(LifeSiteNews) –– “There are seven billion people in the world, but only one of them is the heavyweight boxing champion, and that’s me.” Tyson Fury
World heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury is one of the most famous and successful men in the world. A giant of the world of boxing, he stands at 6 feet 9 inches, weighs 266 pounds (19 stone) and confidently asserts that he has achieved his ambition of becoming the most entertaining and controversial heavyweight champion since Muhammad Ali.
And, in his own way, Fury is also a remarkable witness to faith in Jesus Christ as well as an inspiration to men and women around the world suffering with mental health issues.
A unique sporting figure
There are a whole host of reasons why Tyson Fury as a boxer, and as a man, has become such a hugely popular figure.
As a boxer, Fury is not like most fighters – either in his appearance or his style. For one thing, he doesn’t look like a typical athlete. Watching him in the ring one is prompted to imagine him as a Victorian fair-ground fighter, or the sort of person who regularly gets into fights on weekends at his local pub. Fury is as big and as heavy as they come, but he dodges punches like a boy in the playground.
Unlike many fighters, Fury didn’t get into boxing to escape a troubled childhood. Fury fights because he loves fighting, and you can see it when he is in the ring. His movement is fluid and relaxed, despite being up against men who can cause life-changing injuries with one punch.
Fury is proud to come from a loving, happy home, and is equally proud of his Gypsy heritage, values and Catholic faith. Now 34, he met his wife Paris when they were teenagers and often says that he knew she was the one for him when she told him that she wanted 10 children. The couple currently live with their 6 children in a quiet, unfashionable town in north-west England.
Fury doesn’t speak or act like most other elite athletes either. While he has consciously moved away from making provocative controversial statements, as he did in his early career, Fury is unafraid to speak candidly both about his faith and his own intense personal trials with mental health.
None of that is to say that Fury is a straightforward Christian role-model. He frequently engages in the sort of “trash-talk” typical among boxers, and his language can be surprisingly vulgar. This article is not an encouragement to trawl through his social media posts.
The aim of this article is to present one of the most entertaining and influential sportsmen of our day, and to highlight the central role that his faith has played in sustaining him in his journey through dizzying heights of success, crushing depression and one of the most remarkable comeback stories in sporting history.
‘I had to tell the world that it was my belief in Jesus Christ that enabled me to win the world heavyweight title’
In the biggest moments of his career Fury has always publicly thanked Jesus for his victories. In 2015 Fury got his first shot at the world title by taking on the then long-reigning Ukrainian champion Vladimir Klitschko. His victory that night was the crowning moment of a lifetime dedicated to pursuing his all-consuming goal of becoming world champion.
In that moment too, when Fury first tasted victory at the highest level of heavyweight boxing, he immediately insisted “this glory is not for me. This was down to my rock and my salvation, Jesus Christ. He won here tonight.”
In his autobiography Fury recalls his determination to witness to his faith in Our Lord.
“I had to tell the world that it was my belief in Jesus Christ that enabled me to win the world heavyweight title,” he wrote.
“In every interview after, no matter what the question was, I just told the reporters, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved,’ because I knew His power got me through.”
‘In the mighty name of Jesus I won this fight’
One of the most impressive examples of Fury’s witnessing to his faith came after what is arguably his most famous victory in the ring, his third and final bout with American heavyweight Deontay Wilder. With thousands of people in attendance, and millions watching on TV around the world, Fury gave all the credit for the victory to Our Lord.
“First of all I’d just like to say thank you to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, in the mighty name of Jesus I won this fight again. I give Him the glory, He gives me the victory. He made my legs strong. I was down a couple of times, Wilder’s a strong puncher, and he’s a tough man. I was hitting him with some big shots, and my Lord and Savior rose me to my feet tonight to give Him the glory.”
Tyson Fury thanked his Savior Jesus Christ after winning his heavyweight title fight last night! 🥊 🙏 #TysonFury pic.twitter.com/86mzj3XKI3
— The Athletes’ Corner (@AthletesCorner_) October 10, 2021
It has been Fury’s habit for some time now to begin his post-fight interviews in this way. Regardless of whatever question he is asked he begins the interviews by thanking Our Lord. So Fury’s faith, and the role it has played in his life and his career is well known by his fans.
What perhaps escapes the attention of many is that the spiritual battlelines of Fury’s rivalry with Wilder were arguably laid out very clearly before their first fight in 2018.
‘It’s going to be your God against my god’
Prior to their first fight in 2018 Fury and Wilder met, as is normal before major boxing bouts, for a face-to-face televised interview.
The opening exchanges between the fighters were respectful and complimentary, but when Fury insisted he would be victorious, Wilder responded curiously by saying that Fury would not be getting into the ring with a normal opponent.
Wilder: “You’re not going to be talking to Deontay Wilder. You’re not going to be looking into the eyes of Deontay Wilder.”
Fury: “Who am I going to be looking in the eyes of?”
Wilder: “You’re going to be looking into the eyes of the the Bronze Bomber.”
Fury: “Is that like an alter ego or something? Or is it like a spirit that comes into you, or what is it?”
Wilder: “It can be an alter ego, it can be a spirit, it may be an ancestry spirit, who knows?”
Fury: “I don’t believe in all that stuff.”
Wilder: “Well I do.”
Fury: “Because Jesus Christ is my savior. I don’t believe in old spirits and alter egos. And even mentioning stuff like that on TV, you’re getting it. If God is with me, nobody can be against me. And if you’re entering spirits and stuff in your body, you can’t win.”
After this exchange the conversation became much more intense, with Fury clearly appalled at what he heard, while Wilder continued to develop his theme insisting that he would “baptize” Fury in the ring. Finally, Wilder insisted that the battle between the pair would be “your God against my God.”
It’s hard to be much clearer than that. Fury had been very clear that his God is Jesus Christ. Wilder had been equally clear that he was ready to go up against Him. No wonder that Fury, a man of intense faith, was ready to attribute his victory over Wilder to “the mighty name of Jesus.”
A unique event in sporting history – Fury’s ‘resurrection’ moment
The pre and post-fight interviews will not, of course, be what is chiefly remembered about the three fights between Fury and Wilder.
But whereas most boxing contests are remembered for their biggest punches, the moment which is most likely to be remembered from the Fury v. Wilder fights was what many people have referred to as Fury’s “resurrection moment.”
Having been comfortably the superior fighter throughout the majority of the first eleven rounds of their first fight, in the twelfth and final round Fury was smashed to the canvas by a flurry of clean punches to the head.
But, somehow, Fury rose to his feet and not only survived until the final bell of the contest, but arguably finished the fight stronger than Wilder.
For non-boxing fans it is important to note here that Wilder is widely regarded to possess one of the hardest punches in boxing history. It was expected that if he could land just one clean punch on Fury then the contest would be over. Such was his own confidence in his “knockout” power that Wilder broke into a victory dance after landing his punches. He certainly wasn’t expecting Fury to get up, and nobody else was either.
Equally important to note here, in considering the significance of this moment, is that this fight came after a period of nearly three years out of the ring, as Fury had been brought to the brink of suicide while experiencing years of crippling depression. Fury’s rising again after being hit by the hardest punch in boxing, can be seen as a symbolic expression of his own journey from despair to hope. In just over a year before this moment Fury had lost 10 stone (140 pounds), broken free from alcohol and drug abuse, and begun a life-changing process of recognizing and coping with his mental health issues.
‘I knew it was divine intervention’
In his 2019 autobiography, Behind the Mask, Fury insists that it was the hand of God that helped raise him to his feet.
Wilder exploded a right hand and then caught me again with a left hook and I fell to the canvas. The referee was counting me out. Wilder had his back to me and was doing a victory dance, thinking it was surely all over. I was finished.
Five seconds later the comeback was alive, the darkness gave way to light as I rose to my feet. It was all meant to be, whatever had happened in my life. I was supposed to go down against Wilder; I was supposed to rise dramatically.
When I looked back at the video footage after the fight, and saw the shock in Wilder’s eyes as I hauled myself up, ready to fight again, I knew it was divine intervention. Wilder couldn’t believe it; the world couldn’t believe it. Even the referee, who said I opened my eyes around the count of five, couldn’t believe it. He said to Ben [Fury’s coach] ‘The man was out cold and then to somehow get back up and finish stronger than the other guy was just unbelievable’.
Wilder would later admit that he couldn’t believe Fury had got up because he couldn’t have hit him any harder.
The judges ruled this first contest between the pair as a draw. But in the subsequent rematch in 2019 Fury shocked the boxing world by easily beating Wilder in a one-sided contest. And it would appear that Fury had not forgotten Wilder’s words from a year before when Wilder said that the match-up was to going to be “your God against my God.”
Fury opened the second fight by racing to the center of the ring, and immediately taking the fight to Wilder. Within just seven rounds Wilder’s camp was forced to withdraw with Fury the easy winner by way of technical knock-out.
Immediately following this first conclusive victory over Wilder, Fury’s first words appear to be particularly pointed: “All praise be to the one and only true God, Jesus Christ.”
This is the first part of a two-part article. Click here to read Part II.