said. "I'm here to put on a show. That is what I do. ... What's the worst thing that's going to happen? I'll get hit in the face a little bit."

He's not the lone heavyweight vying for attention. American Deontay Wilder, who is undefeated and who fought Fury to a split decision draw in December, has been the champion for nearly four years and is also personable.

"But Wilder isn't a household name like he should be," said Arum, taking an unintentional jab at a fighter promoted by another company.

The general consensus is Fury will have no problems with Schwarz, who is a plus-1400 betting underdog, to set up a potential rematch with Wilder. It's a fight that could bring back those can't-miss nights in the division, as both fighters claim they did enough to win the first fight. Fury out-landed Wilder in nine of 12 rounds, but Wilder knocked him down twice.

And, Fury quickly adds, the first fight was months after he started his recovery and weight loss.

"Whenever they are ready, they can come see the king," Fury said. "Watch what happens when I am back for more than six months. I will knock him into next week."

First, he needs to knock Schwarz into next week. Schwarz, despite being a heavy underdog, enters with an undefeated record at 24-0. Still, he hasn't fought anyone of Fury's caliber, nor anyone with Fury's personality -- all of which Arum feels will steal the spotlight tonight, and many Saturday nights in the future.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 702-990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21

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(c)2019 the Las Vegas Sun (Las Vegas, Nev.)

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