The presence of Ricky Hatton in Tyson Fury’s corner on Saturday night will serve as an indication of just how far the Gypsy King has traveled in his mission to reshape his mind, his body, his life, and his career.
In poundage, Fury has shed the equivalent of a peak-condition, light-welterweight Hatton since returning to training a year ago. And like Hatton, Fury has had to deal with the torment which sometimes besets even those who appear to have it all.
When Fury departed the scene in October 2016 with his world title belts either removed or relinquished, and a statement saying he needed to focus on his medical treatment, he tweeted a link to a song performed by the American country artist T Graham Brown entitled “Wine Into Water”, which includes the lines: “Tonight I’m as low as any man can go, I’m down and I can’t fall much farther.”
According to his father John, boxing has saved Fury’s life and the showdown here in Los Angeles is a reward for a remarkable transformation.
Now the best part of 10 stones lighter, Fury is favored by many respected voices to create an upset on Saturday. It is a testament to his commitment (and pedigree) that there is even an argument about the outcome.
In August, when the possibility of a title shot against Deontay Wilder took root, an email I received from one of the UK’s leading bookmakers showed Fury as the odds-on favorite. Last month, a similar missive placed Wilder as the market leader.
In a poll of pundits in the November issue of Boxing Monthly, Wilder came out on top but only by 18 votes to 12. It is that kind of fight, one to send wise heads spinning.
Fury has fought twice – albeit in a lesser company – since Wilder’s last appearance when the American beat Cuba’s Luis Ortiz in March.
Promotional trailers are playing out on huge screens outside the 21,000-capacity venue and staff at the box office report that tickets are selling well. In a busy week of basketball and ice hockey at the Center, they are also expecting a sizeable “walk-up” on Saturday.
And beyond here, we are likely to be talking about a rematch or Anthony Joshua – or both – in 2019.
Great eras in boxing are defined by rivalries and the action here in Los Angeles might be the start of something special.