Tyson Fury, the new World Boxing title holder, has become engulfed in controversy after making statements that have been attacked as “homophobic” and “sexist”.
The controversy started after Fury beat the favourite Vladimir Klitschko On the 28th of November 2015 at the sold-out ESPRIT Arena in Dusseldorf to become the World Boxing Organisation’s heavy-weight champion of the world, the first ever Traveller to accomplish the feat.
The win is rumoured to have cost the bookies dear as many Gypsies and Travellers backed their hero as the outsider. Fury has also won the British and commonwealth titles in a bout against Dereck Chisora at Wembley Stadium in 2011, and remains unbeaten at professional level, with a score of 24 wins and no losses.
Fury, 27, who has said he is a devout Catholic, came under attack after the Daily Mail reported his religious belief that “homosexuality, abortion and paedophilia” would become legal as part of a journey towards “the final days”.
Fury later backed up these views in an interview with Jeremy Vine on BBC Radio 2, when he said that: "Homosexuality, abortion and paedophilia - them three things need to be accomplished before the world finishes. That's what the Bible tells me."
The champion boxer has also come under attack for his views on women. Fury was asked his opinion on women, and Ennis-Hill, a rival contender for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year in particular, in an interview with iFL TV on You Tube, three days before his world title fight.
When asked about women boxers he said: ''It's up to everybody what they want to do. 'I'm all for it. I'm not a sexist.”
"I believe if a man can to go work all his life a woman can. Who am I to say, 'Don't do that 'cos you're a girl'?
''But I believe a woman's best place is in the kitchen and on her back, that's my personal belief. Making me a good cup of tea, that's what I believe.''
Fury laughed off the comment but when asked about Olympic champion heptathlete Ennis-Hill during the hour-long interview, he said: ''I think she's good, she's won quite a few medals for Britain, and she slaps up good as well, when she's got a dress on she looks quite fit.''
However, sources close to Fury’s family say that the boxer was joking and has respect for women.
In a move that has added fuel to the media firestorm, Fury has hit back at his critics and defended his religious beliefs, claiming his words are being “twisted”. In an interview with Sky Sports News on Thursday he was asked directly if he was a homophobe, he said: “No, definitely not. I wouldn’t be a very good Christian if I hated anybody, would I? If Jesus loves the world, I love the world.”
Gypsies and Travellers’ have reacted to what is happening to a man that many consider to be a Traveller hero.
Contacting the Travellers’ Times, to express her dismay at the way that Fury is being vilified, Mickaela Mackinnon said: “I truly believe society has a chip on their shoulder because a Traveller won heavyweight champion. Sad really, considering we live in a society that fights for equality and this is a case of ethnic discrimination at its finest.”
Siobhan O’Loughlin from Manchester also backed Fury saying: “Fair play to Fury, stand up for what you believe and let them twist it whatever way they want.”
However, Josie O’Driscoll from Herts said: “I don’t agree with his statements, but to be fair to him, he has never said that his views were representative of Travellers and the media are wrong to suggest they are. We all have our individual ways of interpreting the Bible and our religion.”
The controversy deepened when a rumour went out that Tyson was going to be stripped of his title, a man made a criminal complaint to the police saying that Fury was spreading “hate-speech”, and a gay police officer started a petition that has now reached over 90,000 signatures calling on the BBC to drop him as a contender for their Sports Personality of the Year contest.
Mickaela Mackinnon said this was an over-reaction and wondered if his critics would shun films starring a well-known actor who did not agree with vaccination.
She said: “If you can take a title from a sportsman simply for having views you do not agree with then should you not also shun many A-list actors and actresses and refuse acknowledgement of their acting achievements due to their views on say - vaccinating children? In my opinion, the reckless, ill-educated and well known views of these people could cost many lives of many children.”
Josie O’Driscoll added: I wouldn't want his belts stripped from him he won them square and fair. It was his life-long dream. Tyson Fury needs a PR team to rein him in when he feels the need to shout. He could have used all his energy to do so much good. Someone has reported him for hate speech and it's being investigated. It's a sad situation."
However, Fury is in no danger of being stripped of his title and it is a lesser title that will be removed for reasons that have no connection to the ongoing controversy.
Although Fury will remain Current World Boxing champion and will soon be facing Klitscho again in a rematch, he was stripped of his International Boxing Federation championship belt after agreeing to the rematch, which was a stipulation written in to the contract for the initial fight. The IBF stated that he must fight their mandatory challenger Vyacheslav Glazkov and failing to do so will mean Fury is stripped of their title.
The petition to have Fury removed from the BBC Sports Personality of the Year contest was launched by Ian Sawyer from Manchester, who said: "I'm homosexual, I'm not a paedophile. Does Mr Fury know the difference?"
"After he won the championship I woke up thinking how wonderful it was to have a world champion in Manchester at a sport that I've admired since Muhammad Ali and then when I woke up yesterday morning and listened to his words I thought he had gone from hero to zero," he added.
But the petition will have no effect, the BBC have said, and Fury will remain as a contender. The BBC added that although the corporation did not endorse his views, he would not be dropped.
A BBC spokesman said: "The Sports Personality shortlist is compiled by a panel of industry experts and is based on an individual's sporting achievement - it is not an endorsement of an individual's personal beliefs either by the BBC or members of the panel."
And Fury himself was defiant, tweeting: "I've got more personality than all the other competitors put together, in this year’s BBCSPOTY who can compete with my sporting achievement!"
Earlier he tweeted: "Hopefully I don't win BBCSPOTY as I'm not the best roll model in the world for the kids, give it to someone who would appreciate it."
The Police have also since released a statement saying that they would not be investigating Fury’s remarks as a hate crime.
Some media commenters have suggested that the furor over Tyson was misplaced and exaggerated.
Writing in the Independent, journalist Simon Kelner said:
“My guess is that if a sportsperson’s privately held views were made public, quite a lot of them might offend certain sectors of society. Tyson Fury’s crime, if you like, was not to hide behind PR men and managers.”
“It’s very rare that you see a top sportsman raw and unplugged. We didn’t like what we saw, but he’s a boxer, for heaven’s sake, not a spokesman for the National Trust. And whatever we think of him, he’s a high-achieving sportsman and a personality.”
Billy Joe Saunders, another Traveller boxer has been quick to leap to Fury’s defence with a series of tweets:
“Tyson doesn't get any credit from the press, why? Because he's a traveller.”
“What he has done for our sport, he should be our prized possession.”
“Look into our lives, we have done it the hard way, no one has helped him.”
“The man who upset the world is a Gypsy, and you're going to have to get used to it because he is going to be around a very long time.”
Tyson Fury remains defiant. In another more recent ringside interview with YouTube boxing channel iFL TV, he said:
“I beat the man who nobody could beat. So until somebody can go in and beat him again, 23 title defences… then they can suck my b***s. How ‘bout that for a bit of heavyweight-champion talking?”
It looks like the controversy will run and run. The Travellers’ Times is interested in hearing your views, so please comment on our Facebook page or contact Travellerstimes@ruralmedia.co.uk