UChampion world heavyweight champ, undefeated Tyson FuryFury will defend his title on Saturday against Dillian Whyte (a British heavyweight), but he insists that this will not be his final bout. Around 94,000 fans, the most in British boxing history, are expected to fill Wembley in Fury’s farewell. “The king must retire on top of the world,” Fury, 33, tells TIME in a Zoom conversation from London. “I’ve won every belt there is to win in the game. I’ve had plenty of money. I’m very secure and comfortable. And now it’s time to enjoy this final hurrah, and spend time with me family, me wife, and me kids.”
False retirements are a common practice among sports enthusiasts: Tom, Brady. The concept of walking away is a controversial topic in boxing. Muhammad Ali has retired and been unretired a handful of times. George Foreman quit in 1977… then again in 1997, at age 48. Floyd Mayweather announced that he was retiring from boxing in 2007 after beating Oscar de la Hoya. He had fought another dozen times thereafter.
Like so many before him Fury—a popular showman who’s entering this potential last fight facing unwanted inquiries about past ties to an alleged organized crime boss— insists this retirement announcement is for real. “I want it to be a final decision,” Fury says. “I want it to be on my terms. No amount of money, fame, or glory will change my mind about that decision once I’ve made it. There will always be promoters and people trying to get me to come back and fight because there’s always going to be fights available. But as far as I’m concerned, Dillian Whyte will be the final mountain to climb.”
Fury’s leaving the door slightly open for a return to the ring. “You can never say never in life,” he says. But if this fight is indeed Fury’s last hurrah, he’ll heave behind an influential legacy, having helped revive boxing’s heavyweight division, which languished in the doldrums since the Muhammad Ali-Mike Tyson golden years. Fury, named after Iron Mike made his professional debut back in 2008, and rose to the top of the ranks in order to face Wladimir Klotschko in 2015. He won the bout by unanimous decision. Unfortunately, there was no rematch. Fury tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and took nearly three years off from boxing while dealing with alcoholism and recreational drug use. He lost his titles and gained weight. Fury also had suicidal thoughts.
“The best thing anyone who’s suffering mental health problems can do is seek medical advice immediately,” says Fury. “The sooner you get medical help, the quicker you can return to being well again. We won’t always be down in darkness. There will be times when you’re feeling good again.”
Fury fought American Deontay Wester in 2018 for the title of heavyweight champion. It was a draw. It was pre-pandemic Las Vegas’ mega-event. Fury won in the 7th round with a technical knockout. He also reclaimed his belt, which earned him $25 million. Fury beat Wilder again last October.
“When you look at what’s happened since Ali, there have been a lot of very good fighters, great fighters,” says Top Rank CEO Bob Arum, Fury’s co-promoter. “But we haven’t had a performer in the heavyweight division as charismatic as Tyson Fury. You can’t take your eyes off him.”
Fury must answer some questions when he goes into the Whyte fight. The U.S. Treasury Department issued sanctions on April 11 against Daniel Kinahan (chief of an Irish organised crime organization) who founded Fury’s boxing management firm. Kinahan long denied any wrongdoing. For information that leads to Kinahan’s arrest, as well his brother and father, the U.S. government will offer $5 million bounty. “The Kinahan Organized Crime Group (KOCG) smuggles deadly narcotics, including cocaine, to Europe, and is a threat to the entire licit economy through its role in international money laundering,” Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson said in a statement. “Criminal groups like the KOCG prey on the most vulnerable in society and bring drug-related crime and violence, including murder, to the countries in which they operate.”
MTK Global was the representative of Fury, which was founded in 2012 by Daniel Kinahan as a management company for boxing. MTK Global was not named or sanctioned in the U.S. Treasury Department’s April 11 release. announced on Wednesday that it was ceasing operations, citing the “unprecedented” and “unfair” scrutiny the company has faced following the U.S. government sanctions. MTK Global stated that Kinahan stopped being involved with the company in 2017. This was the same year Fury joined MTK Global. Fury expressed his gratitude to Kinahan, in 2020, for brokering an encounter with Anthony Joshua. “Big shout out Dan!” Fury says in a videoPost online. “He got this done.” That fight, however, eventually fell through. Fury also took a photo with Kinahan in Dubai earlier in the year.
After an open workout Tuesday, Fury said he now has “zero, absolutely zero” business ties with Kinahan; Fury told Sky Sports any business relationship ended in 2020. “The fight with Joshua didn’t happen and that was it,” he said. Arum, who promoted Fury’s last four fights in the U.S. between 2019-2021, says he paid Kinahan at least a $1 million fee for each of these bouts. “We were told that the guy who is making arrangements for us to be involved wanted a consulting fee for every one of Tyson Fury’s fights,” says Arum. “So we entered a deal with a company controlled by Kinahan and paid a fee for every one of Fury’s fights we promoted, in accordance with the contract.”
Frank Warren, Fury’s promoter, and Fury have both stated that they were unaware of these payments. Arum confirms this statement. Arum insists that he discussed Fury’s consulting agreement with Fury shortly prior to or following the October 2021 Fury/Wilder Las Vegas fight. “When I mentioned it to Tyson, Tyson was totally unaware of the arrangement, that I was paying a fee,” says Arum. “And I believe Tyson, without any question.”
Arum also says he has cut ties with Kinahan: Arum and Warren have insisted that Kinahan has no involvement in Saturday’s fight.
“Everybody,” says Arum, “is telling the truth.”
For American fans, this Fury bout is unusually popular on the East Coast. This is a tradition among these fans, who often gather late at night to watch fights from Vegas. The bell will likely go off around 10 p.m. from Wembley, or 5 p.m. in the U.S. East Coast; that’s 2 p.m. on the U.S. West Coast. Fury has some tips for Americans looking to enjoy a full day. “Get stocked up on booze early,” says Fury. “If you go to the store, get a massive crate of your favorite beer or alcoholic beverage. Get home. Get your slippers. Take a deep breath, relax and have fun watching the fight. By the time it gets to normal fight time, you’ll be well oiled up and ready to rock and roll.”
Arum believes Fury’s having too much fun to stop boxing now; once a showman, always a showman. If Fury wins, it could make him too rich to have a megabout. “When he wakes up Monday morning, after the fight, hopefully having won, I’m pretty sure that he’ll change his mind,” says Arum. “That doesn’t mean that what he’s saying now is not the truth. This is what he considers to be true. The last fight was the most important. But knowing Tyson the way I do, I really believe there’s quite a bit more left for him in his career.”
Fury should be reflecting on 14 years of professional fighting and the fact that he lost his heavyweight title before finally reclaiming it. Fury is asked to assess his legacy as a heavyweight fighter. “I think I’ve been the only heavyweight in the last’s been fat and bald and looks like a normal person,” he says. “The normal people of the world can watch boxing and relate. I’m chubby, I’m bald, I drink beer. This fan I took to boxing. There were many of them. Because there’s a lot of us around the world. The real people of the world.”
On Zoom, Fury doesn’t look as round as he’s letting on; he’s been working with a nutritionist in training camp, eating healthy doses of fish and rice and vegetables to fuel up for the fight. Fury presents me with evidence when I tell him this. He lifts his muscle shirt and takes rolls from his stomach to show the camera. “I’m fat, I’m hairy, and I’m bald,” he declares, with pride.
We’re almost ready to wrap up our chat. Fury needs to have an opportunity to discuss the Kinahan scandal. As soon as I mention Kinahan’s name, however, Fury abruptly disappears from the screen.
Interview over. He’s gone.
Read More From Time