Retirement looms for Fury in homecoming fight against Whyte

So much comes out of Tyson Fury’s mouth during fight week that it’s hard to know which aspects to gloss over and what to take seriously from one of boxing’s most colorful and controversial characters.

Yet, on one matter, the world heavyweight champion appears to be consistent. His title defense against Dillian Whyte on Saturday is going to be his last fight before retirement.

“I’m getting out healthy and in one piece. Undefeated,” the self-styled “Gypsy King” said.

“Tune in now, because you’re never going to get to see big ‘GK’ in action again after this. This is it.”

If this is indeed it — and it’s probably right to be skeptical, given Fury is 33 and making more money than he ever has atop boxing’s marquee division — then what a way to go.

An all-British fight at Wembley Stadium in London in front of more than 94,000 spectators, the biggest-ever capacity for a boxing bout staged on these shores.

Sure, the occasion would have been grander had the opponent been Anthony Joshua, Britain’s other big player among the heavyweights. The money at stake probably would have been bigger, too, even if the successful purse bid of $41 million for the Whyte fight makes this the richest in boxing history.

Fury, though, seems content with his lot.

There he was this week, taking part in what was billed as a “stare-down” between the two Brits as they went head-to-head for the first time in what has been a fairly low-key buildup.

After a few seconds, Fury chose to tickle the ribs of Whyte and then gave his opponent — and former sparring partner — the earnest of handshakes.

Make no mistake, though. Fury will be deadly serious come Saturday night when he fights on home soil for the first time since 2018 — and against someone not called Deontay Wilder for the first time since 2019 — in defense of his WBC belt.

“If I’m not on my A game then that man’s going to knock my head right off my shoulders,” Fury (31-0-1, 22 KOs) said.

“I’m going to have to be on form to beat him and he will have to perform at his best to beat me. He’s definitely a man that needs a lot of respect and that’s what I’ve given him.”

Fury’s reputation swelled over the course of his gripping trilogy with Wilder in the United States. He showed he can box on the back foot and on the front foot, had a strong chin, and had as much agility and speed in his feet and hands as power behind his big punches.

He should have too much for Whyte (28-2, 19 KOs), who is stockily built and enjoys turning fights into slugfests with his energy-sapping body punches. Certainly Fury, who is of Irish-Gypsy heritage and comes from a bloodline of bare-knuckle champions, is the more skilful of the two boxers.

What remains to be seen is whether Fury has taken his eye off the ball in recent weeks amid the controversy surrounding his links with Daniel Kinahan, one of the leaders of an organized crime gang for whom a reward of $5 million was offered by the U.S. Treasury Department for information that will lead to its destruction or arrest and conviction.

The only time Fury has lost his cool this week was while being questioned about Kinahan in various appearances in front of the media.

Otherwise, it has been the same larger-than-life Fury, cracking jokes, telling stories and talking himself up as the greatest heavyweight of his generation. He has spoken of spending time on the driving range at his local golf club in northwest England to improve his right hand by “putting my shoulder into the shot, really driving it through.” And of his pride at the way he has come back from mental health problems and issues of drug use to become the No. 1 heavyweight and, at one time or other, the holder of each of the belts in the division.

“There’s nothing more for me to achieve,” he said.

Whyte has his own memorable back-story, though, involving being drawn into London’s gang culture in his youth following his move to Britain from Jamaica, a short stint in prison, and a two-year suspension from boxing for testing positive for a banned stimulant.

He spent so long getting overlooked for a shot at the world heavyweight title, despite being mandatory challenger, that he wondered if his time would ever come.

Whyte is largely unknown, except for in boxing circles in Britain. This is his big chance to make a name for himself, sending Fury into retirement in the process.

“It’s victory by any means necessary,” Whyte said. “… I’m not scared to take risks, I’ve taken risks my whole life so it’s nothing new. I’m ready to rock and roll.”

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More AP boxing: https://apnews.com/hub/boxing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80

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