How Tyson Fury became the heavyweight champion for mental health
These were the inspiring words of British heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury directly after his extraordinary draw against current WBC Champion Deontay Wilder in Los Angeles at the weekend.
The fight has been universally celebrated for what happened in the ring, including Fury’s astonishing performance. But more important was what happened in his post-match interview.
If you watch anything today then make sure it's this short interview with Tyson Fury ?
— BT Sport (@btsport) December 2, 2018
In one of the sporting moments of the year he openly and proudly dedicated the result (including his quite extraordinary 12th round ‘bouncebackability’ moment) to all those suffering from mental health issues.
The reaction put Twitter into meltdown, with hundreds of thousands of people who liking, retweeting and commenting on the powerful video interview.
It felt like a genuine game-changing moment between sport and mental health.
Most, if not all of us, will experience mental health issues at work in our lives. The cost to the UK economy is huge – £90bn a year says the Department of Health, with an average 15.6 working days lost for each employee.
It is an existential crisis affecting every business and despite recent efforts much more needs to be done.
Huge inspiration can be harnessed by UK PLCs from Fury’s fantastically heartfelt message. He stood up in front of the world’s media and offered his unwavering support to the suffering.
UK firms and business leaders need to do more to do the same because as we are often told “we don’t really know what is going on in the minds or the lives of our work colleagues even though we spend more of your life with them than your partner!”
The self-proclaimed Gypsy King’s sporting career can teach UK PLCs and any employees plenty about overcoming adversity to achieve success.
Turn disappointment into greatness
Having been rejected from the Olympics boxing team for ‘not being quite good enough’, disappointment was an early catalyst for Fury.
He channelled that negative memory on Saturday night to bounce back from two knockdowns and what appeared to be a dead cert KO. In his own post-match words, “I got knocked down and got up again. I wasn’t gonna let anybody get me down!”
Believe in yourself
In his last big match against Vitali Klitschko, Fury was written off by the world’s boxing experts. He was told he was too big, too slow, too heavy, to unskilled in the art of boxing. He ignored them all at every turn. And he won and won convincingly against a heavyweight boxing champion, unbeaten in over 10 years.
His self-belief has grown – it was evident at the weekend when he survived two knockdowns against the ‘hardest-hitting heavyweight’ on the planet and finished the stronger of the two fighters. What belief.
Be open and talk about your problems
Fury has dealt with severe depression, toxic drink and drug problems and even considered driving himself into a wall at over 100mph. He has not been afraid to talk about his demons and in a recent feature on the Joe Rogan Experience, spoke in harrowing detail about wanting to “die so bad” at the lowest points of his career.
The interview has been watched over 2.2 million times since October. He has become a mental health champion. Tyson’s message to mental health sufferers after one of the greatest boxing fights of all time, has inspired millions more. It really is good to talk.
It’s OK to be different, you don’t have to follow the herd
Fury is Mr Different and some! He’s 6ft 9 inches tall, comes from the often-criticised Traveller community, speaks his mind even if it sparks controversy. He does things his way and is happy to do so.
He has proved that to make the rules you have to break the rules. His bizarre (I’d call it highly creative!) and comical press conferences leading up to the Klitschko fight where he dressed up as batman, will live long in the memory.
His style in the ring against Klitschko and Wilder was awkward and difficult to box against. Being different helped him talk openly about his mental health problems. A champion for many regardless of the result.
Athletes often deliver extraordinary moments and performances ‘on the pitch.’ Exactly the sorts of performance businesses want to see more of from their staff. Tyson Fury gave a champion performance on Saturday night which was the epitome of mental grit and so much more.
The power of athletes to help others address mental health issues has been bought together through our “Improve mental health in the workplace” guest speaker offering. I’m happy to give a free consultation on what’s best for your requirements so call me on 020 3176 8135 or drop me a line.
Mark is a co-founder of caytoo and leads the core athlete program. He is a former Director of IPG’s Universal McCann where he managed communications programs for some of the world’s biggest brands including Coca-Cola GB, Mastercard, Bacardi – Martini and XBox.