Bacon’s Bites: Tyson Fury deserves our admiration, not our cynicism
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In this week’s column, Mike Bacon looks back at Tyson Fury’s remarkable return to the ring and tells why Harry is king... even if not of the jungle just yet!
He may divide opinion. But Tyson Fury is ‘Box Office’.
The Wythenshawe-born British boxer may just about be the most entertaining sportsman on the planet right now and although he does not endear himself to everyone, I could watch him box and listen to his press conferences all day.
He is not everyone’s cup of tea and many of his homophobic and sexist remarks made in recent years have little place in today’s society.
He once claimed that he would hang his sister if he deemed her to be promiscuous, and has said he believes that “a woman’s best place is in the kitchen and on her back”.
Poor form, poor comments that he will rightly never be able to walk away from.
However, after what Fury has been through in the last three years and his new-found mantra, I would suggest it a tad disingenuous to take cheap shots and continue to throw historical comments at him after the way he stormed back to draw with Deontay Wilder in Los Angeles on Saturday night.
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Because Fury has been to hell and back, in a well-documented way, ballooning to 28 stone and suffering personal battles with drugs, alcohol and depression.
He’s been to very dark places and even thought of suicide.
“I hit the drugs. I was out with women of the night and not coming home,” he said in a recent interview.
“I didn’t care about boxing or living. I just wanted to die. But I was going to have a good time doing it.”
The ‘Gypsy King’, as he is known, was a mess.
After his momentous victory over Wladimir Klitschko three years ago when he was on top of the world and seemingly invincible, it began spiralling downhill – and rapidly.
So, his draw with Wilder, which many commentators felt he won, was not just a sporting comeback akin to the recent return to form of Tiger Woods, who also had huge issues away from sport, but also a comeback of immense humane proportions.
“After everything I’ve been through: mental health problems; drug addiction; alcohol addiction; I’m back,” he said. “I’ve defeated all the ills.
“For all the people out there with mental health problems,” he added. “I did it for you guys.”
Strong quotes from a man who understands something, fortunately, many don’t, or don’t have to.
For those of us who know or have known people with mental health issues, we understand you don’t just come out with quotes like that.”
For him, it’s personal.
Yes, he has made mistakes. No, he is not perfect. But he has never claimed to be.
His world is not one of corporate PC back-slapping, saying the right things, crawling your way to the top, feathering your own nest, your status in life judged by money.
His is one where loyalty is king and demons are there to be beaten.
His current thoughts and words won’t wash with those who will not forgive or forget his ill-conceived past comments, those who are ‘whiter than white’ – ‘Let him without sin cast the first stone’.
My abiding memory of last weekend was watching Fury singing ‘American Pie’ at the after-match press conference.
You would not think he had just been involved in the biggest sporting event on the planet that weekend.
He looked relaxed and carefree as he belted out the Don McLean classic, a huge bemused press corps looking on... And joining in.
The legend that is Tyson Fury is out the other side – Yep, it’s been complicated.
But I wish him well.
Harry Redknapp is certainly winning friends in ‘I’m A Celeb’.
But who’s surprised? Certainly not me.
I will always remember his appearance at the Felixstowe & Walton Sportsman’s Dinner a few years ago.
A friend of Felixstowe & Walton President, Dave Ashford, Harry turned up to say a few words and answer questions from a floor that already had the excellent Matt Le Tissier, as well as David Sheepshanks on the top-table list.
Harry had driven straight from QPR, where he was then manager, enjoyed a meal and spent an hour telling jokes and stories to the assembled throng, before setting off back home to Sandbacks, in Bournemouth.
He never announced it, but I know he asked for no payment for attending.
For Harry, it was his way of doing a favour for his good friend Dave Ashford.
What a great gesture.
I’m not surprised he is coming over so well in the Jungle.