Having earned a reported $25m for his recent rematch against Deontay Wilder, Tyson Fury is now one of the world’s wealthiest athletes. However, things used to be very different for this heavyweight champion. And behind his ferocious persona, the Gypsy King’s spending habits reveal a much softer side to his personality.
From the very first day of his life, Tyson Fury was a fighter. Born three months premature in 1988, the future pugilist – who now stands at a fearsome 6’9” tall and tips the scales at 256lbs – weighed just 1lb. But miraculously, Fury pulled through, prompting his father John to name him after another ferocious boxer.
“[The doctors] told me there was not much hope for him,” Tyson’s pop explained to British newspaper The Guardian in 2015. “It was 1988, Mike Tyson was in his pomp as world heavyweight champion, and so I said, ‘Let’s call him Tyson.’ The doctors just looked at me and smiled.”
Little did the fighter’s father know just how apt this moniker would be. And yet Fury still had a long and painful road to walk before becoming champion himself. As a child, the pugilist witnessed the death of his sister Ramona after only a few days of life. Later on, he would see his father incarcerated for assault.
Fury’s road to success began in earnest at the age of ten when the athlete first took up boxing. Coming from a family of pugilists, including notorious figures in the world of illegal gypsy boxing, Fury was destined for the sport. And in 2006 at the age of 14, he competed in the A.I.B.A. Youth World Boxing Championships, taking home a bronze medal.
By 2008 Fury had become the third-ranked amateur boxer in the world, and the fighter would quickly dominate the professional ring as well. In the same year, the athlete had his first professional match against rival Bela Gyongyosi, whom he beat by a technical knockout. Just one year later, he would become English Heavyweight Champion following a bout with John McDermott.
Over the coming years, Fury would continue to rack up wins and titles at a breathtaking pace. But in 2015 the English athlete would face his most important fight yet. Matched against revered Ukrainian boxer Wladimir Klitschko, the bout would see Fury compete for the W.B.A. (Super), I.B.O., W.B.O., I.B.F. and Ring titles of Heavyweight Champion of the World.
Despite his opponent’s considerable talent, Fury took the match in his stride. And after 12 rounds, the Gypsy King won on a unanimous judges’ decision – an outcome that left Fury overcome with emotion. Speaking to the crowd at Dusseldorf’s Esprit Arena after the bout, the boxer cried, “This is a dream come true. We worked so hard for this. I’ve done it.”
Nevertheless, it wasn’t just the world title that Fury walked away with that night. Due to the historic nature of the event, the fight brought in millions of fans from across the globe who watched via pay-per-view TV deals. As a result, Fury was estimated to have earned as much as $6.5m for that night’s work.
Certainly, becoming World Champion would be the pinnacle of any boxer’s career. And Fury – basking in the fame and fortune that his title brought – began a downward spiral following his win against Klitschko. Ditching the gym for debauchery, the fighter began a self-destructive diet of cocaine, alcohol and junk food that resulted in his weight soaring to 399lbs.
Amidst the drink, the drugs and the fame, Tyson also found his mental health slipping. In the wake of his success, the athlete began to suffer from a depression that took him close to suicide. As he confessed to Rolling Stone magazine in 2016, “I was rich, successful, young, healthy, had a family, fame – everything a man could dream of – but I was still depressed.”
Moreover, the boxer’s newly inflated public persona led to increased controversy. After Fury’s title-gaining win, past comments considered anti-Semitic, transphobic and homophobic made by the athlete came to light. As a result of the last, nearly 150,000 individuals demanded his nomination for 2015’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year be withdrawn.
However, the worst was yet to come. Now considered medically unfit to carry on boxing, in 2016 Fury was forced to hand back three of his heavyweight titles; he was under investigation for doping and unable to fulfil a contractually-agreed rematch against Klitschko. One year later, a positive test for the steroid nandrolone would lead Fury to return the last of his titles and to be banned from the sport entirely.
It may have seemed like Fury’s career was over at this point. But true to his fighting name, the pugilist made a miraculous comeback. Spurred on by comments made by up-and-coming Wilder – who had inherited the W.B.C. heavyweight title in Fury’s absence – the British boxer decided that it was time to put his gloves on once again.
“[Wilder] said, ‘Definitely not Tyson Fury, he’s done,’” the English fighter claimed during a 2018 press conference. “And I was walking along the canal with my dog at the time and I thought, ‘You know what? I’m a fat pig. Look at the state of me.’ I thought, ‘I’ve gotta turn this around and I’ve gotta come back and I’m gonna knock him out.’”
At once, Fury stepped back into action in a bid to reclaim his former glory. After requesting the return of his boxing license, the athlete began an intense workout and weight-loss program that included moving trainer Ben Davison into his home. Moreover, he contested several friendly bouts with fellow English fighter Dave Allen.
Following three years away from the ring, Fury made his professional comeback in 2018 against Sefer Seferi. Nonetheless this match, and subsequent fights with Carl Frampton and Francesco Pianeta, were merely warm-ups to a confrontation with Wilder. And on September 22, a fight between the pair was finally confirmed for December of that year.
Like his bout with Klitschko, Fury’s fight against Wilder would guarantee the boxer a windfall. Based on the amount in the English champion’s purse – the amount of money put up by promoters to secure a fight – Fury was on course to earn a definite $3 million. However, his percentage of the night’s ticket sales and pay-per-view subscriptions would see that figure rise exponentially.
If Fury is to be believed then this fortune couldn’t have come at a better time. During a 2018 promotional event in Glasgow, the Gypsy King claimed to be broke prior to his big match and living off welfare. “I’m on Jobseeker’s Allowance at the moment,” he told fans at the city’s Radisson Blu Hotel. “I’m not winding you up – I’m being truthful.”
Despite his apparent lack of wealth, however, Fury was seemingly unconcerned with his own financial situation. Instead, he became increasingly alarmed with the living quality of others he witnessed while traveling through America in preparation for his fight. Through interactions with rough sleepers in cities such as Los Angeles, Fury discovered a social issue that resonated with his own personal troubles.
During one such visit, the boxer gave his own pair of $1,000 trainers to a man he saw walking around without shoes. “Maybe two miles square, [there was] nothing but homeless people, 90 percent of them struggling with mental health,” he relayed to GQ magazine in 2019. “It felt like I was in a Third-World country.”
After months of build-up, the fight between Fury and Wilder went ahead on the first day of December. Rather than knocking Wilder out as he originally claimed, Fury found himself matched by an equally tough opponent who knocked the English boxer down twice. Nevertheless, the athlete stood firm and met his rival’s punches with even greater force.
Following 12 grueling rounds, it seemed as though Fury had emerged as the clear winner. However in a surprising judges’ decision which was greeted by boos in the arena, the fight was declared a draw. Not only had Fury failed to win back his title, but he’d also failed to win a fight for the first time in a decade-long career.
In his post-fight interview, Fury expressed his disbelief at the match’s outcome. “I got knocked down twice, but I still believe I won that fight,” he remarked to the crowd. Nonetheless, the night was still a victory for Fury. And having made his glorious return to the ring, the fighter proclaimed, “The Gypsy King has returned.”
Although he may not have won the fight, Fury at least walked away from the match a very rich man. Alongside the $3 million that he gained from fighting Wilder, it’s estimated that the boxer received around $6 million more from the match’s takings. And yet it seems that Fury didn’t hold on to this money for long after the fight.
However, this wasn’t a case of Fury falling back on his old ways. In fact, quite the opposite. Prior to his fight against Wilder, the athlete had spent a day with the Los Angeles Fire Department, where he brought up the issue of homelessness in the city. Shaken by what he had seen, Fury vowed to the service people that he would donate his entire purse to charity.
In the weeks following the match, it seemed like Fury had reneged on his deal. Indeed, the boxer said little about his charitable donation – which he had promised to put towards building homes for people suffering addiction issues – in the press. What’s more, no charities came forward to corroborate the claim.
It wasn’t until the following year that Fury was pressed about his altruistic intentions. During a 2019 Q&A session in Cardiff, an individual in the crowd asked the fighter if he’d really given his money away. But although the question may have put others on the spot, Fury didn’t hesitate. And in plain words, the fighter replied that he did.
Moreover, it appeared that Fury had kept schtum before out of a sense of humility. “I did give away my last purse, but I don’t do charity work for a pat on the back,” he asserted. “I do it to help people, but I do not want praise for it, I don’t want to be called a do-gooder.”
For Fury, it seems that personal wealth is of no importance. And as early as 2018, he made no secret about his ambivalence towards being rich. “I don’t think people should make money out of punching other people in the face,” he quipped at Glasgow’s Radisson Blu. “I fight because I love to fight.”
Explaining further, he continued, “I help a lot of people with my money from boxing. I create homes, take homeless people off the streets, I give it to children’s charities. You can’t take money with you.” Nevertheless, Fury added that his charity bankroll wouldn’t dry up anytime soon. “I’ll continue boxing until I’m 50,” he said.
Certainly, Fury has made good on his promise to keep his fists taped to the very end. And in the months since his draw with Wilder, the Gypsy King has been incredibly active. To wit, he regained his winning streak in fights against Tom Schwarz and Otto Wallin. Moreover, he even took part in a one-off W.W.E. wrestling match on Halloween 2019.
As with previous fights, Fury earned enough to buy a hundred homes from these bouts. For his fights with Wallin and Schwarz – part of a $103.5 million deal with ESPN – the boxer earned $28.5 million while he gained a further $15.5 million from the W.W.E.. Considering Fury’s charitable nature, that can only mean more money for good causes.
In spite of this, there are some who remain unconvinced that the boxer is the philanthropist he claims to be. Perhaps owing to the fact that no charities have confirmed Fury’s donations, certain individuals are dubious of the Gypsy King’s alleged altruism. Even the people closest to Fury don’t seem at all convinced.
During a 2019 interview with IFL TV, Fury’s promoter Eddie Hearn intimated that his client’s Wilder purse remained in his pocket after the match. While discussing a spat with the boxer, Hearn claimed that Fury “obviously never did” donate his fee. “I was disappointed with Tyson’s comments, but it is what it is with him,” he said.
Although some remain skeptical about Tyson’s monetary donations, it’s undeniable that the boxer is working to spread awareness about the issues closest to him. And he has offered his services to institutions committed to fighting homelessness and mental health. To this end, he currently acts as an ambassador for the Frank Bruno Foundation.
But the Gypsy King’s ambitions don’t stop at just at championing good causes. Indeed in 2015, the boxer announced future plans to stand as MP for his hometown Morecambe to help those affected by drug and alcohol issues. When pressed on the claim by GQ four years later, Fury admitted that his campaign could still happen “for sure.”
For now, though, Fury will have to make do with being a boxer first and foremost. And recently, the athlete reached another career milestone when he faced Wilder again in a heated February 2020 rematch. Finally making good on a two-year-old promise, Fury beat his opponent with a technical knockout and walked away a champion once again.
There’s no denying it’s a title that many couldn’t have seen Fury reclaiming five years ago – including Wilder, who had cast doubts upon his opponent’s strength prior to the fight. Even Fury himself seemed to remark on this change while throwing shade back at Wilder after the match. “Not bad for an old fat guy who can’t punch, eh?” he joked.
Although vowing to continue boxing into his 50s, it seems now that Fury is considering ending his career earlier than expected. In March, the fighter revealed plans to retire after two more fights, whereupon he’ll begin training a new generation of fighters. By then, we’re sure he’ll have done more than enough in support of the issues he holds dear.