Tyson Fury: Behind the sound and fury is a vulnerable man that no longer represents sport as we want to know it

Fury looks and sounds like he needs to be taken out of the heat, his problems lie much deeper than a failed drugs test

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The Independent Online

Out in the real world beyond this toy shop of sport, there’s some thought given when the word ‘suicide’ crops up. How might those of a depressive nature view the reporting of such an act? How will families feel, when they read what we say about those they have lost?

Different rules seem to apply to Tyson Fury. When he tells Rolling Stone magazine, as part of a pattern of worrying statements, that “I don’t want to live any more” it just seems to be more grist to the mill of one monumental freak show.

We don’t know the real state of Fury’s mental health of course, and as The Independent’s Steve Bunce wrote last week, must be careful before leaping to conclusions about something so individual and complex. Yet an ounce of humanity tells you that this individual is on the edge. Just because Fury is an infinitely less benign and sympathetic figure than Frank Bruno – whose mental disintegration was so pitiful and melancholic to behold – doesn’t mean that it is isn’t time to apply some thought to his state of mind. Fury might be box office, this is becoming gratuitous. 

He told Rolling Stone that he was taking cocaine to deal with depression - and the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) has certainly attested to the first part of that statement, notifying the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBoC) that Fury has, indeed, tested positive for the drug.

We certainly knew a different Fury once, here in our village where we saw him grow up. It’s a tranquil place on south Manchester’s border with Cheshire, and such a contrast to the space he now occupies.

My mother in law would hear him read in one of the infants’ classes and that brought ten minutes or so of calm. He was attentive. You tended to tread with trepidation where that particular family was concerned. My eldest, Ben, was at the primary school here with Tyson and has always remembered a particular cupboard at their house, half a mile from the school. The one on top of which Ben found refuge when the risk factors attached to the family's dog seemed less than clear, one day. That chaotic house would probably not be your choice or mine but it was home and, as it seemed to us, there was love and life within it.

All of which is to say that the public spectacle whom we gawp at is a human being too. When his uncle, Peter Fury, declared two weeks ago, that his nephew was having “medical issues” it seemed self-evident that they were not of a physical nature.

Somewhere in the fog of information and misinformation on Wednesday were several suggestions that he could not be banned for taking cocaine out of competition, though that seems improbable. Drug taking is drug taking. A ban should follow and that would be a mercy. Fury looks and sounds and acts like an individual who needs to be taken out of the heat.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the WBO and WBA - the two organisations with which he holds heavyweight titles – had not indicated whether they would strip him of them, because of the positive test. They are not governing bodies but can take that course of action or declare the titles vacant. The (BBBoC) will decide at a meeting next week whether to withdraw Fury’s license – as it did Ricky Hatton after his own drug use allegations.

This fighter is heaven sent for the social media age: accessible, loud and out there. But there is a growing sense of acute vulnerability too - and evidence that behind the sound and fury and contradictions resides a very confused mind. It’s time to stop telephoning him and publishing images of this man in all his grotesqueness. The Tyson Fury spectacle is not sport as we want to know it.