It is clear that undefeated heavyweight champion Tyson Fury would prefer his match against Dillian Whyte, a former sparring partner, to be all about boxing on Saturday.
The match, at Wembley Stadium in London, will be Fury’s first in Britain in four years after a succession of fights in the United States.
And for this homecoming, he’s up against a friendly, if tough, rival.
But the sideshow in boxing matches has often received as much attention as the fight, and this one is no exception.
The ‘just-friends’ atmosphere was broken during Thursday’s traditional pre-fight press conference. As the fighters stood nose to nose for a photo opportunity, Fury’s father and a member of Whyte’s entourage began talking to each other.
“Everyone take it easy,” Fury yelled. “Damned hell.”
Last week, the US Treasury Department announced new sanctions against the Kinahan family, an Irish organized crime group that officials say is led by Daniel Kinahan, a boxing broker and adviser to Fury. The State Department also offered $5 million in bounties for information leading to the arrests and convictions of Kinahan, his father and his brother.
Fury’s US-based promoter Bob Arum told reporters in Ireland that Kinahan, who was photographed with the boxer in Dubai this winter, has made a whopping $8 million from Fury’s most recent four bouts. Fury was repeatedly asked about his relationship with Kinahan at a press event this week, but declined to elaborate.
“It’s none of my business and I don’t interfere in anyone else’s business, so I don’t really care,” Fury told a Sky Sports interviewer.
Things might go a little smoother in the ring.
Taking on his first challenge for a major world title after half a decade of battling for lesser championships, Whyte is a forward-thinking slugger with a thunderous left hook. He has scored 19 knockouts in his 28 wins and has beaten a string of first and second tier heavyweights.
But he can be vulnerable.
In December 2015, he was knocked out by Anthony Joshua, who went on to win the heavyweight title, and in August 2020, Whyte, a firm betting favorite, was knocked out by an uppercut thrown by Russia’s Alexander Povetkin, despite dominating him for most. of the fight. Whyte returned seven months later to take out Povetkin, leaving him in line for a World Boxing Council title fight.
By remaining undefeated, Fury has remained versatile. He may be the tactical boxer who first claimed a world title with a tentative decision over Wladimir Klitschko in November 2015. That night, Fury landed just 86 punches over 12 rounds, but Klitschko only connected 52 times.
Or Fury could emerge as the heavy-handed fighter who, in his two most recent fights with Deontay Wilder, was eager to punch with the division’s most powerful puncher. In October, Fury survived a couple of knockdowns to stop Wilder in the 11th round of their third fight.
Whyte told the press conference that he is prepared for every iteration of his opponent.
“This fight is about the ability to adapt and make decisions quickly,” said Whyte, 34, who weighed 253 pounds.
Organizers are expecting 94,000 spectators, and Frank Warren, Fury’s UK-based promoter, said the fightcard’s ticket revenue would make it the most profitable event in the stadium’s history.
Ticket sales point to the continued popularity of boxing in England. And they reveal both a pent-up demand to see Fury – who has not competed in Britain since winning a 10-round decision over Francesco Pianeta in 2018 – and a feeling the Whyte match could culminate in a spectacular fight.
“They’re going to see a good tear,” said Fury, 33, who weighed 264 pounds. “I know Dillian personally, and he knows me, and we’re going to rock and roll.”
“For an old boxing match against two old guys that people have written off their entire careers,” Fury added, “we didn’t do badly, did we?”
Fury has never had to recover from a loss, but he spent more than two years boxing after the win over Klitschko, and has spoken publicly about the depression and heavy drinking that came with his dismissal.
Enter Kinahan, who according to ‘Clash of the Clans’ by investigative journalist Nicola Tallantbefriended Fury in 2017 and helped steer him back into the sport.
“To have someone come over and say, ‘Don’t worry, I believe in you, I’ve got your back,’ was a godsend to him,” said Ben Davison, a former Fury executive, according to Tallant’s book. .
Fury hasn’t spoken nearly as explicitly about his relationship with Kinahan, whose ties to pro boxing are both obvious and opaque. Kinahan led a promotional outfit called MGM, whose last event, in February 2016, was canceled after a shooting at the weigh-in. The company changed its name to MTK Global and said it had cut ties with Kinahan, but Arum has told reporters that Kinahan was still running the company and raising money from Fury’s fights.
On Wednesday, MTK Global announced it would be closing as US sanctions against the Kinahan family had deterred the company’s business associates.