Tyson Fury: Has boxing's 'Gypsy King' been victimized because of heritage?

Story highlights

  • Tyson Fury's achievements "have never been respected"
  • Gypsy Council official blames "negative stereotyping"
  • Fury announced, then dismissed, decision to retire

(CNN)He is the man who created one of the greatest shocks in heavyweight history -- but self-styled 'Gypsy King' Tyson Fury does not get the respect he deserves because of his Traveler background, a leading figure in Britain's Gypsy Council has told CNN.

Almost a year ago, Fury inflicted Wladimir Klitschko's first defeat since 2004 to take the WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO titles.
    But less than two weeks later he was stripped of the IBF belt after it emerged that he had signed a contract with Klitschko for a rematch. The IBF contract for the fight stipulated that the winner would need to face Vyacheslav Glazkov as a mandatory challenger.
    The months since have been filled with storms of controversy.
    Alleged sexist and homophobic comments, self-confessed drug use and a swiftly-reversed announcement of retirement have followed each other in rapid succession, with the 28-year-old in the spotlight for reasons that often had little to do with pugilism.
    Tyson Fury poses with his heavyweight belts in happier times.

    'It has been a witch hunt'

    Fury has no doubt that his heritage has been used against him, telling Rolling Stone magazine: "It's been a witch hunt ever since I won that world title, because of my background, because of who I am and what I do."
    And Joseph Jones of the Gypsy Council, which works on behalf of Britain's Gypsies and Travelers, told CNN: "If you look at the way he's been treated, I think it is hard not to think that."
    Fury told the magazine he was battling depression and had been using alcohol and cocaine but was now sober.
    He said: "If I could take my own life -- and I wasn't a Christian -- I would take it in a second. I just hope someone kills me before I kill myself. I'll have to spend eternity in hell."
    He explained that he felt there was "hatred for Travelers and Gypsies around the world" -- Amnesty International has found widespread discrimination against Roma Gypsies -- and said that hostility had fueled his depression.
    Fury's representatives did not immediately respond to CNN's request for comment on this story.
    Britain's Traveler community, some 40,000 strong, has always been a boxing stronghold (Fury's father was a bare-knuckle fighter) and also produced middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders, who this month told the BBC: "I have known Tyson all my life. I have never seen him this low."

    'Tyson Fury hasn't been celebrated'

    Jones said he believed attitudes to Fury's background had exacerbated his problems, saying the fighter's achievements have never been acknowledged in the way they would have been had his circumstances been different.
    "A few years ago, this country would have given anything for a heavyweight boxing champion," he added. "It's not often that you get someone with that prowess. But Tyson Fury hasn't been celebrated.
    "Nobody has ever really respected him for being world champion and beating Klitschko, who is a phenomenal boxer. He has never had proper recognition and that has hurt him, I think.
    "Yes, he will go down in the history books as heavyweight champion -- but the attitude towards him and what he has achieved won't change."
    Jones acknowledged that Fury had "said some controversial things," but added: "If he'd been world champion but from another background, people would have respected him even if he said things that were daft.
    "It is negative stereotyping, not inside the Traveler community but outside it. If he had been from a different background, it would just have been: 'Oh, he's said something a bit daft.' But if Tyson says something even for a joke, it gets blown out of proportion."

    Maloney 'monster' accusation

    In December, Fury was condemned by boxing promoter Kellie Maloney, who accused him of "crossing the line" and told CNN: "Tyson has always been outspoken and said what he wants to say ... in a way he's become a bit of monster because now he's at the top of the pile."
    Tyson Fury has 'become a monster'
    kellie maloney tyson fury a monster interview_00004205


      Tyson Fury has 'become a monster'


    Tyson Fury has 'become a monster' 02:06
    Jones admitted there were "certain things" that Fury "would have been better off not saying," but added: "All boxers want to be controversial. It gains publicity. But often what he says is twisted to be something unpleasant.
    "He has never had any media training and then all of a sudden there are so many people following him around ... then he says things off the cuff and everything gets thrown back.
    "You find that you would have been better off not talking to people. They create an image that sticks. It's a little bit like what has happened with [British Labour Party leader] Jeremy Corbyn."
    Fury, who faces a UK Anti-Doping hearing in November after traces of a banned substance were allegedly found in a urine sample in June, this week tweeted his intention to retire from boxing.
    However, he retracted his claim almost immediately, writing: "Hahahaha u think you will get rid of the GYPSYKING that easy!!!"
    He also posted a Photoshopped image of himself sitting behind piles of cocaine.
    But he tweeted that he was "getting the right help" and vowed: "I'll be back even stronger than before -- try and stop me!"