Tyson Fury, the lineal heavyweight world champion, will enter the ring Saturday night on ESPN+ at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas seeking to extend his undefeated record as a professional boxer to 30 fights, as he currently sits at 28-0-1.
Standing in his way is another undefeated fighter in Otto Wallin (20-0-0), a Swedish heavyweight making a significant leap up in competition and only his second fight stateside. Fury is a massive favorite at 16-1, but as we learned earlier this year in the shocking knockout of Anthony Joshua by Andy Ruiz Jr., massive favorites can be toppled with the right punch in the heavyweight division.
Fury seems focused on not letting that happen and is quick to praise Wallin, knowing the first lesson of fight promotion is to always put over your opponent. Still, the real prize fight for Fury is on the horizon, as he has an agreement in place for a second bout with WBC champ Deontay Wilder in which they’ll look to settle the score after they fought to a draw (both fighter’s only draw on an otherwise perfect record) a year ago. Fury must get past Wallin and Wilder must get past Luis Ortiz before that can happen, but as Fury told Uproxx Sports last week, while Ruiz and Joshua battle for a number of belts, the only heavyweights that matter are the two undefeated ones.
“To be honest, there’s only two people in the heavyweight division, and that’s me and Deontay Wilder,” Fury said. “Andy Ruiz has already been beat by Joseph Parker, and Anthony Joshua’s been beat by Andy Ruiz Jr. So they’re beaten fighters, and when a man gets beat in the boxing ring, it sort of takes the edge off of him. It takes the hype away. So there’s only two undefeated fighters left at this level and that’s me and Wilder, and that’s the only fight I’m interested in.”
Fury spoke further on the state of the heavyweight division, the frustrations of the business of boxing getting in the way of making great fights happen, his expectations from Wallin, and his battle with depression and mental health that took him away from the sport for two years after reaching the pinnacle.
You’re a week away from fight night, how are you feeling, how has camp gone and where are you at right now?
I feel fantastic. I’m ready to fight tonight. Training’s gone well, I’m injury free. I’m healthy, you know, fit as a fiddle, and healthy as a crab.
You face Otto Wallin next Saturday. What do you expect from him in the ring?
I expect a good fight, strong fight. He’s a tall, big fighter. He’s European, he’s fit, he’s in shape, and he’s got punch strength. So, you know, with his pace it’ll be a good fight.
You fought pretty recently back in June, so this is a fairly quick turnaround. What made you want to get back in the ring so quickly?
I like to stay active because I’ve had so much inactivity through my career. I’ve got the opportunity to stay active in me life and I want to keep it that way.
I know you’ve said you had other fighters turn you down when you were looking for a fight on this date, and top guys not fighting is a constant frustration for fans. What has to change in boxing to make it so better matchups and fights happen on a more regular basis and guys are willing to take those chances?
It’s really to do with TV networks, different promotional outlets, management and that sort of stuff. Because that’s what stops all the big fights happening, fight after fight after fight. But, I don’t remember ever a time in history where a guy fought champion after champion after champion after champion, and I don’t think that happens ever, especially in the heavyweight division.
There’s always got to be interim fights. Always. Because big fights take a lot of time to sell. If you look at Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, how long did we wait for that fight, five years? And these guys were fighting anybody and everybody in the meanwhile, and everyone just wanted to see Pacquiao-Mayweather. But when it finally happened, I believe they were both a little bit past their best, and that’s all to do with TV networks and promotional networks, maybe not to do with the fighters.
I’m just a boxer. I’ve got a boxer’s heart and a boxer’s mentality, and I’ll fight whoever they put in front of me. It’s not really any interest whether it’s Otto Wallin, Joe Blokes, or Fred Flintstone. It doesn’t make much difference to me, because I’m just going to do the same stuff. I’m going to train hard, I’m going to fight, and win. That’s all I can do as a fighter. It’s up to the promotional teams and get together and sort these big fights out.
Speaking of big fights, your last big fight was against Deontay Wilder and I think you impressed a lot of folks in that. Did you prove anything to yourself considering that was your first world title fight in three years?
I didn’t prove anything to meself. I know how good I am. I know where I came from. I came from a dark, lonely place where I was down and out. I used alcohol and drugs for three years, really. I ballooned up in weight. I lost 147 pounds for that fight, all in about five or six months and then jumped in with Deontay Wilder. You’ve got to be pretty ballsy to do something like that. Everybody advised me not to do it, but I went on my own good judgement and it paid off.
You’ve been really open and forward in talking about your struggles with depression. What have you learned about how to take care of yourself mentally as much as physically as a fighter?
Well I think it’s very important. The mental aspect of it is as important as the physical side. We train every day physically, but do we train every day mentally? The answer is probably not. But, you know, with the experience you learn, don’t you? You learn from your mistakes and the experience of life and I feel like I really learned from going through those dark times and not what to do. My main thing that I need to do to stay mentally well is keep training, because training keeps me happy. Not just for boxing, not just to be a fighter, but training just for my own body and my own peace of mind.
What do you hope people can take away from your story? Because boxing is a sport where toughness and machismo are so integral to the sport and the psyche of the sport. To be open about saying sometimes I need help, what do you hope people take from that?
My story has been inspiring to millions of people around the world. You won’t believe the number of letters I get, the amount of social media messages I get, personal letters, and people come up to me in the street and say, “you’ve helped me here, you’ve helped me there.” And I’m just privileged that my story and my downfall can be shared and help others get over their problems. To be heavyweight champion of the world is one thing, but to be heavyweight champion of the world and have a real story to tell, a story that people can relate to, every day people not just elite sports people, men and women, but the average every day person can relate to what I’m saying about mental health problems and how you feel down.
I got very bad where I was trying to commit suicide and to come back from that, to get back to this level back on top of the world in heavyweight boxing, it’s a testament of anybody can achieve anything. I’m not no special person. As we saw, I was on me knees. Mental health brought me to me knees like a four-year-old child as the heavyweight champion of the world, 6’9. If it can do that to me, it can do that to anybody. No one is untouchable from this disease. It’s a silent killer, but the more awareness we raise, the more people around the world can get help and be saved.
I know you said training helps you a lot, but what else are you able to do to keep yourself mentally healthy and who do you talk to when needed?
You know, my training is the biggest thing in my life. There’s not really much else I do. I wake up and take me kids to school. I come back and have breakfast and go to the gym. Come back, do a few jobs around the house, whatever I need to do, pick the kids up from school and go home, have some tea together, then go for a walk, go training again. I live my life now as if it’s a Spartan regime rather than as if it’s a holiday. I’ve learned from the mistakes. It was great for me I could learn from them and not have to get knocked out in a boxing ring, or whatever. So, that’s what keeps me going. I keep a routine and I set short-term goals.
You’ve got an agreement in place with Wilder for another fight if all goes well with Wallin and he beats Ortiz. Is that the hope that can be the next fight, or do you think there could be another interim bout between?
Well, I’m not sure. I’ve spoke to my manager and he said there’s no more interim fights, so that’s good. Provided we both in, and there should be a fight after.