Tyson Fury set for spotlight at awards ceremony
Tyson Fury will attend the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards in person on Sunday despite controversy surrounding his inclusion in the contest.
Fury pulled off one of the biggest upsets in recent boxing history when he beat Wladimir Klitschko on points last month, making him Britain's first world heavyweight champion in six years.
Enthusiasm for the 27-year-old's remarkable victory quickly dampened, however, when offensive comments he made about homosexuality, women and abortion came to light.
Speaking to the Mail on Sunday, Fury said: "There only three things that need to be accomplished before the devil comes home. One of them is homosexuality being legal in countries, one of them is abortion and the other one's paedophilia."
Fury also made disparaging remarks about fellow nominee Jessica Ennis-Hill, saying "she slaps up good", while adding "a woman's best place is in the kitchen and on her back".
Many called for Fury to be removed from the 12-person shortlist, while Olympic long-jump champion Greg Rutherford, another contender, informed the BBC he would be withdrawing, before eventually deciding to remain in the competition.
The potential for further controversy on a night where all the contestants, including Rutherford and Ennis-Hill, are due to meet together at a pre-show reception, has prompted speculation about whether Fury would actually take up the invitation to be there in person.
However, his agency Hennessy Sports have confirmed Fury's attendance in a statement, which read: "Undisputed world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury WILL attend this Sunday's (December 20) BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards, despite weeks of controversy surrounding his nomination."
It added: "Known for his charisma and larger-than-life personality, Fury is considered a breath of fresh air in boxing's heavyweight division and has quickly emerged as one of the most recognisable and polarising sportsmen on the planet.
"In terms of the magnitude of his achievement this year, he stands alone in Britain. And, in terms of personality, few in the world can claim to be bigger."
Discussion had already turned to which of the show's three presenters - Gary Lineker, Gabby Logan and Clare Balding - will conduct the customary individual interview with Fury and whether, on prime-time television, his opinions will be confronted or conveniently sidestepped.
Many viewers might welcome a sharper focus on sporting achievement, rather than moral worthiness, arguing with some justification that amidst the Fury furore, it has been forgotten what the Sports Personality of the Year is actually all about.
Andy Murray is the standout favourite to win for a second time, after arguably matching his Wimbledon triumph of 2013 by leading Great Britain to their first Davis Cup title in 79 years.
The sheer guts and determination needed to win 11 victories in the tournament this year, as well as the recent timing of the Scot's achievement, means it would be a surprise were Murray not to be handed the trophy but Ennis-Hill's enduring popularity should not be underestimated.
Ennis-Hill won heptathlon gold at the World Championships in August and given her win came just over a year after giving birth to her first child, it could be classed as even more impressive than her Olympic success in 2012.
And the Sheffield-born 29-year-old believes picking up the award would be a nice way to end the year.
She told a number of national newspapers: "Ultimately you want to be judged on your performances on the track and how well you compete, but I'd be lying if I said it's not a nice award to win. I'm really looking forward to it.
"It would round off the year in a much brighter light than it started."
Fury sits fourth in the bookies predictions, overtaken by rugby league star Kevin Sinfield, who won the Challenge Cup with Leeds Rhinos for the second successive year plus a sixth Super League title as captain.
The 35-year-old's odds have shortened considerably in recent days and there may be a wave of support yet to come for the veteran given a rugby league player has never featured in the top three of the main award.
Lewis Hamilton, the reigning champion, is not expected to retain his crown despite clinching a second consecutive Formula One world championships this year while Chris Froome could also feel hard-done-by after he became the first Briton in July to win the Tour de France twice.
Mo Farah, Rutherford, Lizzie Armitstead, Adam Peaty, Lucy Bronze and Max Whitlock complete the list.