Tyson Fury’s non-retirement on Twitter is just another chapter in his controversial careerYouTube: Trans World Sport

As far as sporting retirement announcements go, Tyson Fury’s was certainly unique. Following a failed drugs test ahead of his scheduled rematch with Wladimir Klitschko, the undefeated heavyweight announced his retirement (and subsequently reneged on it) on Twitter.

There was no outpouring of emotion and sentiment as we’ve become accustomed to seeing. There was no open letter to his fans, no tears after his final appearance, and it’s hard to imagine there’ll be an autobiography filled with feeling coming anytime soon. All he gave us was an invitation, via one tweet, to “go suck a dick”.

The Gypsy King has always been somewhat of an oddity – an outsider even in an outsider’s sport, there’s always been something raw and genuinely other about the current world heavyweight champion.

Fury’s comments about women and homosexuals have made it incredibly easy to simply dismiss him as a goon and a bully – a physical Twitter troll, Dapper Laughs with muscles, a damaged lot, and the embodiment of some deep male crisis of rage and exclusion. Look a bit closer, however, and it becomes quickly apparent that it is wrong to characterise him solely as a pugilist Westboro-lite.

Fury’s battle with depression has been well documented and perhaps this goes some way to explaining his erratic behaviour. A tender and personable man who famously serenaded his wife with Aerosmith’s ‘I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing’ following his victory over Wladimir Klitschko, he also admits to being terribly fragile beneath the bluster. He told The Guardian: “I do sometimes think life is pointless. One minute I’m over the moon and the next minute I feel like getting in my car and running it into a wall at a hundred miles an hour. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m messed up.”

This is clearly an open and frank man baring himself despite constant, intense scrutiny. This is his Dark Night of the Soul.

The fact that Fury ended up as a boxer is of no surprise considering his background. His father competed in the 1980s as 'Gypsy' John Fury, initially as a bare-knuckle fighter and unlicensed boxer, and he is also a distant relative of self-styled King of the Gypsies and undefeated bare-knuckle boxing champion of the United Kingdom and Ireland, Bartley Gorman. Even his name pays homage to heavyweight boxing’s last great enfant terrible, Mike Tyson. And perhaps it’s the fact that he’s a boxer that explains both his personality and the nature of his retirement. 

Boxing is a sport that has always inhabited the margins – a genuinely extreme form of human activity, a matter of formalised violence and sculpted rage, practised in the main by those with little opportunity to pursue anything else. And this is the case for Fury, who six years ago was still living in a caravan in Morecambe. Fury has since doubled back on his retirement statement but the entire episode provides a very telling insight into an unpredictable, ragged, raw, tetchy, and ultimately flawed man.