TYSON FURY is one of Britain’s most outlandish and flamboyant sports stars – with a love of dressing up, serenading his wife and flooring opponents with cutting put downs.
But the heavyweight boxer feared he had become a “performing monkey” in his quest for the spotlight.
The extrovert says his shocking string of homophobic and sexist comments might have been part of an “act”.
He also says after getting the fame he had craved by taking Wladimir Klitschko’s heavyweight crown in 2015, he felt empty and depressed.
The self-styled 6ft 9in Gypsy King put on a huge amount of weight, started boozing and confessed to bingeing on cocaine.
At his lowest point he attempted to drive his Ferrari into a motorway bridge — only to stop at the last minute as he thought about his five children.
Now, with his memoirs about to be published this week, the 31-year-old has turned his life around and says he can finally be himself.
Having been suspended from boxing for failing a drugs tests, Fury claims his psychological breakdown was the cause of his bad behaviour.
‘Now I change nappies’
But when the boxer is asked if blaming his politically incorrect comments on mental health issues was a ploy, he refuses to deny it.
In an extraordinary interview in The Sunday Times magazine, Fury first says of his past lack of “diplomacy”: “Maybe it was an act. Maybe I was doing it to become famous because I know controversy sells.
“People ain’t really interested in someone who’s normal. People want to see a freak show to sell papers and sell views on a TV.
“Before, I was a performing monkey, I’ve done everything from A to Z to be famous and it got me to where I wanted to be, that elevated position where every motherf***er knows who Tyson Fury is. Now I can be me.”
His autobiography, Behind The Mask, will be on bookshelves from Thursday. Yet he didn’t appear to know it was being released or what was in it.
In one bizarre exchange he tells writer Decca Aitkenhead that “I don’t have bipolar”, a type of psychological disorder which causes massive mood swings in sufferers.
When she points out he has written about being diagnosed bipolar in his memoirs, Fury replies: “I don’t have a book out, so you can’t have.”
Sorting out fact from fiction in the boxer’s colourful history has long been a challenge.
In the book he corrects the long-peddled myth that he grew up in a tough Manchester council estate by admitting he was raised in a pleasant village in nearby Cheshire.
Whatever the truth that led to his public meltdown four years ago, it is clear Tyson has turned a corner.
These days he is a vocal advocate for men being honest about depression, he’s ceased making bigoted remarks, has given up drugs and has become a devoted husband.
Once alleged to have cheated on his wife Paris, 29, he says he no longer gives in to temptation when women throw themselves at him.
‘Made me delusional’
Tyson comments: “After 11 years and five kids and all the bull**** I’ve put her through I’m not going anywhere”.
The couple, who live in Morecambe, Lancs, have five children, boys Prince John James, Prince Tyson Fury II and Prince Adonis Amaziah and girls Venezuela and Valencia Amber.
With Fury travelling the world for almost half of the year, he claims that when he is back home, he’s a hands-on dad changing nappies — albeit while wearing a three-piece designer suit.
Tyson says: “I do the night feeds, change the nappies, get them up and fed and washed and dressed and ready for school every day.”
This mature attitude to his responsibilities stems from a far stricter health regime. His fighting weight is just over 18st but it has yo-yoed dramatically in the past, hitting 28st at his lowest point.
But he credits going to the gym twice a day as the reason for his new mental strength. Tyson says: “Being fat’s what made me depressed.”
Now back to physical fitness, he has a hugely anticipated rematch against American WBC heavyweight champ Deontay Wilder scheduled for early next year.
Their first fight last December ended in a controversial draw — and even though Fury was floored twice, many felt the Brit deserved to win.
While awaiting his chance to to regain the heavyweight crown, he has tried out a different “sport”. Last week he was reported to have earned £12million from making his WWE wrestling debut in Saudi Arabia.
The multi-millionaire is putting his fame and notoriety to good use too. He is an ambassador for The Frank Bruno Foundation, a mental health charity set up by the retired heavyweight boxer.
By talking about his own battles with his internal demons, he hopes others will open up about their mental health issues.
In his autobiography he reveals that he suffered from terrifying hallucinations up to the age of nine.
‘Missed dad terribly’
Tyson writes: “I suffered from boiling temperatures that would make me delusional. I’d be screaming at my mum and dad that lions were going to eat me and that the curtains were on fire.”
The next big blow to strike him was at the age of 22, when his dad John Fury was sentenced to 11 years in jail for gouging out a man’s eye. Former bare-knuckle boxer John left Oathie Sykes half-blind following the brawl.
John had guided Tyson’s career, realising his son had an exceptional talent in the ring due to his speed of thought and huge 85in reach.
Tyson writes: “It hit me like a sledgehammer. He had always been there for me throughout my amateur and professional career, and now I wasn’t going to see him for many years.
“From then on it was pretty tough to keep myself positive, because I missed my dad terribly.”
Just five months after his dad was sent to prison, Tyson became heavyweight champion of Britain after surprising the bookies by defeating Dereck Chisora at Wembley Arena.
In the run up to his world title fight against Klitschko in 2015, Tyson struggled to get his weight under control and started to comfort eat.
He hit a hefty 25st and the massive effort to shed the flab left him weak. Not wishing to show any lack of confidence when he faced Klitschko at a pre-fight press conference in London, he chose to appear in a Batman outfit.
He writes: “I was feeling like a loser. But that’s not how I was playing it to the outside world.”
Then victory was not the sweet experience he had expected. Having taken the world crown from Klitschko, Tyson was overcome by a sense of emptiness that led to his suicidal thoughts
In June 2016, overcome by a mood “black as my boots,” he sped his red Ferrari up to 160mph and aimed it at a motorway bridge in Manchester.
Describing the moment he almost ended his life, he writes: “The Ferrari’s engine roared into life. It would be the last sound I would hear.
“In a couple of seconds my mind would be clear, devoid of all the voices boiling in my head. I put my foot to the floor. Then a voice shot into my head, ‘Stop! Think about your kids!’ I blasted past the bridge.”
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More than a year later, the fighter decided to get his act together. Without going into rehab, or taking any medication, he turned his life around with a serious, sweaty Rocky-style workout.
Since overcoming depression he claims to have ditched the fake persona and to have little interest in fame.
He concludes: “Honestly, the only bit I enjoy is going to the gym. That’s what makes me happy. Everything else is just what I’ve got to do.”
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