Tyson Fury must update WBO with health status or risk losing heavyweight title

ByDan Rafael ESPN logo
Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Unified heavyweight world champion Tyson Fury has 10 days to provide the WBO with a status update of his medical condition or he risks being stripped of the belt for inactivity.

Fury (25-0, 18 KOs), who holds two major sanctioning body belts, was scheduled to defend the titles against former champion Wladimir Klitschko (64-4, 53 KOs), of Ukraine, on Oct. 29 at Manchester Arena in Fury's hometown of Manchester, England. Last week, however, Fury pulled out of the fight for a second time and now risks being stripped of at least the WBO belt and perhaps the WBA title also.

In one of the biggest upsets in heavyweight history, Fury ended Klitschko's 9-year title reign with a unanimous decision on Nov. 28, 2015 at Esprit Arena in Dusseldorf, Germany.

Mick Hennessy, Fury's promoter, did not specify a reason for Fury's withdrawal other than to say he had been "declared medically unfit to fight. Medical specialists have advised that the condition is too severe to allow him to participate in the rematch and that he will require treatment before going back into the ring. Tyson will now immediately undergo the treatment he needs to make a full recovery."

However, multiple sources with knowledge of the correspondence between Fury's camp and Klitschko's camp told ESPN last week that it included a letter from Fury's doctor stating Fury had mental health issues and that there was discussion of him being institutionalized and that he would be "unavailable for the foreseeable future."

The WBO, wanting to know what is going on, said he has until Oct. 6 -- a non-extendable deadline -- to provide the organization with a letter outlining his issues so it can "evaluate your condition appropriately within the division and to consider your status consistent with our world championship rules."

"We are very sorry to hear the reports that you have allegedly pulled out of the October 29th bout due to a serious depression you are being treated for," the WBO wrote to Fury on Monday. "Please know that all at the WBO are concerned for you and wish you the best for a full and complete recovery.

"As you know, since the date your title was won on November 28, 2015, you have not defended your title and you have been inactive. On June 24, 2016, an ankle injury forced you to withdraw from your heavyweight rematch against Wladimir Klitschko scheduled for July 9th in Manchester," the WBO wrote.

The WBO included a copy of its pertinent rules -- including Rule 19, which explains that if a champion cannot defend his title within the mandated time period "because he is physically disabled for a justified cause, and said disability has been verified and accepted by the world championships committee, the champion may be granted a reasonable time to recover from the disability and retrain to competitive condition, which shall not in total exceed 180 days. The disability extension will be granted only if the committee determines based on competent medical advice that the champion is reasonably expected to recover from his disability within the maximum allowable term of the disability extension.

"The committee may condition its approval of a disability extension upon the champion providing interim medical certifications that he is reasonably expected to recover within the term of the disability extension."

Peter Fury, Tyson's uncle and trainer, does not believe his nephew should be stripped of his belts.

"With Tyson's condition, he cannot be held culpable," he said, adding that a detailed statement on his health would be released soon. "He will not and should not be stripped of belts."

The WBO could give Fury recovery time and sanction a fight for the interim title with Fury having to face the winner of that fight in his first bout back from the layoff.

The letter added that the organization should receive "your physician's complete psychological and/or mental evaluation and diagnosis of your condition, your prognosis for recovery and your expected return to competition" and whether the doctor is of the opinion he can return to the ring "within 180 days of the onset of your condition."

"We would appreciate that the physician specifically clarifies the nature and extent of your condition and your prognosis for return to training and your return to competition," the letter said.

If the WBO does not receive the information it asked for, it said it "will proceed with the necessary appropriate action without the benefit of an appeal. The WBO wishes you the best good fortune on a prompt and speedy recovery. We looked forward to your prompt response to assist (the) committee in reaching the fairest decision for you, the top contenders in the heavyweight division, and your future return to complete your world championship career."

The WBA has not announced its plans regarding Fury and its title belt, but president Gilberto Mendoza Jr. told ESPN that he planned to inquire with the Fury camp about the situation.