Former world heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury said his outspoken remarks which have caused huge offence to many are down to the racism aimed at Travellers he experienced as an amateur.
The 31-year-old Briton — who is of Irish Traveller descent and is nicknamed ‘The Gypsy King’ — drew a hail of criticism with controversial comments such as ‘a woman’s best place is in the kitchen’ and claiming it would only take the legalisation of paedophilia in addition to the decriminalisation of abortion and homosexuals to see “the devil come home.”
However, Fury — who has battled demons such as substance abuse and mental health issues which he claims prompted him to think of committing suicide — says he made the comments to fulfil the role of being an outsider.
“I started playing this part, being arrogant and cocky,” Fury writes in his autobiography “Behind The Mask” which comes out on Thursday.
“I eventually lost myself in this character.
“When I started out as a pro, I made a decision which on reflection played a big part in exacerbating my moments of despair.
“I went into the paid ranks off the back of an amateur career during which I was aware of racism against travellers.
“This made me an outsider and so I felt that for me to get the attention I needed to be an attraction in the sport, I had to play the outlaw.”
Fury, who is due to have a rematch with WBC world heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder on February 22 after their thrilling first bout ended in a draw, said he became unable to distinguish between reality and the role-playing.
“I felt I had to act out a role to seek publicity and to do that I had to be controversial and shock people with how I talked,” said Fury.
“To some degree, it worked. But playing the role got to the point where I didn’t know what was real and what was the act.”
Fury, whose greatest moment inside the ring came with his sensational defeat in 2015 of Ukrainian legend Wladimir Klitschko to become unified heavyweight world champion, said he is indebted to his wife Paris for sticking by him.
Paris — whom he met when he was 17 — had thought about leaving him when he indulged in a cocaine and alcohol binge but fearful he would commit suicide, she stayed.
“I can’t really put into words how much it means to me that Paris stuck with me and the pain it causes me when I look back to how low I brought her, because she didn’t deserve it,” says Fury.
Fury, whose most recent sporting activity saw him beat Braun Strowman in a World Wrestling Inc (WWE) bout in Saudi Arabia on October 31, says his low self-esteem was at the base of it.
“I confess I didn’t react as I should have done and I regret how I came across at times,” he said.
“I was angry and felt under-appreciated.”