“My idea of a good day is getting up early, going for a run, maybe dropping the kids off at school or whatever, and then I found this really long walk – there’s nobody on it; I take the dog for a walk in privacy,” Tyson Fury said on the eve of his defining fight.  

“I’m very cautious taking my dog for a walk because a dog is an animal. It can jump up to somebody and all of a sudden you’ve got a lawsuit or something. ‘Tyson Fury’s dog’s tried to bite me.’ It’s very complicated. When you’re in my position, everybody’s hunting you down. They want a few quid off you. So I go where nobody else is.  Even when I see the dog walkers – I won’t go there anymore because he could cause me a problem. I don’t need problems in my life anymore.”

In the early hours of Sunday morning at the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, when they contest the undisputed heavyweight title Fury and Oleksandr Usyk will be at the centre of the world.

He will reportedly earn a minimum of $100m and in the event of victory guarantee that he is forever remembered as one of the very finest heavyweights of all time.

In almost all respects the 35-year-old Fury remains the most absorbing and compelling of paradoxes. He is the 6ft 9ins, 19-plus stone heavyweight champion with the cultured edge, boxing brain and fluidness of a graceful super middleweight. He is also the era-defining fighter of a division that demands muscular physiques far from his fleshy torso, and one of the most respected of all figures from both the machismo and ruthless boxing and travelling cultures despite his willingness to be vulnerable in front of the entire world.

Fury, similarly, is the most natural and entertaining of showmen, and yet in 2024, perhaps more than ever, he recognises that his profile and talents have become a burden to bear. For all of his endless respect for his profession’s decorated history he also insists – and appears to believe – that his legacy is not a priority, and yet inevitably, as someone who continues to struggle with bipolar disorder, he continues to say one thing one day and with the same conviction do something very different the next.

“He’s a Rottweiler called Cash,” Fury continued. “Man’s best friend; loyal; everything. Loves me to death. Always happy to see me; never ever gives me any lip. He’s the best.

“People are always sold a dream of being rich and famous. It’s probably not true when you finally get there. Because you can have stuff you want to buy and you get to choose what you want, but that’s alright. But when you can have everything the world’s got to offer you, you don’t want nothing. When you can’t have everything, you want everything.  

“There’s a lot to be said for having a normal nine-to-five and being a normal person. You can do normal stuff every single day; go anywhere you want; everything. No bother. No one asks you any questions; no one is coming all over you; all that sort of stuff.  

“I can’t go anywhere. I’m tortured. I can’t even have a dinner. People round my neck taking pictures. I feel like hitting them in the mouth when they’re doing it. People have no respect when it comes to someone they know on telly or whatever – they’re straight over. ‘I know you’re having your dinner and you’re about to eat it, but…’ – it’s horrible. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.  

“If there was such a thing as earning a right few quid or not having any fame, that’s the one I’d choose. That’s the best thing. If you can earn plenty of money but not be famous, I think you’re on to a winner. If you’ve got plenty of money you can do what you want.

“It is what it is. [My brother] Shane says to me all the time, ‘It’s the price you pay for everything you’ve got’. It’s a curse, for sure. Not a blessing. Everyone wants to be famous for five minutes until they’ve done it, but not every day for 10 years. I’m not complaining. It is what it is.

“I don’t really do much other than stay in Morecambe Bay. I very rarely even go to Manchester anymore. I stay at home. I don’t like going on holidays. I’ve no interest in all that because it’s a headache and hard work. Imagine going to the airport with seven kids; dragging all them cases.

“Then I’m getting stopped and ripped from pillar to post – people wanting pictures and stuff. It’s not an enjoyable thing. Then there’s another thing, it’s where do you go? Now, okay, you can go to a nice villa somewhere in the middle of nowhere, where nobody else is, but then that ruins the kids’ experience of going on holiday and mixing with children and that, and communicating. So I like to go to hotels and stuff where the kids can play with other kids on holiday and enjoy it. It’s not about me anymore. I’ve completed my life. I’m done. It’s about giving these kids a nice life and seeing what they can do and achieve in theirs.”

An awareness of Fury’s condition – and his success in the years since he recovered from being suicidal has inspired so many who have similarly struggled – means that concerns for his wellbeing will persist when the day comes for him to retire.

His health is jeopardised every time he fights, as it will again be on Saturday at the Kingdom Arena against Ukraine’s 37-year-old Usyk, and yet his profession gives him a purpose, a cause for discipline and structure, and an identity he may find he struggles without.

He speaks of being “done” and of not being concerned about his legacy and yet he hopes to have a further 10 fights. He wants to be retired inside the coming five years but for all of the privileges of his position retains the perspective to recognise that it is the “journey”, and not the “arrival” that it is most important he enjoys.

“I can’t see myself hanging around for the next five years, never mind 20 years,” he said. “I’ve given a lot to this game. I give all my youth; all my teenage years; all my young adult life. I’ve got to have some time to be me. All the things I’ve done and all the accolades and all the money I’ve earned – I’ve got to have time to enjoy it. It’s only a short life, innit? We’re here today, gone tomorrow.

“The journey to the destination is always better than the arrival at the destination – always. If you ever dream about something and then it’s a big journey to get to that moment, or buy something you really want and you saved up for it for a long time, the actual getting it – the deliverance of the end goal is an anti-climax compared to what you thought it might be. Always. I remember thinking I’d love to buy my own house. If I could just do anything out of boxing, that was my goal. Being a champion and all that – fantastic. But we all know that don’t pay your bills and it doesn’t pay for a house or put food in your stomach. Having a belt in your cupboard is not what it’s about. 

“I wanted to buy my own house out of boxing. I got to about 22 and I bought my own house. I was thinking more about how it would be fantastic, and when I got it, it was what it was. So on and so forth; set different goals and whatever, and here we are today. I’m in a position where I can go anywhere; do anything; buy anything, and I choose not to, because I just don’t see the point.

“I want another 10 fights, quick fire, if we can. Punch up a few more people. That’s it. What more is there? I’m having fun doing it; getting paid to do it. While the body holds out, I’ll keep doing it. There’s loads of people to fight.

“We have to cross all our bridges when they get in front of us. I can’t speak about what might happen in the future. I can only think about what I’m doing at the moment. I want to enjoy what I’ve got left. The pressure is off now, if that makes any sense. Like when I was fighting [in 2011, Derek] Chisora the first time round, there was a lot of pressure on me, because I never had a lot of money; I didn’t have all the things that I have now.  

“I had to make it. I had to get what I needed to be able to cement myself. So forget boxing. I had to pay my bills. I had to make money to pay for stuff with my kids and everything. That’s the most important thing. But now, I’m cemented. If I never worked a day in my life, I don’t need to do anything else.

“The pressure’s off now. I’m not doing it for any reason. I’m doing it now because I can. I’ve been doing it for that reason for the last five years – because I can. That’s it. Whereas before I had to do it. I had to accumulate some assets and a few quid about me. That’s it. I’ve done that a long time ago and I’m doing it now for the fun of it.  Obviously for the money as well.  

“Here’s one thing. If you give me – I don’t know, let’s just pick any easy money –  $500 million, it wouldn’t change my life as much as that [face mask] would losing out of my pocket. It wouldn’t do anything. It wouldn’t ever take or make it better or worse; it wouldn’t do nothing. It would actually be a sin to give it me, because it would never be used – it would just be pointless, because it’s all a big game of Monopoly.  

“So having that being said, it’s really unimportant – the money side of things.  However – there is a big ‘However’. If I’m doing the job and I know my worth – even though I don’t need anymore money, or I’ve no use for any – I would never go into a job and do it underpaid, because it’s my principle. I know what I’m worth, and I know what I generate. People can say to me, ‘Oh well, you can do this fight for £5m, why do you want £100m?’ Because that’s what I want and I wouldn’t do it for $0.10 less – because that’s what I want.”

Which brings him to Saturday’s fight – the 36th of a decorated career that perhaps has already surpassed his wildest expectations and dreams. He has already said that in the event of victory he will gift his four titles to Saudi Arabia’s Turki Alalshikh, so influential in ensuring that it is in Riyadh that their fight will take place.

He has also consistently been seen with the same clean skin that was evident ahead of the nights when he produced his finest performances – such as those against Wladimir Klitschko and Deontay Wilder – and appears to be enjoying the occasion and its significance, when though for all of his preference for greater privacy, it unquestionably remains true that it is in the boxing ring – his contest with Usyk will be broadcast in more than 200 countries –  that he is more at home than anywhere else in the world.

“I’ve enjoyed from being a little kid – I’ve always aspired to be a champion; I’ve always loved the game; I’ve always loved the training; the sparring; all of it,” he said. “Some of you guys have spoken to me for a long, long period of time. I’ve never really been someone to dress it all up and make it something it’s not. I’ve always downplayed it – if anything – every single time.  

“I told you straight out – always was. I don’t think you’ll ever get someone ever like me again – telling you how straight is; how it is; what am I doing it for. People say to me, ‘Oh, you’re doing it for the accolades’. No. I told you straight.  

“I found out if you tell the truth, no one believes you. You tell them a lie, they accept it. I don’t know why. If people say to me, ‘How have you done in this training camp?’, and I make up an elaborate lie? They want to believe that. If I tell them the truth, I’d say ‘It’s been a routine training camp; whatever; I’ve not done anything different’. ‘Nah, you couldn’t have done. That ain’t the truth.’ So it is what it is. 

“One thing I think I do know is both men are getting paid very well. The biggest payday there is. To go in there and have a fight. He’s had 350 amateur fights and 21 professional fights. I had 35 pro fights and 35 amateur fights. So we’ve done a lot, haven’t we, in our lives in boxing matches and stuff, and we’re bothered about another fight? I don’t think so. Neither one of us.  

“I think he said it and I’ll say it as well. If it’s destined for us and it’s meant to be, it will be. And if it’s not, then it won’t be. But will I cry about it? No. Why would I cry?  

“I’ll thank God for the good times and the bad times and I’ll roll on, collect me money and go home. That’s it. Back to picking up the dog shit. I don’t think people really realise how very not important all this is to me, because it’s important on the night, but when I go home it’s – forget about it. Not even interested.”

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