This is the second part of a two-part article. Click here to read Part I.
(LifeSiteNews) –– In the first part of this article, I looked primarily at how the deep faith of world heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury has played such a central role in his success in the ring while touching briefly on his incredible journey from the brink of suicide back to the summit of world boxing. In the second part of this article, I will take a closer look at the darkest moments of Fury’s life, and how his own battles with mental health issues are giving hope to millions of people around the world.
Fury first became a world heavyweight champion in 2015, when he defeated the then long-reigning Ukrainian champion Vladimir Klitschko. It was the crowning achievement of a life dedicated to boxing. As he has noted many times himself, at this moment in this life he had everything that the world can offer: wealth, fame, a wife and family, and the personal success he had worked for his entire life.
But it was at this moment that Fury’s life took a dramatic, unexpected turn. Almost immediately following his victory over Klitschko, Fury began a downward spiral of intense depression which resulted in his stepping away from boxing, and ultimately bringing him to the brink of suicide. In the remainder of this article we will see how, according to Fury, God’s power has not merely delivered him victory in the boxing ring but has also saved him from complete self-destruction and given him abundant life when all hope was lost.
‘My mind was made up…Nothing mattered; I didn’t matter’
“Even before I had left the arena in Germany, and despite having just experienced the greatest moment of triumph in my life, I started to feel empty…that evening the hollow feeling I felt inside – that climbing to the summit of world boxing didn’t mean that much after all.”
In the months preceding the victory over Klitschko, Fury had suffered two painful personal losses in quick succession – the unexpected death of one of his uncles, and the tragic loss of an unborn child late into his wife’s pregnancy.
Six months later Fury was on the brink of suicide. In the months following his world-title victory, Fury had descended into a drawn-out period of intense personal suffering, made worse through alcohol and drug abuse. In June 2016, he was ready to end his own life.
“My mind was made up, it was in a place of meaninglessness. Nothing mattered; I didn’t matter,” Fury relates of his mental state immediately before he would attempt suicide. But just before taking his own life, Fury says he heard a voice telling him “No! Stop! Think about your kids.” In the final moment, he pulled back from the brink of death.
“I look back with relief and bewilderment at just how a person can enter such a state, suffocated by depression like I was, and I give thanks to God,” Fury relates in his autobiography. “Without my faith I would have committed suicide that day.”
Fury was ultimately diagnosed with bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and long-term anxiety issues.
Mental health – the toughest opponent you can ever face
Fury insists that his battles with mental health have been far tougher than any opponent he has ever faced in the ring.
“I just didn’t want to live anymore. I was happy to die at 27,” Fury explained in a September 2021 interview. “Nothing or nobody could bring me back, not my wife and kids — [I] didn’t care, didn’t care…It’s a crazy way to be, but only people who have been through depression and all that sort of stuff will understand what I’m saying.”
In speaking so candidly about his mental health problems Fury is giving a very public voice to the kind of suffering endured by millions of people around the world.
“When you’re so down and every day you wake up, even if it’s sunshine, it’s gray and you’re negative all the time. And you’re infectious, you infect people who are around you and make them negative and down. And you push everybody away and you just want to be left alone, like in a dark corner.”
Fury admits that in his lowest moments he gave up hope of ever returning to boxing, and that the furthest he thought he would go, if he didn’t die, was a “padded room” – meaning that he feared he would be placed long-term in a mental health institution for his own safety.
But fortunately for him, his family, and the millions of people around the world who have been inspired by his comeback story, Fury would eventually make a definitive decision to get his life back on track in the most unexpected and inauspicious of circumstances.
God’s ways are strange and marvelous to behold – ‘I knew the comeback was on’
In October 2017, nearly two years on from becoming world champion, Fury was in the regular habit of spending most of his time alone drinking all day in local pubs in the unfashionable part of north-west England where he lives with his family. Having ballooned in size to around 28 stone (266 pounds), Fury relates how he went out to celebrate Halloween, alone, dressed in a glow-in-the-dark skeleton costume.
At that moment Fury describes having a sudden moment of clarity.
“For the first time in a couple of years I thought to myself ‘What on earth are you doing here? Is this what your life has come to?” Fury relates in his autobiography.
Fury returned home, got down on his knees, and begged God for help.
“I remembered reading in the biography of former heavyweight champion George Foreman how he came to a point when he got down to his knees and cried out to God to help him. So in my bedroom that’s what I did. I cried my eyes out. The floor was wet with tears and sweat as I cried out for help. When I got back up I knew the comeback was on.”
An intense passion for helping others suffering with mental health issues
“I wanted to speak out because I felt like: ‘I’m feeling like this, there’s got to be a lot of normal people out there in the world feeling like this’. And I think if I could be heavyweight champion of the world [and it] brings me down like this, and people can see me get back up after it, then they can do the same thing.”
Fury now describes himself as unofficial ambassador for mental health issues. It’s clear from his numerous interviews, books, and social media posts that the drive to help others has been a major motivating factor in his own recovery.
Just over one year on from his sudden moment of clarity and decision to get his life and career back on track, Fury had completed the most improbable of comebacks by returning to the ring and facing the toughest possible opponent in heavyweight boxing, in his first match-up with Deontay Wilder which is described in the first part of this article.
After rising from the canvas, having been hit with the hardest punch in heavyweight boxing, Fury told a post-fight interviewer that he had shown the world that there is always hope.
“I just showed the world tonight, everyone suffering with mental health, that you can come back, and it can be done,” Fury told BT Sport. “Everybody out there who has the same problems I’ve been suffering with, I did that for you guys. If I can come back from where I come from then you can do it too.”
Pray for Tyson Fury
“I know no matter what I’ve got, how much money I’ve got, what achievements I’ve ever done, it can all be taken away from me by mental health.”
While millions of people can relate to Tyson Fury, very few people will ever experience the kind of life he lives. And while Fury may inspire millions of people, how many of those people will in turn pray for him? Incredible wealth, fame and popularity bring with them their own temptations and trials, and while Fury has a unique potential to do a huge amount of good, he is a man like any other and like all of us he needs God’s grace.
It is important to note that Tyson Fury strongly encourages everyone experiencing mental health issues to seek professional help. But equally it cannot be ignored that at the most difficult moments of his life, as well as in his moments of greatest triumph, Fury is unequivocal in his belief in the loving influence of Almighty God.