I’m changing my mind about Tyson Fury. There was always something I liked about this mountain of a man, the Gypsy King. However, there was much more I disliked.
I disliked the homophobic, misogynistic outbursts. It seemed like something from another age, the Jim Davidson/Bernard Manning age, where homophobia and misogyny were the norm. Fury managed to come across a dinosaur, preaching the bigotry of days gone by. And yet, and yet.
He always seemed like everyman. He does not have the chiselled body of the modern day prizefighter. There are more than hints of flab, his hair is falling out by the handful, he does not speak the bland language of the superstar fighter. Sometimes, like when he called Deontay Wilder a “shit-house’, he makes me laugh.
I forget none of his sordid past in terms of things he has said but at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY), he was interviewed and sounded like a sincere, empathetic, inspiring human being.
Fury spoke about his successful fight with mental illness in a speech worth more than a million speeches by so-called motivational speakers and I was in no doubt that he meant every word. He had fought for all of us who had suffered from mental illness and come out the other side. The message was that if he could do it, then anyone could. For the first time, I admired Tyson Fury the man.
I am not a huge fan of boxing, not least because the area in which I work concerns brain injury, an occupational hazard with the so-called ‘sweet science’. Yet some of the people who fight for a living do influence what happens in the rest of the world.
Before the disastrous effects of boxing overwhelmed him, Muhammad Ali was the most famous and arguably popular man on earth. People hung on his every word. He was a man who fought but later fought for peace. He made a difference. In a much smaller and very different way Fury can do the same.
I would love it if he apologised for the homophobia and misogyny. At the back of my mind lies the suspicion that he may not be a fully reformed character. Prove me wrong, Tyson. You did something incredible good, incredibly brave and incredibly important at SPOTY. You can help, even save, lives. Use that charisma and intelligence to make the world a better place.
I was hoping Fury’s name would not appear in the SPOTY shortlist after his past indiscretions. After seeing his interview, I wish he had been. If he continues to improve and develop as a human being, as well as developing his skills in the ring, SPOTY will come around soon enough for him. And that is how it should be.