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Tyson Fury on mental health, Christmas, and lunch with Donald Trump

In a rare interview, Fury chats with The Big Issue about mental health struggles, his upcoming fight with Anthony Joshua, and whether he's the most famous gypsy in the country
Image credit: Jon Shard

Tyson Fury is heavyweight champion of the world. His success in the ring, set against controversy and well-publicised mental health and addiction battles, have seen him dubbed the People’s Champion.

He is the rough-round-the-edges yin to Anthony Joshua’s poised yang. A long-sought showdown between the two men is on the cards for next year. It promises to be one of the biggest boxing bouts in history.

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Last year, Fury scored big sales, and accolades, for Behind The Mask, the autobiography that provided an honest telling of his faults and failures, his descent and all that followed.

This year, The Furious Method looks at how he overcame his problems to regain his title against Deontay Wilder in Las Vegas in February. He also provides a series of (rather challenging) exercises for readers to complete.

In a rare interview, Fury tells Paul McNamee about the ongoing challenge his mental health brings, and talks Joshua, Trump and Tommy Shelby.

Hello Tyson. Where are you and what are you up to?

I’m at home [in Morecambe] in the gym. Just finished training. About to do another after this call. I train every day, seven days a week, twice a day. It’s always intense. Stay fit, stay mentally well. Keeps me out of trouble. I love training.

Following a Tyson Fury regime could be tricky. You lay out exercises in The Furious Method that get increasingly exhausting. A lot of people, like me, will be stuck on the first one for quite some time. Had you decided to write this book before Covid or was it as a response to lockdown because of all the training videos you were posting on Instagram?

I started this book last year. Before lockdown or Covid. The first book was about how I got unwell and was mentally struggling. The second book is how I overcame it and how I got back to fitness again, back to world champion again.

It’s an open and honest book. You’re not scared to show how fragile you were. Given that you’re heavyweight champion of the world this may come as a surprise to some.

I decided to do this book because like what you just said, people would not expect that the heavyweight champion on the world, six foot nine, 275 pounds, would be in any way vulnerable or weak or anything like that. And you know, I wanted to show the world that anyone can be brought down to their knees with mental health, no matter who they are, where they are.

No one is exempt from mental health. Even if you’re a positive person it can bring you right down to your knees as well. I also wanted to show the world that anybody can come back with the right mindset with the right training and the right help.

One thing that you mention a number of times is the sense of emptiness that you felt when success came. And it hit hard, you say, when you beat Wladimir Klitschko to take the title in 2015. It was when you got to the top of the mountain that you felt that emptiness. Was that the first time really, or had it been creeping up around you before?

No, I struggled with mental health my entire life, until I got diagnosed with something that happened. I didn’t know that there are so many people out there with the same issues and same problems and same feelings, until I saw a specialist to seek medical advice.

I spoke to Robbie Williams about it and he calls it paradise syndrome. Same thing happened to him. He always wanted to be a rock star and famous; big, big recording artist and all that. And when he got it, he felt life wasn’t worth living any more. I suppose, when you put all your eggs in one basket, you become successful at what you’ve always wanted, when you get there you’ve achieved all your goals and you don’t think there’s anything else to live for.

It’s a tough, tough time. What do I do now? Where do I go from here – set new targets, set new goals? It’s pretty difficult to change and move the goalposts.

Fury could face off against fellow Brit Anthony Joshua next year in one of the biggest fights in a century.
Joshua
Fury could face off against fellow Brit Anthony Joshua next year in one of the biggest fights in a century. Image credit: Bill / Wikimedia Commons 

Do you apply particular methods to make sure that you keep depression at bay, or is this just an ongoing process and exercise is all part of how you do it?

It’s an ongoing battle, if I’m honest. It’s a daily battle of ongoingness. You don’t just overcome it and it goes away. It’s a continuous battle forever. That’s my experience. People say to me, ‘Oh you did mental health, you got over it’. I didn’t defeat it. I’m just learning how to maintain and manage it better than I did before.

Before, I had no experience and didn’t know what to do. Now I’ve had the experience, I can maintain and probably manage it better, because I’ve been through it. I know what I’ve got to do.

Can you see it in others? Can you see signs and signals that make you think, I understand what they’re going through, or something that’s about to happen to them?

Yeah, I can see it in other people just by speaking to them for 10 seconds. I can hear it, I can see it. It takes one to know one.

Is there anything, are there any particular signs that maybe family members should look out for?

It’s an important time to look out for family and friends. Just because they didn’t have mental health problems last year or 10 years ago it doesn’t mean it can’t be something that might happen.

Giveaway signs are people being inward, people being very quiet and down and not communicating, that sort of stuff. No positivity, not having a positive, positive outlook on things. Everything’s always negative is always dangerous. That sort of stuff is a giveaway. Body language. There’s all sorts of things. I can see it by watching people, or seeing them on Instagram or by watching them on a video for 10 seconds.

And then what do you do?

I give them a call and reassure them that everything’s going be alright. If they want to get something off their chest, they can. It’s communication. I believe communication can solve everything in the world. That’s a fact.

Before the Deontay Wilder fight in February, you said you wanted to do something to help people who are homeless. You witnessed first-hand the terrible poverty of people on Skid Row in LA and it had an impact on you. At the time you mentioned that you were going to do something for people who are homeless back in Britain, that you were going to build some houses perhaps, or certainly give over some of your fight fee. Have you been able to do that?

Within three weeks of getting back the lockdown started. I have opened up The Tyson Fury Foundation, but even that’s been put on hold at the minute because of obviously the way the world is. But as soon as it’s up and running it’s going to be available to lots of different charities.

It’s going to be a good thing for the community and a good thing for people who are suffering from mental problems or who are homeless. It’ll be a good asset to the community. I had help when I was down. I wouldn’t be back here without the right support from many people.

After the success in Vegas did Donald Trump get in touch? He’s a man who likes to think of himself as a part of boxing and boxing promotions.

Yeah, I was supposed to go and meet Donald Trump for lunch. But that got cancelled because of Covid. And I was supposed to meet the Pope, but that had to be rescheduled too.

So, are you more interested in rescheduling with the Pope or Donald Trump?

Either or. It’s not very often you get somebody from where I’m from offered to go and meet the President of the United States or the Pope in Rome. It’s quite a crazy feeling, to be honest, that these people will want to meet me. So I’ll take advantage of it. And, you know, maybe I could learn something from these people, even if I’m around them for 30 seconds. See how they are, how they act. Never stop learning.

Given how proud you are of your Irish heritage and roots, how
do you feel that there’s going to be an Irish president, Joe Biden, back in the White House?

Fantastic. It’s very good news. [Pauses]. I don’t really get involved in politics or anything like that. Whoever is the President of the United States of America, congratulations to them.

You’re hitting a book a year. What’s the third one in the trilogy next year?

You know I didn’t think I’d get to write a bestselling book, never mind two. I’ll keep doing what I’ve got to do, and keep inspiring and keep telling the story. I’m reading a book at the moment by CS Lewis called Mere Christianity. Unbelievable read. You know, books, open the mind to different, different horizons.

How will the Fury family relax this Christmas?

Pretty much the same for me and my family as normal. Christmas Eve we’ll all go, I hope it’s on, to midnight mass. Then next morning we’ll get up, open a few presents. We normally have a family Christmas with everyone at home. Paris [his wife] and I will cook the dinner. Relax, watch a movie, that sort of stuff. Go for a walk, you know, do a training session.

I’ll do a long road run on Christmas Day. I always like to get Christmas Day running in because I believe that I might be getting an edge on the competition. They might take Christmas off – I won’t.

What is the plan for you versus Anthony Joshua next year?

Obviously the big fight out there now would be me and Joshua. There’s plenty of fights out there to have. Hopefully we get the Joshua fight on next year. Give the fans what they want to see, a big heavyweight title fight.

Do you think that it would go the distance or would you stop him?

I think after his last couple of performances, I think he’s coming to the end of his reign. He was exposed by [Andy] Ruiz. In the rematch, he did what he had to do to get through, but didn’t look impressive. He’s been out of the ring over a year. I do really believe and I’ve always believed I’ll be able to take him out for sure.

If I were champion of anything I’d be unbearable. You’re heavyweight champion of the world, but you seem grounded. What’s the trick?

I like to keep as close to normal as possible, as close to grassroots and as close to God as I can. I’ve seen so many people get lost in fame and fortune and achievements. And at the end of the day, it doesn’t really mean anything. At times like this, the only thing that really matters is friends and family, and staying well and positive.

You know, all these accolades of being a world champion and achieving this and achieving that, I can take it all with a pinch of salt. The achievements, they’re great to have, but if you don’t have them, so what? Does it make me any better than the next man that I’ve won a boxing match and they haven’t? Not really.

Do I like to think of myself as a normal person – Yes. But am I a normal person? Definitely not. I’m a rare breed of man. But you know what, I’m just a normal God-fearing person. Stay humble stay grounded, stay out of trouble and stay focused. Stay well and stay healthy.

Do you have any regrets Tyson?

I believe life’s too short for regrets. You learn from experience and you move on.

So you don’t think there is anything you would like to go back and change for a moment?

I don’t concentrate on what’s happened in the past. I’m not really interested in going back in time. I like to keep it today’s subject and positive stuff.

Do you have any messages for our Big Issue vendors who have been through such a struggle?

Yeah I do. Stay positive. Things will always work out, stay positive and stay focused on the short-term goal. That always helps me.

One final question. You are the Gypsy King. But who do you think is the most famous Gypsy in the country right now? Is it you or [Peaky Blinders’] Tommy Shelby?

I’m not dangerous, not violent, so Tommy Shelby can take that! I’m a big teddy bear. Leave all the dangerous people to their own business.

The Furious Method: Transform Your Mind, Body and Goals by Tyson Fury is out now (Cornerstone, £20). @PauldMcNamee