The dust had barely settled on his WBC heavyweight title showdown with Deontay Wilder when the calls came for Tyson Fury to be named the BBC Sports Personality of the Year in the early hours of Sunday morning.
He had, after all, not only come back from the brink during the fight itself after going down hard in the final round, but had overcome numerous personal hurdles just to get into the ring against the undefeated Wilder.
This time last year, towards the end of his two-and-a-half-year break from the sport, Fury claims he weighed 400lbs – around 150lbs more than he did on Sunday. During his hiatus, the Manchester boxer considered suicide as he battled depression and drug addiction before eventually returning to the ring, only to be denied the WBC heavyweight title by a controversial draw.
In the wake of the fight, Fury’s promoter Frank Warren declared him to be “the people’s champion”, a sentiment shared by many across social media and in the press. And though no one can deny Fury’s talent in the ring, his actions outside it are as much a part of his legacy – and there is much he still needs to answer for.
Fury’s 31-month absence from the sport was due, mostly, to a ban for the use of the anabolic steroid nandrolone, while in his personal life he has consistently used his platform as an international boxer to share his views with the world.
Some will claim that what an athlete does outside of their sport has no relevance but if the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that the power of celebrity status is more potent than we might like to admit.
In Fury’s case, his openness about his mental health issues is to be applauded when suicide remains the biggest killer of men under the age of 50 in the UK. It has been used to strengthen his case for the Sports Personality of the Year award, but consideration should be given to the negative output from his personal life too.
After all, Fury has rarely been shy in expressing his backwards beliefs. In a 2013 interview, Fury 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”.
In the build up to his 2015 fight with Wladimir Klitschko, Fury likened homosexuality to paedophilia and explained that he believes the legalisation of homosexuality and abortion are two of the “three things that need to be accomplished before the devil comes home”.
These comments derailed his hopes of winning Sports Personality of the Year crown back in 2015 but a year later he told fans: “Everyone just do what you can, listen to the government follow everybody like sheep, be brainwashed by all the Zionist, Jewish people who own all the banks, all the papers all the TV stations. Be brainwashed by them all,” before comparing the existence of transgender people to the practice of bestiality, claiming sexual relations with animals would be legalised within 10 years.
Though Fury’s supporters will point out that he has apologised for these incidents, it means little to the people from these communities when he often doubles down on his statements and only offers vague, unconvincing apologies when faced with immense public pressure.
When quizzed about his various comments by ITV back in April of this year, Fury refused the chance to show remorse, telling the interviewer: “No comment. Don’t even go there,” before announcing the interview “terminated” following a question about his doping ban.
Fury does not seem to actually be sorry for any of these things, just sorry that he got in trouble. Rightly or wrongly, these things have not stopped his pursuit of boxing titles but they should be more than enough to disqualify him from consideration for a title such as Sports Personality of the Year.
There does not appear to be any effort from Fury to reach out to the people he has hurt in order to make amends, no attempts to use his platform as household name in one of the most popular sports in the world to educate his fans in a positive manner.
So when Tyson Fury is called the people’s champion, it begs the question: which people?