Anyone who tuned in to Friday’s weigh-in, when a grinning Tyson Fury cradled his opponent Sefer Seferi like a baby after stepping on the scales, would be forgiven for thinking that this fight is simply not serious.
But make no mistake, Fury’s return, which he describes as the beginning of his ‘second career’, is no joke.
At only 29, the self-styled ‘Gypsy King’ is a young man in heavyweight terms despite an absence from the ring of nearly 1,000 days by the time he steps through the ropes at the Manchester Arena on Saturday.
Still undefeated and still the lineal champion, Fury is a welcome re-addition to what has emerged as one of the more intriguing divisions in the sport. Victory over the badly overmatched Seferi, who is officially Albania’s second-best cruiserweight, will tell us little about what he has left but it will finally draw a line under the darkest period of his life.
During the 31 tumultuous months since his memorable victory over Wladimir Klitschko in Dusseldorf, Fury has battled depression, drug abuse and alcoholism – all this against the backdrop of a lengthy and untidy case regarding the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
In the end, he accepted a back-dated two-year ban, which paved the way for this return to the ring.
At Friday’s weigh-in, Fury came in at a career-high 19st 10lb 2oz, quite astonishing considering he was morbidly obese at the turn of the year.
He began training at 27st 10lb meaning he has shifted 112lbs during his 26-week camp. That is about a stone every three weeks.
He is still nearly 5st larger than Seferi but, incredibly, Fury currently weighs just 2lbs more than his previous career heaviest.
Praise be to his new trainer Ben Davison, who on Saturday will be in Fury’s corner for the first time since replacing the heavyweight’s uncle, Peter. Davison’s first test, of getting his boxer back into credible shape, has been passed with flying colours but the real examination lies ahead.
To paraphrase the esteemed Billy Graham, writing in his column for the trade magazine Boxing Monthly, you could put a parrot in a room with all of history’s great trainers and he would learn what to say. But you couldn’t trust the fucker in the corner.
Seeing how rookie coach Davison and the mercurial talent of Fury gel beneath the lights is just one of the interesting vignettes which Fury-Seferi, dismissed by many as one of boxing’s great mismatches, will throw up.
“Boxing training isn’t rocket science,” Fury said of the link-up. “It’s very straightforward.
“There’s nothing to it. There’s no difference between any of the trainers I’ve ever worked with.”
In Fury’s absence, Anthony Joshua has emerged as the sport’s No 1 attraction and the 2012 Olympic champion has since won all three of the belts claimed by the 6ft 9in traveller in Dusseldorf back in 2015.
However, the discussion regarding the lineage of the division has been thrust under the spotlight with Fury still the so-called ‘man who beat the man’. His promoter Frank Warren insists Joshua is unable to call himself the real heavyweight champion of the world until he beats Fury.
“I carry the lineage of the division, which goes all the way back to John L Sullivan, and until someone beats me, they can’t take it,” Fury added. “That’s just the way it is.
“Being the lineal champion is better than being an alphabetical champion. There are that many about – who really cares?”
For now, it would be wise to shelve all talk of a showdown with Joshua with Fury likely to face a series of genuine no-hopers as he shakes off the ring rust and sheds another 15-20lbs of body fat.
By that point, Joshua should have crossed paths with WBC champion Deontay Wilder, producing the first man in heavyweight history to hold all four of the belts at once. But, even after his long absence from the ring, there are many who would pick Fury to beat either of them.
Such a prediction is based on the assumption that Fury can rekindle the class which underpinned his surge to the top of the heavyweight mountain. He will need only a fraction of it to despatch Seferi but Saturday night will still provide a glimpse of what Fury has left in the tank.
“For all of us, this is a mystery,” Warren said. “Will he be as good as he was? Will he recapture that form? We don’t know.
“But what is for sure, anyone who wants to be seen as the real champion has to beat him.
“He needs another two or three fights like this before he is ready for that kind of fight but I want to keep him busy and I want those fights before the end of the year.
“This is just the start, or should I say the restart, and if it’s anything like last time then we are in for a treat.”