By Frank Lotierzo
Sometimes when a fighter hits the high note that he’s been chasing his entire career, he loses his drive and is never the same again. As it’s often said, climbing the mountain isn’t as hard as staying on top once you get there. And I think that has a lot to do with what’s going on with now former heavyweight champ Tyson Fury who has admitted to snorting an inordinate amount of cocaine since dethroning Wladimir Klitschko last November.
I’m amazed at the amount of boxing aficionados trying to diagnose what’s wrong with Tyson Fury and if he really has suicidal thoughts. Let’s call it a hunch, but I don’t think so. From what I’ve seen and heard, Fury just doesn’t want to be a fighter any longer. It’s as simple as that. He achieved his career goal and the thought of putting himself through the agony and torture he had to endure in order to get the title is overwhelming him psychologically. Since beating Klitschko, Fury has been living it up over-eating, drinking and partying in much the same vein that Roberto Duran did after beating Sugar Ray Leonard in their first fight. Beating Leonard was the pinnacle of Duran’s storied career at the time, as is beating Klitschko for Fury.
What Fury is going through is nothing that we haven’t seen before pertaining to some fighters losing their drive after scaling the mountain that was in their way. Forty-five years ago “Smokin” Joe Frazier defeated Muhammad Ali in a fight so big it’s been called “The Fight Of The Century.” Frazier was a tireless worker in the gym and unrelentingly aggressive from bell-to-bell on fight night. When Joe turned pro his goal was to not only capture the heavyweight title – but to beat Ali, who was an overwhelming presence over him during his entire career. On March 8th 1971, Frazier handed Muhammad Ali his first pro defeat and gained universal recognition as the undisputed heavyweight champ. Frazier was on a mission that night and fought on a level seldom seen by any fighter regardless of weight division. Joe simply refused to be denied.
After March of 1971, Frazier, 27, was never quite the same fighter, and rumors that he was seriously considering retirement hovered about him until he next fought nearly 11 months later and 10 pounds heavier against Terry Daniels. Frazier continued on and even fought Ali twice more before retiring a little over five years later. However, he didn’t live at the gym like he used to and his weight ballooned up and down. After the first Ali bout, Frazier often toured with his singing group “Joe Frazier and the Knockouts.” He lacked the intensity and singleness of purpose that he had on his journey to the FOTC, and it showed in the gym and on fight night after reaching his lofty goal of winning the title and being the first to beat Ali. After March 8th 1971, you could say Joe Frazier retired as a fighter, at least psychologically. In fact, if Ali, his career nemesis, hadn’t continued to verbally assail him in the subsequent years, Joe probably would’ve retired for good in 1971.
Mike Tyson is another heavyweight who tore through the division on his way to becoming the undisputed champion. Ever since he was a teenager under the guidance of trainer Cus D’Amato, Tyson’s only goal in life was to one day be recognized as the undisputed heavyweight champ. Unlike Frazier, it didn’t matter who Tyson fought; the only thing that mattered was universal recognition as the champion. After winning all three of the major belts, all that remained was for Mike to beat lineal champ Michael Spinks. And that happened on June 27th 1988 via a first round knockout. After stopping Spinks, Tyson lost his focus. His life came undone outside of the ring and it ultimately affected his performance in it.
After the Spinks bout, Tyson’s training wasn’t Spartan like, his weight fluctuated, and he fought lazily during his bouts. He was upset by James “Buster” Douglas and two years later was convicted of raping a beauty contestant. Yes, he continued to fight because that’s all he knew and the money was great, but he was never the same force after hitting the high water mark of his career at age 21.
I believe Tyson Fury’s biggest issue is that he’s reached his ultimate goal and the hunger to scale the mountain again and stay there is gone. Fury, 28, was hell bent on being the fighter to end Wladimir Klitschko’s title reign. With that now behind him he knows that, other than money, he’ll probably never hit that high again. Fully aware of the work and dedication it will take to stay on top probably weighs on him mentally. Since becoming the universally recognized champ, Fury has over-indulged himself eating and, if he is to be believed, snorting cocaine.
The thought of working himself back into shape probably seems daunting to him in his current state. During the past six months, he hasn’t denied himself anything he didn’t want and that no doubt is a lot more comfortable and fun than living the life of a fighter having the top guys in the world breathing down your throat and looking to fight you. Perhaps the thought of not living any longer looks less painful than continuing to fight and regaining the proverbial Eye of the Tiger back. Unlike Frazier and Tyson, Fury was never a guy who trained too hard, so he’ll be even less inclined to do the hard work necessary to defend his title/stature than they were to defend theirs.
“I feel that it is only fair and right and for the good of boxing to keep the titles active and allow the other contenders to fight for the vacant belts that I proudly won and held as the undefeated heavyweight champion of the world when I defeated the long-standing champion Wladimir Klitschko,” said Tyson.
That to me sounds like a guy who knows he did something that can never be taken away from him. And he also probably believes inside that he can’t (or isn’t willing to) do what it took to earn a shot at Wladimir and ultimately beat him.
“I won the titles in the ring and I believe that they should be lost in the ring, 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 and wish the next in-line contenders all the very best as I now enter another big challenge in my life which I know, like against Klitschko, I will conquer.”
The above words convey that he hasn’t completely written boxing out of his life. He realizes that he can trade on his name for at least one more fight without having to prove anything to anyone.
I see Fury fighting again within the next 12-months, but I also see him bailing out in a tough bout and saying “f*** it” because the hunger is gone. If Tyson were smart, he’d fight Joshua before he balloons up to 350 pounds and is unable to train back to even having the appearance of being a fighter. He could quit in the first round if he wants to (no way he soldiers through any kind of war), take his 15 million dollars and then get on with the rest of his life.
I think Tyson Fury’s biggest problem is…he just doesn’t want to be a fighter any longer. He’s had his fill and knows he can’t get back what it takes to be successful at the highest level, but rest assured he’ll feign the commitment for at least one more payday…..He may be an emotional guy who becomes easily depressed, but he’s not suicidal!
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com