These are heady days for British heavyweight boxing. Its contenders were once mocked in America. Now the rest of the world looks on in envy and Tyson Fury stands at the top of an impressive bunch.
On Saturday night, 94,000 fans will fill Wembley Stadium for an all-British fight, as Fury defends his WBC heavyweight title against a man he once employed as a sparring partner, Dillian Whyte. It will be the biggest crowd ever to attend a boxing event in Europe and anticipation was so big for this match, it drew the highest purse bid in history – $41 million.
Fury is relishing this moment in the spotlight. For a long time he was cast as the villain in a domestic rivalry with Anthony Joshua. But as Joshua faltered, twice losing his WBA, WBO and IBF titles, Fury has come back from oblivion and kept on winning.
Joshua’s belts were the ones that Fury took from Wladimir Klitschko in 2015, before a descent into drugs and depression saw his titles taken away and forced him out of the ring for two-and-a-half years.
He returned to claim the WBC title from Deontay Wilder at the second time of asking in Las Vegas – after their first meeting ended in a draw – and then backed it up in a thrilling third fight between the pair last October.
At 33, he is still young for a heavyweight, but Fury seems determined not to outstay his welcome and says this will be his last fight.
“Every dog has his day whether you’re the greatest or not, age catches up very quickly. So you’ve got to move over for the younger guys,” Fury said.
“I said to Klitschko all those years ago, ‘you were a good champion in your day, a good man. But Father Time has caught up with you’. I’m the same now.
“The mistake Wladimir made was he wanted to take on the next era of champions and it didn’t work out for him.
“They all go on too long, for what reason I don’t know. They can’t get away from it because they love it too much. It’s a way of life, it’s all you know and want to know.”
Any sportsman talking about retirement normally sets the alarm bells ringing, but Fury will not be taking Whyte lightly. Whyte is a tough man and a serious threat.
Born in Jamaica, where he grew up in poverty, Whyte moved to south London as a young boy, getting himself involved with the wrong crowd. Boxing proved to be a way out.
"I didn't get into boxing thinking or believing I would be heavyweight champion, I got into boxing because it got me out of trouble and make a bit of money and that was it,” Whyte said. “I didn't think I was even going to be British champion but as time's gone on and you get better, you improve and get a knack for it.
“I’ve always known I could knock people out because I’ve had a ton of fights inside and outside the ring.”
Some believe Whyte’s only hope of winning is a knockout, but he does not see it that way.
“I can win by being me, by doing what I do best,” Whyte said. “I believe I can beat him on points as well as knocking him out.
“That’s the great thing about boxing. The so-called experts say you can only win the fight one way, and then you go in there and win it another way. I’ll find a way.”
Fury has promised fireworks, to come out in the style of his last two fights with Wilder, rather than the more awkward, defensive style of his first 30 bouts. That would suit Whyte well, but when Fury spent Tuesday’s open workout boxing in a southpaw style, it suggested he will have a more pragmatic approach.
If he wins, could he really walk away, with the prospect of a fight for the undisputed title against Joshua or his recent conqueror Oleksandr Usyk on the horizon? Fury insists he is not interested.
“Get a good victory on Saturday night, relax, sit back and enjoy life,” he said. “There's plenty of other stuff I need to do like look after my kids and wife.
“It’s been a long old journey, ups and downs in my career, lots of ups and downs. I am loving every second of it. But I’m coming up to 34, 20 years as a boxer, that’s enough for anybody.”