Tyson Fury was adamant he will retire from boxing after retaining his WBC heavyweight title with a highlight-reel stoppage of Dillian Whyte.
Fury has been insistent for weeks that he would end his career irrespective of the outcome against his British rival at Wembley Stadium, although even those close to him have cast doubt on that position.
If this is to be the end then the 33-year-old bowed out in supreme fashion, dictating the tempo to the joy of a post-war British record crowd of 94,000 before a vicious uppercut scrambled Whyte’s senses.
Whyte courageously beat the count but it was clear he was still on rubbery legs as he stumbled into referee Mark Lyson, who immediately ended proceedings with one second left in the sixth round.
Fury, who extended his unbeaten record to 33 fights with 32 wins and a draw, celebrated by treating the crowd to a rendition of Don McLean’s ‘American Pie’, one of the songs played in his elaborate entrance.
But when asked whether he could be tempted to face the winner of a rematch, pencilled in for the summer between WBA, IBF and WBO champion Oleksandr Usyk and domestic foe Anthony Joshua, Fury was unequivocal.
“I’ve spent a lot of time on the road, I’ve been away a long time,” he said. “I’ve fulfilled everything I’ve ever wanted to fulfil.
“I’m going to retire as only the second heavyweight in history, after Rocky Marciano, to retire undefeated.”
Fury won British, Commonwealth and European titles before catapulting himself to the top of boxing’s blue riband division in November 2015, when he ended Wladimir Klitschko’s long reign as world champion.
A crippling battle with depression kept him out the ring for the next two and a half years, and he ballooned to nearly 30 stone in weight, losing his IBF, WBA and WBO crowns along the way.
But he got himself back into shape, becoming one of the country’s most prominent advocates for mental health in the process, and within six months of his comeback Fury was again a world title challenger.
Many thought he deserved the nod against Deontay Wilder and although a debatable draw was declared, Fury left no room for doubt in the second and third bouts in an all-time classic trilogy, defeating his heavy-handed adversary inside the distance on both occasions as he cracked America.
There have been controversies, with Fury making sexist and homophobic remarks shortly before his win over Klitschko, while he received a two-year backdated ban in December 2017 after testing positive for a banned steroid, which he blamed on eating uncastrated wild boar meat.
Fury has in the last week been scrutinised for his links to Daniel Kinahan, who was recently sanctioned by the US Treasury amid claims of smuggling drugs and money laundering, which he denies. Fury used to be advised by Kinahan but says he has “absolutely zero” business with the alleged crime boss.
There was speculation about whether the issue would impact Fury’s mindset in his first fight on UK soil since August 2018 on a chilly night in London, but if it was then it was not immediately apparent, with the 6ft 9in Fury using his five-inch height advantage and more in reach to keep Whyte largely subdued.
Whenever the fight was at range Fury used his jab and combinations to stifle his opponent and if Whyte, who was cut from an accidental clash of heads in the fourth round, attempted to narrow the distance, the Jamaica-born Londoner was tied up and unable to get off any meaningful shots.
The WBC’s mandatory challenger did not ship any sustained punishment but often looked slow and cumbersome, and he was left to reflect on a third defeat in 31 fights after a devastating right uppercut from Fury, who revelled in his victory.
“I’m happy with my performance,” Fury said. “And I hope he is. He didn’t just fight the world champion, I’m a legend in this game. And you can’t deny it, I’m the best heavyweight there has ever been.
“There ain’t ever been one who could beat me. I have a 6ft 9in frame, 270lbs in weight, can move like a middleweight, can hit like a thunderstorm and can take a punch like anybody else.
“I’ve got b***s like King Kong, the heart of a lion, the mindset of the Wizard of Oz. It was a special night, what a way to top it all off.”