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Tyson Fury may have won his fight vs Whyte, but he lost the one over Daniel Kinahan – OLIVER HOLT

Tyson Fury may have won his fight vs Whyte, but he lost the one over Daniel Kinahan - OLIVER HOLT 2

The richest fight in British boxing history began and ended with Tyson Fury singing American Pie, a song that is, in some ways, about mourning and loss. England’s great anti-hero came home, fought a brilliant fight and ended it with a blockbuster upper-cut and yet the abiding image was of the WBC world heavyweight champion standing in the ring at the end, a microphone in his hand, yelling ‘this’ll be the day that I die’.

Maybe that seemed apt because Fury hinted heavily again after he had dispatched Dillian Whyte in the sixth round of their clash in front of 94,000 fans at Wembley Stadium that this was the end of him as a fighter and that he wanted to honour belatedly a promise that he had made to his wife, Paris, that he would retire after the third of his trilogy fights with Deontay Wilder.

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But perhaps it was also because this had also been, unavoidably, a fight that was taking place for boxing’s soul. Fury won comprehensively, brilliantly, beautifully in the ring. But outside the ring, his links with the alleged crime boss Daniel Kinahan, which had overshadowed the build-up to the contest with Whyte, continued to cast a shadow over the fight game.

Tyson Fury knocked out Dillian Whyte in the sixth round of their battle at Wembley Stadium

Tyson Fury knocked out Dillian Whyte in the sixth round of their battle at Wembley Stadium

Fury and Wembley’s sell-out crowd were, of course, exultant in the wake of his emphatic dispatch of Whyte, who staggered to his feet after Fury’s right upper cut but was clearly in no state to continue. The praise rained down on Fury from near and far and the clamour for him to fight the winner of the planned rematch between Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua will redouble. He said he would resist it. ‘Every good dog has its day,’ he said. ‘How much blood can you get out of a stone. I have given everything. Enough is enough.’

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But if Fury won this fight, he lost the one he fought over Kinahan. He deserves plenty of plaudits for his mental health advocacy but it is hard to see how he can claim the right to be a people’s champion when he refuses to renounce his links to a man whom the American authorities are so keen to apprehend that they are offering a $5m bounty for information leading to his downfall. No amount of perfect upper cuts will smooth those questions away.

In the ring, he was in a different class to Whyte, who had earned his shot at the title but never looked as if he would get close to dethroning Fury. He discomforted him with some roughhouse tactics in the fourth round that made Fury’s corner so angry they sprayed water into the ring and yelled their protests but once Whyte had exhausted that ploy, Fury closed in on the win.

Fury boxed brilliantly and beautifully before delivering the conclusive blow in round six

Fury boxed brilliantly and beautifully before delivering the conclusive blow in round six

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But no amount of perfect uppercuts can smooth away questions on his links to Daniel Kinahan

But no amount of perfect uppercuts can smooth away questions on his links to Daniel Kinahan

Fury is a master in the ring, but how can he claim to be a people's champion amid those links?

Fury is a master in the ring, but how can he claim to be a people’s champion amid those links?

Fury boxed the socks off his opponent. Whyte swung a couple of haymakers so wild that they were closer to landing in next week than felling Fury. Fury’s work, in contrast, was neat and precise and punishing. He is an immensely skilled fighter and, in boxing terms, it would be a shame if he quits now before he can test himself against Usyk or Joshua, or both, and establishes a record that would enable him to claim with some justification that he is one of the best of all time.

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‘I’m a legend in this game,’ Fury insisted afterwards. ‘I’m the best heavyweight there’s ever been. I can move like a middleweight. I can hit like a thunderstorm. I’ve got balls like King Kong and a mindset like the Wizard of Oz.’ That claim to greatness lacks depth. Fury, 33, has one stand-out victory over Wladimir Klitschko on his 32-0-1 unbeaten record but apart from that he has the wins over Wilder, a limited fighter, and little else. And there are still too many question marks about him outside the ring to allow him to be embraced as a people’s champion.

The build-up to the fight had been overshadowed by Fury’s very public past association with Kinahan after the US authorities offered a $5m (£3.84m) reward for information on him and two others. The first big casualty of that development was the MTK Global boxing agency, co-founded by Kinahan, which folded last week. Fury quickly sought to distance himself from it.

The reality is that Fury has operated in smoke and mirrors for most of his career. He says he was the victim of a witch-hunt in 2015 but that is a reference to the adverse reaction that assailed him when he claimed in an interview with this newspaper that ‘there are only three things that need to be accomplished before the Devil comes home. One of them is homosexuality being legal in countries, one of them is abortion and the other is paedophilia.’

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He has never apologised for remarks to this newspaper in 2015 about 'the devil coming home'

He has never apologised for remarks to this newspaper in 2015 about ‘the devil coming home’

Fury has never apologised for those remarks, nor has he withdrawn them. At first, he chose to deny he had ever made them but when confronted with the transcript of his diatribe, he adopted a policy of refusing to address the issue. He has adopted the same policy, wisely perhaps, to subsequent controversies that have threatened to derail his career.

He has, for instance, managed successfully to airbrush out of history the fact that he served a two-year ban for failing a drugs test. The case against him began after he tested positive for the banned steroid nandrolone in 2015 and blamed it on eating uncastrated wild boar.

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It became so bogged down in legal procedure and mounting costs that the ban was backdated. Fury served it retrospectively during a period when he was inactive anyway and then claimed, bizarrely, that he could move forward knowing that he would not be labelled a drug cheat. Only boxing’s complicity has allowed that prediction to come true.

He attempted the same trick with his relationship with Kinahan. Until recently, he was happy to trumpet how content he was working out of MTK’s base in Marbella and it was June 2020 when he posted a breathless and exultant video praising Kinahan’ to the skies and saying he had just got off a phone call to him confirming that a two-fight deal with Anthony Joshua had been arranged. ‘Big shout out to Dan,’ he enthused on the video.

Fury also tried to airbrush his two-year ban for failing a 2015 drug test from history, now he is trying to do the same with his links to Kinahan

Fury also tried to airbrush his two-year ban for failing a 2015 drug test from history, now he is trying to do the same with his links to Kinahan

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He is safe in the ring, but once separated from sycophants who surround him Fury's mask slips

He is safe in the ring, but once separated from sycophants who surround him Fury’s mask slips

Fury and his team insist he cut ties with Kinahan in 2020 but he was also pictured by his side in Dubai two months ago. And the promoter Bob Arum claimed Kinahan had made millions from Fury’s last four fights. And Fury’s former trainer Ben Davison gave an interview when he credited Kinahan with rescuing Fury’s career and standing by him when Fury was struggling with depression in the wake of his 2015 world title win over Wladimir Klitschko.

Inadvertently or not, Fury played a significant role in legitimising Kinahan’s prominence in the world of boxing and making it a hostage to a crime boss. He has treated recent questions about his relationship with Kinahan as if they were affronts to his dignity and became so defensive about repeated questions from a Sky interviewer that he said he would never speak to the station again. Once he is taken out of the cosy coterie of sycophants who surround him, it does not take long for Fury’s mask to slip.

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He is safe in the ring, though. That has always been his sanctuary and last night, as he dismantled Whyte step by step until he delivered the jolting coup de grace, it was again. The ring brings him certainty and adulation. When he steps outside it, things are different. Maybe that will come to inform his decision on retirement.

The ring brings him certainty and adulation. When he steps outside it, things are different

The ring brings him certainty and adulation. When he steps outside it, things are different

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