Revealed: What happened inside Tyson Fury's dressing room in the countdown to extraordinary heavyweight title fight
Inside Tyson Fury’s dressing room in the hour before the fight, there was the same deep, relaxed focus he showed in the ring against Deontay Wilder in the extraordinary fight that unfolded.
I was granted exclusive access with the dozen or so team members as the minutes wound down to the “Gypsy King’s” walkout. It is an intimate time, the fine moments of preparing for war. Given Fury’s incredible comeback from a place of darkness just two years ago, to witness his almost mesmerising transformation as the nerves rose for the occasion was in keeping with a performance that will live long in the memory.
Fury watched the fights of fellow heavyweight Luis Ortiz, and then Midlander Jason Welborn, with intent on two monitors in the large dressing room. Along the wall, on a bench, sat Hall-of-Fame trainer Freddie Roach, while Ricky Hatton paced, stern-faced, chewing hard on his gum. On a stool sat promoter Frank Warren. “Watch, we will do this tonight,” Warren told me with absolute belief.
Fury’s huge younger brother, Shane, demanded a television crew move out. “We need to warm up, we have a job to do.” They were ushered outside, firmly but fairly.
It was a solemn, but upbeat mood. Fury sat, then moved, bounced on his feet, his trainer Ben Davison never taking his eyes off the man he has been with almost every day for a year as he helped Fury to return from the wastelands of mental health, not to mention the 10st in weight he had lost ahead of this epic night.
Fury had a 15-minute lie-down on a large massage table, stretching, then dressed himself. Music was on constantly, starting with country vibes – Fury singing along – followed by the mellow hip hop of Kanye West and Jay-Z and then, towards the end, Thunderstruck by AC/DC, the great uplifting heavy-rock track. We all bounced around to it, as the 6ft 9in fighter from Lancashire went on the pads with coach Davison. At the start of the hour, Fury had his wraps done, and the local commissioners watched over it.
Thirty minutes to ring-walk time, Wilder’s trainer Jay Deas came into the room, watching Fury’s gloves being put on. It is one of the rites of passage with a member from the opposing team allowed into the dressing room. Deas was afforded respect, though there were no handshakes.
Fury went into his combinations with Davison, switching from southpaw to orthodox, practising combinations they have drilled for months. There were no real nerves from the big fighter, more smiles of concentration and mood shifting.
Before they departed for the ring there was a song, together, just as Fury showed the media after the fight, singing Don McLean’s American Pie, long and loud …
“Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry; And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye, singing this’ll be the day that I die; This’ll be the day that I die …”
Then two prayers, in a huddle, one led by Fury, the other by Asgar Tair, the fourth man in his corner on the night he defeated Wladimir Klitschko.
The entire team’s eyes were on Fury, as if they would go to his side if anything cracked in the final minutes. But of course nothing did, just like the comeback itself. Out they walked to the ring, slow, very slow, soaking up the mood, the respect, the adulation on several levels. But in reality to face the examination of another man’s fists.
No one need have worried. Fury knew what he was capable of, even after all the time away, the weight loss, the depression, the criticism, the bingeing.
Seeing a sportsman doing the thing he loves, or was born to do after a lineage of 10 generations of bare-knuckle fighters, there is no denying one thing – just as the 30-year-old rose like Lazarus in that 12th round, Tyson Fury really is the “Gypsy King”.