LONDON, (Reuters) – New world heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury turned to divine inspiration yesterday to answer his growing number of critics after days of courting controversy over his comments about women and homosexuality.
The 27-year-old Briton, who produced one of sport’s biggest shocks last month when he beat long-standing world champion Wladimir Klitschko, has been causing even more upsets out of the ring since then with his pronouncements on homosexuality, women, and fellow athletes. The furore was triggered by a newspaper interview, in which he said three things needed to happen “before the devil comes home” — the legalisation of homosexuality, abortion and paedophilia.
Subsequent interviews, in which he attempted to clarify his comments, have attracted further criticism, and despite denying he hated gays “or anybody”, the rumpus created by his remarks has led to demands that he be removed from the shortlist for the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY) award, a prestigious annual honour bestowed on one of Britain’s top sporting figures.
An online petition calling for his removal has attracted more than 125,000 signatures.
Even within his sport, he cannot escape controversy: he has already lost one of the three world titles he won because he agreed to a rematch against Klitschko, to which he was contractually bound, rather than fighting the International Boxing Federation’s mandatory challenger.
When asked yesterday about the controversy over his comments, the born-again Christian responded to every question with a religious phrase. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you’ll be saved,” he repeatedly told a BBC reporter.
“Jesus loves me and he loves you too … and he loves everybody in the world,” he added, smiling, as he leant out of the window of a van. “All you’ve got to do is repent of your sins and you’ll be forgiven.”