Tyson Fury vacates heavyweight titles, can Joshua take them?
Troubled boxer 'unable to defend' his titles as he battles mental health issues - but it ups the ante for Joshua and Klitschko
Troubled boxer Tyson Fury has vacated his WBO and WBA world heavyweight titles so he can deal with his "medical treatment and recovery".
In a statement released in the early hours of Thursday, the 28-year-old British champion announced that he was
about to "enter another big challenge in my life which I know, like against Klitschko, I will conquer... I feel that it is only fair and right and for the good of boxing to keep the titles active".
The announcement came just hours after the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC) met to discuss depriving Fury of his licence. Their decision is expected today.
Ever since beating Wladimir Klitschko in November 2015 to win the WBO, WBA and IBF titles, Fury's reign as heavyweight champion has been marred by controversy.
He was soon stripped of the IBF title because he would not fight mandatory challenger Vyacheslav Glazkov. Then there was the row about whether he should be allowed to attend the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year Award ceremony after his remarks about homosexuality and abortion. Earlier this year in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine he admitted taking cocaine to deal with depression.
He has also withdrawn from two planned rematches with Klitschko and the WBO had set Fury a deadline of 17 October to explain "why his title should not be vacated due to inactivity, breach of contract and performance-enhancing drugs and stimulants".
Tyson pulled out of the first fight in July with an ankle injury and called off the second after admitting his mental health issues.
"I won the titles in the ring and I believe that they should be lost in the ring," he said in his statement. "But I'm unable to defend at this time and I have taken the hard and emotional decision to now officially vacate my treasured world titles.
Mick Hennessy, Fury's promoter, added his own statement, in which he said the boxer's decision would "allow him the time and space to fully recover from his present condition without any undue pressure and with the expert medical attention he requires".
Hennessy added: "Tyson will still be the linear world heavyweight champion in everyone's eyes. He beat the most dominant champion in the modern era of boxing on an amazing night in Germany to earn that accolade and that will never change."
His comments were echoed by Peter Fury, Tyson's uncle and trainer, who said: "Tyson will be back stronger from this... [to] reclaim what's rightfully his".
Fury's decision to vacate the belts makes the anticipated clash between Klitschko and Britain's other heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua all the more appealing.
Promoter Eddie Hearn told the BBC that a deal ws "very close" for Joshua to fight Klitschko for his IBF belt, and December is the likeliest month for the bout to take place. In light of Fury's decision the winner be now be crowned IBF, WBO and WBA world heavyweight champion.
Tyson Fury to fight Wladimir Klitschko on 29 October
Tyson Fury will defend his world heavyweight title against Wladimir Klitschko on 29 October at Manchester Arena it has been confirmed.
The fight comes almost a year after he beat the reigning champion in Dusseldorf and three months after Fury pulled out of a rematch after injuring his ankle.
The same day as the controversial British boxer dropped out of the summer showdown the bout "was plunged into further doubt with reports that Fury had tested positive for a banned substance before their first fight," reports the Daily Mail. "That threatened to bury the rematch in legal red tape before UK Anti-Doping lifted their suspension pending a full investigation."
Despite the brouhaha, the two men are now due to meet next month and Tyson is said to have been in training camp since the end of August.
"The fight had been thrown into doubt by the doping investigation into Fury and his camp suspected that Klitschko was angling for a second postponement," reports the Daily Mirror. But the paper adds: "Both sides claim they are committed to the rematch on October 29, which will be shown on BoxNation, when the unbeaten Fury will defend the WBA Super and WBO belts he won from Klitschko in November."
Fury became the first man to beat Klitschko for 11 years when he won the WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight belts on points in November last year. He was stripped of the IBF title for agreeing to a rematch with Klitschko instead of fighting their mandatory challenger.
Tyson Fury 'shows dignity' as he issues yet another apology
Not for the first time in his career has the British heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury been forced to apologise after making a string of controversial remarks in an interview posted on YouTube.
In an hour-long talk with the website Sports View the boxer once again made homophobic and sexist comments. This time he added anti-Semitism to his charge sheet after claiming "Zionist, Jewish people... own all the banks, all the papers, all the TV stations".
The bizarre interview "led to widespread calls for him to be banned from boxing", reports the Daily Telegraph, and also prompted an apology from the world heavyweight champion who defends his titles against Wladimir Klitschko in two months' time.
It comes six months after he said sorry for previous comments about homosexuality, paedophilia and abortion after being branded a bigot.
"I apologise to anyone who may have taken offence at any of my comments," Fury said in a statement. "I said some things, which may have hurt some people, which as a Christian man is not something I would ever want to do.
"Though it is not an excuse, sometimes the heightened media scrutiny has caused me to act out in public. I mean no harm or disrespect to anyone and I know more is expected of me as an ambassador of British boxing and I promise in future to hold myself up to the highest possible standard."
He also insisted that he is "in no way" a racist or a bigot, and Kevin Mitchell in The Guardian appears prepared to take him at his word.
"He has shown courage and dignity. It cannot be easy to confess so openly to indulging in prejudice so ill-informed and poorly thought out," he says. "The pressure on him to pronounce on demand as the standard-bearer for a sport that so often is under intense scrutiny is immense."
But that is his problem, he adds. He is "dazzled" by the attention he receives – "for most of his life nobody cared what Tyson Fury thought about anything".
Now he is notorious and plays up to it. "He says the first thing that comes into his head, it gets massive hits on social media and a storm of protest is the natural consequence much of the time... Like many fighting men, Fury is safest and most comfortable in the space he knows best, the boxing ring."
Batman to fat man: Tyson Fury 'close to self-destruction'
The Tyson Fury show resumed this week, with the British heavyweight fighter making a bizarre appearance at a press conference to promote his rematch with Wladimir Klitschko in July.
However, his antics failed to pack much of a punch.
The fighter variously claimed he was overweight, weighed 30 stone, did not enjoy boxing and wanted to move to the US because of prejudice against his Gypsy heritage.
At one stage, he tore off his T-shirt to reveal his out-of-shape physique and mocked Klitschko for being beaten by a "big, fat, lazy Gypsy with a loud mouth", before insisting he would beat him for a second time.
"It was a typically dystopian performance from Fury, the world's number one-ranked heavyweight, wavering between condemnation for his own physique and for the role he feels forced to play," says Gareth A Davies of the Daily Telegraph. "It was Kafkaesque at times."
It is clear both Fury and Klitschko have been "heavily affected" by the first fight in Dusseldorf last November, he adds.
Ukrainian Klitschko declared himself to be "on a mission" to gain revenge, but Kevin Mitchell of The Guardian is concerned that Fury is going off the rails.
The "Gypsy warrior" is no stranger to controversy and attended a press conference before the first bout dressed as Batman. However, concerns that he is "skating close to self-destruction were given stark and embarrassing substance" by his performance this time round, says the journalist.
"Not only was he unashamedly overweight just over two months from their hugely anticipated rematch, but he ranted like a man in search of a friend. Any friend.
"Somebody needs to have a word with Fury. He is in danger of wrecking his magnificent achievement and Klitschko will be merciless in that process."
Fury's rival certainly seems determined to get one over on him. His "contempt for the man who beat him against all odds is palpable", says Riath Al-Samarrai of the Daily Mail.
But Klitschko, too, needs to keep his emotions in check. At one point during their meeting, he took umbrage with Fury's controversial views on gays and women, which have been widely condemned, and told him to "f*** off".
From "a man of order and military precision... it was completely out of character", says the Telegraph's Davies.