“when you stare into an abyss for a long time, the abyss also stares into you.”
As the thick black oil of sleep flooded through Tyson Fury’s gigantic body, the crackle of nervous energy that had powered his wit and reflex silenced, his senses immersed in unconsciousness; time, possibility and life all fell silent too. His body and mind in a temporal abyss, a place he had travelled close to in the darkness of the past three years, a destination boxing, until that moment, at the fists of her purest puncher, had saved him from.
In those moments, those precarious and precious seconds, Jack Reiss’ two palms and six digits casting a pale shadow over his blank, peaceful expression, something inside the 30-year old former champion stirred. Defining or quantifying the force or personal quality that drew Fury from the depths of the slumber Wilder’s right cross and left hook had plunged him in to is as close to impossible as the act itself.
Through the lens of a wider world, where heroism and human endurance are tested by circumstance, poverty and conflict it can seem melodramatic to apply spiritual adjectives to any episode or performance in sport. But, there was something beyond the ordinary, beyond that which can be explained in seeing Fury pull himself, like a wet rope drawn up from the seabed, back to his feet. Back to the twelfth round, to the cacophony of noise charging in to his ears, the canvas beneath his toes, the touch of hands on his gloves and the sanctuary and judgement of Reiss’ watery grey eyes.
A scrabble of instruction from his corner; “Keep moving, keep moving. Jab.” sought to reconnect him with a lifetime of muscle-memory, of instinct, of potentially, life saving habit. Wilder’s expression, as Fury drew himself back to his 6ft 9 height, brought back to mind that of Carl Weathers’ Apollo Creed watching Rocky Balboa clamber up from a place where every man who had gone before had stayed. He too, disbelieving the truth his eyes were telling him. This, unlike the Stallone fables, was real of course, beyond scriptwriting, though there seems to be one omnipresent in the life of Tyson Fury.
The enormity of that moment, in the last round of their contest, one Fury, by common consensus, had won up to that point, will grow in the retelling and, as decades pass and as Fury’s name and story are passed in to the folk lore of our collective memory, his achievement in climbing back from that abyss will gather an apocryphal proportion that will urge doubt in those that listen.
For those of us who saw it happen, whether ringside or through the magic of television, we will remember just how incredible a feat it was and press home to the doubters that Tyson Fury was one of the most remarkable men to ever set foot in a boxing ring.
“And son, wait til you hear this, not only did he get up from that but he hadn’t boxed in two and half years! He lost 140 pounds in a year having been in another abyss; one of depression, alcohol and drugs. And then, despite all the anger he must have felt at the judge’s verdict, he dedicated the win to every person around the world struggling with mental health.”
“And if I can come back from where I’ve come from then you can do it too.”