As Tyson Fury wandered through the bowels of the Espirit Arena in Dusseldorf moments after beating Wladimir Klitschko on November 28, 2015, a feeling of emptiness threatened to engulf him.
Fury had just dethroned one of the greatest heavyweight champions in history – in his own back yard no less – but inside he felt nothing.
Long before becoming an advocate for mental health and an inspiration to millions across the globe, Fury would routinely slip into bouts of depression which he simply dismissed at the time and kept to himself.
In his autobiography, Behind the Mask, he described the sensation as ‘like the early tremors of an earthquake signalling what was to happen next.’
Less than a year after toppling Klitschko to become heavyweight champion of the world, Fury turned his back on boxing to seek professional help.
He stayed out of the ring for more than two-and-a-half years, finally returning to the sport in the summer of 2018.
By the end of that year, Fury had produced a sensational performance against Deontay Wilder, coming agonisingly close to becoming world champion once more in a controversial draw.
Yet if the first fight with Wilder and his return to the ring was the resurrection of ‘The Gypsy King’, then 2020 marked his redemption.
talkSPORT looks back on Fury’s remarkable 12 months…
DEMOLISHING DEONTAY WILDER
With the rematch against ‘The Bronze Bomber’ booked in for February 23, Fury made the surprise decision to split with trainer Ben Davison.
Having helped his friend make a spectacular comeback, the young trainer was replaced by SugarHill Steward of the Kronk Gym in Detroit just a few months before the fight.
Speculation about the reason behind the split soon threatened to overshadow the build-up to the fight itself, but Fury maintained it was purely tactical reasons. He wanted to stop Wilder.
Having enlisted Conor McGregor’s nutritionist George Lockhart, the 32-year-old hit the scales at 273lbs and entered the ring in Las Vegas on top of a throne whilst wearing a gold crown.
With his promise of a knockout and the strains of Patsy Cline still ringing around the arena, Fury set after his American adversary and dropped him twice.
With Wilder bloodied, bruised and beaten, trainer Mark Breland threw the towel in during the seventh round to end the massacre and crown Fury the WBC and Ring Magazine heavyweight champion of the world.
As per the norm for a Fury victory, the Brit got on the microphone to serenade his wife Paris in the ring and left shortly after to speak to his watching father.
Big John Fury, his dad, could hardly contain his excitement whilst watching in the early hours of the morning back home.
Just as it seemed as though the world was shaping up for Anthony Joshua and his nemesis to collide, the COVID-19 pandemic broke out and brought life back down to a shuddering halt.
Speaking exclusively to talkSPORT in April, Fury revealed how exercise had allowed him to exorcise his own demons and urged people to get moving as life began to deteriorate around them.
But rather than just talk the talk, Fury walked the walk.
With social media sensation Joe Wicks using YouTube to get the nation moving, Fury also decided to post videos on his own Instagram channel to inspire people to get moving.
While there were some mishaps along the way, the heavyweight champion of the world – with help from his wife Paris – got the nation moving and even inspired one woman to stay sober for 10 weeks.
The Furys’ exploits even earned them an award from the WBC, with the organisation anointing Tyson and Paris as ‘Heroes of the World’ for their efforts in boosting morale.
AWARD WINNING AUTHOR
Fury also triumphed in the literary stakes.
At the prestigious Telegraph Sports Awards in May, he picked up two prizes for his autobiography – ‘Behind The Mask’.
It’s honest account of his troubles and subsequent boxing comeback saw him won the Best Autobiography of the Year Award along with the Overall Sports Book of the Year Award.
BRING ON ANTHONY JOSHUA
In June, Fury then confirmed terms had been agreed with Anthony Joshua for a two-fight deal in 2021, provided Joshua could get past the challenge of Kubrat Pulev in December.
‘AJ’ holds the remaining three world titles in the heavyweight division and Fury is determined to make the fight happen.
Joshua’s dominant victory over Pulev on December 12 means that, barring any interference owing to boxing politics, the two best heavyweights on the planet will finally collide.
Fury has vowed to make it happen next, despite Wilder insistent he is owed a third fight.
MONEY MAKING KING
Although he requested to be withdrawn from the running for the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year award, Fury’s inclusion on the list proves how far he has come since those dark days in Dusseldorf.
It also proved he truly is a box office superstar, with Forbes magazine ranking him as the 11th highest earning athlete for the calendar year.
For the first time, Fury even earned more than UFC icon Conor McGregor – one of the most bankable sports stars on the planet.
But for Fury, 2020 will be remembered as the year ‘The Gypsy King’ was finally recognised as ‘The People’s Champion’ and regained his throne atop the heavyweight division.
Bring on 2021…