After years of promising to never set foot in Las Vegas unless he was there to fight, Tyson Fury finally takes his place among the other main attractions on The Strip this Saturday.
But although his face this week adorns billboards all over the most famous corner of the Nevada desert, vying for space alongside David Copperfield and Cirque du Soleil, Fury insists his own particular show is now over.
The self-anointed ‘Gypsy King’, who faces undefeated German Tom Schwarz at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday night, has often been one of the sport’s biggest contradictions.
A 6ft 9in heavyweight with more agility than a lot of boxers half his size, a man who has spoken of his desire to clinch the WBC title which continues to elude him while also insisting that championship belts belong in the dustbin. Someone who says money means nothing to him but then highlights the size of the pay-check for this weekend’s work as a means to stave off complacency against Schwarz.
After applying the finishing touches to his Las Vegas training camp, Fury admits he has been happy to adopt a persona at odds with his own personality during a professional boxing career which turned 10 years old in December. Over a decade on, the 30-year-old is adamant his acting days are over despite the glitz and glamour of his Las Vegas debut.
“I was an outlaw of boxing,” Fury said. “The bad guy who always had to play that role.
“But during my comeback the fans have got to know me. This time it is the man behind the mask and not me acting all the time putting on the pantomime villain show.
“It wasn't hard to keep it up because I'm good at that role. To be loved by the fans, it's a better feeling than them wanting to see you get knocked out. I'm seeing what the other side is like and I enjoy it better.”
Saturday night will mark the fourth fight of Fury’s aforementioned comeback, which began against Albanian cruiserweight Sefer Seferi a year ago this month.
Before that, Fury had spent nearly 1,000 days out of the ring after drink problems, drug abuse and crippling depression nearly cost him his life in the wake of that famous November night in 2015 when he dethroned Wladimir Klitschko in Düsseldorf.
After making light work of Seferi, Fury despatched Francesco Pianeta in Belfast before December’s unforgettable Los Angeles draw with Deontay Wilder. It was a performance which prompted ESPN to sign the Wilmslow man to a mega-money, 30-month contract which promoter Frank Warren predicted would make Fury ‘bigger than Beckham’ in America.
Saturday night is the first fight of the deal and Fury has appeared on a number of major US networks as part of the build-up to his clash with Schwarz. Much of the talk has revolved around his battle with depression, which is said to have resonated in many homes across America.
“It makes me feel very proud that my story can inspire others to get help, get better and get well again,” he added.
“I get messages on a daily basis saying I've helped them. It's an absolutely amazing feeling, I'm so happy I came out into the public about my mental health struggles.
“I'm the same old person, I don't change with fame, glory or money or anything. I have my days and moments, I'm in and out of depression all the time but we just have to maintain, baby.”
Despite his 24-0 record, 25-year-old Magdeburg resident Schwarz has been written off by many as a no-hoper and priced up by most bookmakers at 12/1.
But following the seismic defeat of Anthony Joshua by Andy Ruiz Jr, who started at a similar price, people are not writing Schwarz off quite as quickly as they usually would.
Wilder revealed during the Joshua-Ruiz fight week that he has agreed to face Fury early next year should they both win their upcoming fights, which suggested that the Englishman is already looking past his German opponent.
But Fury said: “As we saw last week, you can never overlook anybody. Tom Schwarz knows that if he wins he's set for life, becomes a multimillionaire, headlining big shows, all his dreams come true. Will I underestimate him? Not at all.
“Everything I know about him is I’m going to break his jaw and smash his ribs in. Apart from that I don't know much about him. I'm going to give him a black eye, a thick lip and maybe he'll lose a few teeth. Who knows? Do you think I need to look at videos of boxers? I'll figure him out in the first five seconds of the fight. Within five seconds I know what I'll have to do.
“When you're getting paid as much as I am, motivation is easy, very easy. This is a big fight, a massive attraction. This is going to be epic. This is going to be the battle of behemoths.
“This is the Tyson Fury show, it's not about anyone else.”
Tyson Fury takes on Tom Schwarz live on BT Sport Box Office. For more information go to www.bt.com/btsportboxoffice
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