MANCHESTER – Former world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury makes his boxing comeback on Saturday after almost three years in exile that left him feeling suicidal. The 29-year-old Englishman has never been far from attention while away from the ring due to the trials and tribulations that left him experiencing "the lowest of the lows to the point of not wanting to live". Fury has remained news while inactive due to a personal crisis that involved problems with mental health, excessive drinking, admitting cocaine use and serving a doping ban.
But the talking – and Fury does a lot of it – will stop when he takes on 39-year-old Albanian Sefer Seferi – who has suffered just one defeat in 24 fights – in a ten-round non-title bout at the Manchester Arena.
"It was a rollercoaster few years and I'm just glad to be back," Fury said at a press conference this week.
Fury is back with the aim to regain the status he enjoyed briefly after outpointing Ukraine's Wladimir Klitschko for three world title belts in November 2015. After climbing to the heavyweight summit, 6ft 9in Fury then crashed to earth as his career and personal life spectacularly unravelled. He twice pulled out of rematches with Klitschko due to injuries before then admitting to suffering from depression. As Fury lay idle and piled on the pounds, the World Boxing Association (WBA), International Boxing Federation (IBF) and World Boxing Organisation (WBO) title belts slipped from his grasp for others to fight for.
Fury claimed he was finished and the revelation of a positive drugs test in February 2015, which resulted in a back-dated two-year ban, left the prospect of him boxing again looking unlikely. But Fury rediscovered his passion under a new trainer, 25-year-old Ben Davison, after splitting from uncle Peter Fury. Fury claims to have lost eight stone for his comeback.
"I'm looking good, feeling good," Fury said.
"I don't remember ever feeling this good, this quick, this strong. I've got more power and I want it more. When I was world champion I fell out of love with the game and it was a lost relationship. I was married to the game too long but now we are back in love."
Fury says he is feeling some love from well-wishers. In 2016, Fury caused controversy after making homophobic, sexist and anti-Semitic remarks but he has gained popularity during his exile for his comments on mental health and offbeat sense of humour.
"I'm doing it for people who need inspiration and have mental health problems themselves," he said.
"If I can do it, then anyone can. To come from 27 stone (171 kg) to fighting level is a statement for sure."
Fury, who is unbeaten in 25 fights with 18 knockouts, still talks a good game and in the last couple of weeks has compared himself to the late Muhammad Ali, Floyd Mayweather Jr and a goldfish.
"There's no nerves at all, I feel like I've been a goldfish trapped in a tank and now I'm being released back into the river where I belong, so just watch me swim," Fury said.
Fury, though, ditched the humour when he assessed how good he ranks in the heavyweight division.
"I am the greatest heavyweight of all time. I've not got to be modest. I am the best ever. Me, Tyson Fury, the Gypsy King, the one and only," he said.
"When has there ever been somebody like me? There have been plenty of come-forward aggressors, there have been plenty of boxers off the back foot, but when has there ever been a 6ft 9in (2.05metres) switch-hitter with the confidence of Muhammad Ali and Floyd Mayweather rolled into one? There has never, ever been anyone like me. I'm unbeaten, I'm fast, I'm brash, I'm young, I'm good-looking, I'm tanned. I've even got white teeth."