Throughout Anthony Joshua emergence over the past three years; in every pre-fight press conference, in every post fight interview, the chill of Tyson Fury’s often ethereal presence has persisted. Unspoken, particularly in the period in which the Mancunian candidate seemed emotionally furthest from a return, the legend of the enigmatic Gypsy King has grown exponentially and offered silent sentry to the conflicting rhythms of hoopla and humility being sold in his absence.
In the castle of Joshua’s popularity, Fury’s 2015 triumph over Wladimir Klitschko, and his enduring status as the division’s number one fighter, has proven to be a tide to which packed stadiums, pay-per-view purses and the baubles of the sanctioning bodies were insufficient defence.
Not that the likeable IBF, WBA and WBO title holder dismissed or ignored the shadow cast by his erstwhile contemporary, breaking from his pristine public persona to encourage the by then 27 stone fallen champion to ‘get off his arse’ and return. The shadows in to which Fury sank, while this manufactured new order was engineered, became extraordinarily and destructively dark and within them the roguish giant has confessed he was almost terminally consumed.
The fact we have even the prospect of a clash between Joshua and Fury in the future, not withstanding the pair tackling Deontay Wilder too, is itself miraculous considering the depths Fury is climbing from. At the weekend, in the first of what may be three fights this year, following a 30-month sabbatical of both enforced and selective necessity, he faces a particularly ill-equipped sacrificial lamb, selected to offer the minimum amount of risk Fury’s new promoter, Frank Warren, could propose and keep a straight face. Sefer Seferi is his name and he would likely lose to all the top ten British Cruiserweights, and a fair few domestic Light Heavies too, and will offer Fury enormous advantages of height, weight and pedigree. For those hunting for betting value, the pickings are slim, Fury will win at any moment he chooses and the only unknown is how long either he, or the referee, will permit the mismatch to last. Look for odds here at sport.netbet.co.uk
A previously unknown quantity, save for a solitary appearance, and loss, at heavyweight versus the competent but unspectacular Manuel Charr in 2016, Seferi’s press day workout confirmed only that his 24-1 record is as manicured as it appeared when a hundred journalists looked it up two weeks ago.
For now, the pantomime the contest will almost inevitably represent can be forgiven. The mercurial champion, a cocktail of spontaneity, self-awareness and naivety, wisdom and folly, cannot yet know himself how he will feel when blows are exchanged. He may find, however summarily he dispatches the Swiss by way of Macedonia and Albania, that simply getting to the first bell was all the triumph he needed.
While it may seem implausible to consider Fury coming this far from the abyss and then not continuing on to the riches and acclaim that await, nothing about the way the almost indefinable 29 year old makes decisions is ever entirely predictable. From the moment his father, John Fury, introduced him to the world, within his own travelling community as a tiny, premature baby and later when he proclaimed that his teenage son would one day be heavyweight king, Tyson Fury has broken convention and defied accepted wisdom.
As a follower of Fury, both for his fighting ability and eccentric, unpredictable persona, since he first had a microphone pushed beneath his nose, despite some of the infractions his youth and opinion incurred, I hope the return proves long lasting.
Now is not the time to worry about the other elephant in the room; how Fury will deal with any future defeat, or the comedown from victory, but to enjoy and support a British sporting figure who offers much to the storytelling of the day, and a thousand firesides of the future.
For just as the story of his climb from the travellers’ sites of his youth to the sport’s ultimate prize should be an inspirational one we all embrace, the spotlight and hope he shines in to the lives of the millions who struggle with mental health problems every day, may yet prove his greater accomplishment.