Lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury is in Las Vegas to fight, but by the look of things Wednesday, he might as well have been auditioning for his own stage show.
The larger-than-life Fury, who defends his crown against Germany’s unbeaten Tom Schwarz on Saturday (ESPN+, 10 p.m. ET, with preliminaries on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes beginning at 7 p.m. ET) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, took to the stage at the Copperfield Theater at the casino before the start of the final prefight news conference and, with microphone in hand, roared, “Who’s ready for a f—ing good press conference?!”
He then called Schwarz to the stage, told him it was nice to meet him, shook his hand and spoke some German to him with a big smile on his face. Schwarz responded in English that Fury was the “best in the world.”
And then Fury roamed around the stage, asking where the rest of the folks were who were supposed to be on the stage, and then welcomed the promoters and fighter teams when they arrived.
“Press conferences will never ever be the same,” Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said.
And so it went, a news conference that was part comedy show, part hype for the fight, but also one with serious moments when Fury reflected on his widely publicized battle with drug and alcohol abuse, massive weight gain and mental health issues that caused him to be stripped of the sanctioning organization title belts he had won from Wladimir Klitschko by huge upset in 2015.
Fury’s problems led to a 31-month layoff, but he overcame his issues, battled back against suicidal thoughts and triumphantly returned to the ring for two victories last year followed by a rollicking draw with world titlist Deontay Wilder in which Fury survived two knockdowns, including a heavy one in the 12th round, but emerged as the fighter most thought deserved to win.
Arum, who has promoted a who’s who of top boxing stars in more than 50 years in the business, can’t get enough of the Fury show. He said Fury makes his job as a promoter easy.
“Many times, you get guys who are reluctant to speak to the press. You gotta give them scripts as to what to say,” Arum said. “With Tyson Fury, all you have to do is get him into place so that he can meet with the press, he can meet with the public. You don’t have to tell him what to say because he knows how to reach the public and reach the press. It’s really been a delight to do this promotion.”
The fight with the 6-foot-5, 241-pound Schwarz (24-0, 16 KOs), 24, is Fury’s first of a long-term co-promotional deal with Top Rank that England’s Fury says is worth nine figures and one that will have him fighting regularly in the United States.
“I feel like the crowd has warmed to me,” Fury, who will be fighting in the United States for the third time and for the first time in Las Vegas, said of the American public. “Everyone has been very welcoming. The American people, all different types of people, have been coming up to me, people from all over the world here in Vegas. People who don’t speak English, people who don’t even watch boxing. It’s quite humbling, to be honest. It’s a very great experience to be here, Las Vegas, MGM Grand. It’s where all the great fights happen. Seeing your face on all the movie screens and posters is great.
“I believe the fight with Wilder only helped my profile here in the United States, and here we are again, only a few days away from the biggest fight of my life.”
That’s a fight in the ring, but Fury also reflected on the dark times that nearly cost him his life. Since his return, the 6-foot-9, 260-pound Fury (27-0-1, 19 KOs), 30, has been using his position to raise awareness about mental health problems.
“I talk about mental health a lot because it’s very important to me,” Fury said. “Only 18 months ago, I was in a very, very dark place. I just wanted to prove to people that there is a way back. You can come back from anything. Nothing is impossible, and if you’d seen me a time ago when I was very heavy and very unwell — I love to inspire people to get better and change their lives as I did mine. And I’m living proof that anyone can change.
“I was down and out. I have my family right here, and even those guys thought I was gone. There was no return for ‘They Gypsy King.’ No more. He was finished. I dusted myself off, got back on the road, got back mentally well, and me, [trainer] Ben [Davison] and the whole team, we worked very hard for a long time to get to this position.”
He said no matter what happens in boxing, he has come all the way back and happy with his life.
“I am living the dream. That’s why I’m so happy, so positive all the time,” Fury said. “I’m one of the only people who is living what they want to do. There is nothing else that I wanted to do. As a kid, I wanted to be heavyweight champion of the world. So now, everything is a bonus. I wake up every day, enjoy life, and take life as it comes. … The message is never say die. Never give up on yourself, keep moving forward, don’t dwell on the past because the past is in the past. But listen, let’s not make this a morbid press conference. We’re here to fight!”