LONDON • Tyson Fury "won't live to see 30" unless he can get support, according to his friend Billy Joe Saunders, who fears that the controversial world heavyweight champion is in such a fragile state of mind that he could be suicidal.
Saunders, the World Boxing Organisation middleweight champion, said that Fury, who looks set to be stripped of his WBO and World Boxing Association heavyweight titles after twice pulling out of his rematch with Wladimir Klitschko and testing positive for cocaine, was "mentally in a very bad place".
On Monday, Fury, 28, made himself the centre of attention on social media again, announcing his retirement in an expletive-laden post on Twitter, before claiming that it was a joke two hours later and that he was "here to stay".
He was said to be getting treatment for depression after pulling out of the Klitschko bout for a second time 11 days ago, before it was revealed that he had failed a drug test for cocaine. Those close to Fury say that he is convinced that there is a witch hunt against him.
Saunders, 27, said his fellow Briton had grown increasingly distraught at the public's negative reaction to him. "With the public's help (he will box again), but if they go against him now, he won't live to see 30," Saunders said. "It's that bad. I don't know how he will do it, but he won't live to see 30 unless someone helps him out."
Saunders said that Fury had found it impossible to disregard abuse and criticism that he had received. "It's easy to say just ignore it if you are not on the receiving end all of the time," he said. "It isn't every so often (he is receiving abuse on social media), it is every day. After a bit you get to think, 'This is true'."
FULL SUPPORT NEEDED
With the public's help (he will box again), but if they go against him now, he won't live to see 30.
BILLY JOE SAUNDERS, WBO middleweight champion, on his friend Tyson Fury reeling from incessant public criticism.
Saunders revealed that he too had received regular abuse about his gypsy heritage, saying that a van driver had yelled abuse at him just before he arrived at a press conference in north London on Monday.
"As much as I wanted to go to him and give him a hiding for the abuse he was giving me 'gypsy whatnot', I had to just keep walking," Saunders said. "That's because of who I am and people looking at me as a respectable professional fighter and as an icon to young kids."
THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE