It’s clear that the undefeated heavyweight champion Tyson Fury would prefer that his match Saturday against Dillian Whyte, a former sparring partner, be just about the boxing.
The match, at Wembley Stadium in London, will be Fury’s first in Britain in four years after a succession of fights in the United States.
And for this homecoming, he faces off against a friendly, if hard-punching, rival.
But the sideshow in boxing matches has often garnered as much attention as the fight, and this one is no exception.
The just-friends vibe was broken at Thursday’s traditional pre-fight news conference. As the fighters stood nose-to-nose for a photo opportunity, Fury’s father and a member of Whyte’s entourage began mouthing off to one another.
“Everybody just calm down,” Fury shouted. “Bloody hell.”
Last week, the US Treasury Department announced new sanctions against the Kinahan family, an Irish organized crime group that officials say is led by Daniel Kinahan, a boxing power broker and adviser to Fury. The State Department also offered $ 5 million bounties for information leading to the arrests and convictions of Kinahan, his father and his brother.
Bob Arum, Fury’s US-based promoter, told reporters in Ireland that Kinahan, who was photographed with the boxer this winter in Dubai, has grossed as much as $ 8 million from Fury’s four most recent bouts. Fury was repeatedly asked about his relationship with Kinahan at a press event this week but declined to elaborate.
“It’s none of my business, and I don’t get involved in other people’s business, so it doesn’t really concern me,” Fury told an interviewer from Sky Sports.
Things may go more smoothly in the ring.
Whyte, making his first challenge for a major world title after half a decade spent competing for lesser championships, is a come-forward slugger with a thunderous left hook. He has scored 19 knockouts in his 28 wins and has defeated a series of first- and second-tier heavyweight contenders.
But he can be vulnerable.
In December 2015 he was knocked out by Anthony Joshua, who went on to win the heavyweight title, and in August 2020 Whyte, a heavy betting favorite, was knocked out by an uppercut thrown by Alexander Povetkin of Russia despite dominating him for most of the bout. Whyte returned seven months later to knock out Povetkin, which put him in line for a World Boxing Council title fight.
In staying undefeated, Fury has remained versatile. He can be the tactical boxer who first claimed a world title with a cautious decision over Wladimir Klitschko in November 2015. That night Fury landed just 86 punches over 12 rounds, but Klitschko connected just 52 times.
Or Fury might emerge as the heavy-handed brawler who, in his two most recent bouts with Deontay Wilder, eagerly traded blows with the division’s most powerful puncher. In October, Fury survived a pair of knockdowns to stop Wilder in the 11th round of their third bout.
Whyte told the news conference he is prepared for every iteration of his opponent.
“This fight is about being able to adapt, and make decisions quickly,” said Whyte, 34, who weighed in at 253 pounds.
Organizers expect 94,000 spectators, and Frank Warren, Fury’s Britain-based promoter, said the ticket revenue would make the fight card the highest-grossing event in the stadium’s history.
The ticket sales speak to boxing’s sustained popularity in England. And they reveal both a pent-up demand to see Fury – who hasn’t competed in Britain since winning a 10-round decision over Francesco Pianeta in 2018 – and the sense that the Whyte bout could erupt into a spectacular fight.
“They’re going to see a good tear-up,” said Fury, 33, who weighed in at 264 pounds. “I know Dillian personally, and he knows me, and we’re going to rock and roll.”
“For an old boxing match against two old boys who people have written off all their careers,” Fury added, “we ain’t done bad, have we?”
Fury has never had to rebound from a loss, but he spent more than two years away from boxing after the win over Klitschko, and he has spoken in public about the depression and heavy drinking that accompanied his layoff.
Enter Kinahan, who, according to “Clash of the Clans,” by the investigative journalist Nicola Tallantbefriended Fury in 2017, and helped steer him back to the sport.
“To have somebody come along and say, ‘Don’t worry, I believe in you, I’ve got your back,’ was a godsend to him,” said Ben Davison, a former Fury manager, according to Tallant’s book.
Fury has not spoken nearly that explicitly about his relationship with Kinahan, whose ties to pro boxing are both obvious and opaque. Kinahan ran a promotional outfit called MGM, whose last event, in February 2016, was canceled after a shooting at the weigh-in. The company changed its name to MTK Global and said it had severed ties with Kinahan, but Arum has told reporters that Kinahan is still directed at the company and collected money from Fury’s fights.
On Wednesday, MTK Global announced it was shutting down, saying US sanctions against the Kinahan family had scared away the company’s business partners.