Fury faces retirement in homecoming fight against Whyte

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So much comes out of Tyson Fury’s mouth during fight week that it’s hard to know which aspects to gloss over and what to take seriously of one of boxing’s most colorful and controversial characters.

But the world heavyweight champion seems to be consistent in one thing. His title defense against Dillian Whyte on Saturday will be his last fight before retiring.

“I’ll come out healthy and in one piece. Unbeaten,” said the self-proclaimed “Gypsy King.”

Tune in now because you’ll never see the big ‘GK’ in action after that. That’s it.”

If that’s indeed the case – and it’s probably right to be skeptical, considering Fury is 33 and making more money than he’s ever made in boxing’s marquee department – what a way then.

An all-British bout at Wembley Stadium in London in front of more than 94,000 spectators, the largest capacity for a boxing match ever staged on those shores.

Sure, the opportunity would have been greater if the opponent had been Anthony Joshua, Britain’s other big heavyweight player. The money at stake probably would have been bigger too, even if the successful $41 million bid for the Whyte fight makes it the richest in boxing history.

However, Fury appears content with his lot.

That’s where he was this week, taking part in what was billed as a ‘stare-down’ between the two Brits as they went head-to-head for the first time in a fairly low-key build-up.

After a few seconds, Fury opted to tickle Whyte’s ribs and then gave his opponent – and former sparring partner – the serious handshake.

But don’t be fooled. Fury will be dead serious on Saturday night as he fights on home soil for the first time since 2018 – and for the first time since 2019 against someone not named Deontay Wilder – to defend his WBC belt.

“If I’m not in my A-game, this man is going to rip my head off my shoulders,” said Fury (31-0-1, 22 KOs).

“I have to be in shape to beat him and he has to do his best to beat me. He’s definitely a man who deserves a lot of respect and I gave him that.”

Fury’s reputation grew throughout his gripping trilogy with Wilder in the United States. He showed he could box with both rear foot and front foot, had a strong chin and had as much agility and speed in his feet and hands as power behind his big punches.

He should have too much for Whyte (28-2, 19 KOs), who is stocky and enjoys turning fights into slugfests with his energy-sapping body punches. Surely Fury, who has Irish-Gypsy heritage and comes from a bloodline of bare-knuckle champions, is the more skilled of the two boxers.

It remains to be seen whether Fury has taken his eyes off the ball in recent weeks amid controversy surrounding his ties to Daniel Kinahan, one of the leaders of an organized crime gang for whom the US Treasury Department has offered a $5 million reward Information leading to his destruction or arrest and conviction.

The only time Fury has lost his cool this week was when he was quizzed about Kinahan at various media appearances.

Otherwise, it was the same larger-than-life Fury, cracking jokes, telling stories and touting himself as the biggest heavyweight of his generation. He has spoken of spending time on the driving range at his local north-west England golf club to improve his right hand by “getting my shoulder in the swing and really driving it through”. And his pride in how he came back from mental health issues and substance use issues to become the No. 1 heavyweight and, at one time or another, the holder of every belt in the division.

“I can’t get any better than that,” he said.

However, Whyte has his own memorable backstory, which is that he was drawn into London gang culture in his youth after moving from Jamaica to the UK, a brief stint in prison and a two-year suspension from boxing for testing positive for a banned stimulant.

He spent so long being overlooked for a shot at the world heavyweight title despite being mandatory challenger that he wondered if his time would ever come.

Whyte is largely unknown except in boxing circles in the UK. This is his big chance to make a name for himself and retire Fury in the process.

“It’s a win by any means,” said Whyte. “…I’m not afraid to take risks, I’ve been taking risks my whole life, so it’s nothing new. I’m ready to rock and roll.”

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Steve Douglas can be reached at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80

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