Alan Hubbard

At a time when sport is gripped by a siege mentality, bruised, bloodied and sinking fast in a mire of drugs, corruption and other assorted scandals, it is good that we have at least reached the time of the year when we can deliberate on the deeds of the good rather than the ugly misdeeds of the bad.

Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY) will be with us again shortly. Yes the BBC’s annual quest is limbering up nicely. And while it has been something of a fair to middling 2015 in terms of British achievements globally, we can reflect that there is good young talent in the pool – as well as on the gymnastics mat and boxing ring (where there are no less than eight British world champions).

But whether any will emerge as a refreshing new persona to hold the trophy aloft in Belfast on December 20 is open to debate.

More likely it will be the same old, same old. The usual suspects who traditionally dominate the public ballot.

Mo Farah, Lewis Hamilton, Chris Froome, A P McCoy, Wayne Rooney and Jessica Ennis-Hill are already established as front runners on the bookies’ list.

All worthy enough with their respective contributions but don’t you yearn to see someone different, an outsider for a change?

Wouldn’t it be wonderfully refreshing if world long jump champion Greg Rutherford or Max Whitlock, the first British male to win a world gymnastics title, captured the imagination, as well as sufficient votes to collect the the SPOTY prize? Or Adam Peaty, winner of three world swimming titles who also broke an individual world record?

And how about the indomitable cycling road race champion Lizzie Armitstead?

World champion gymnast Max Whitlock would make a change from the
World champion gymnast Max Whitlock would make a change from the "usual suspects" if chosen as an unlikely Sports Personality of the Year ©Getty Images

Then there’s Olympic champion Lizzy Yarnold, who won skeleton world gold to complete a career Grand Slam.

Showing my boxing bias I would personally nominate James DeGale, the first British Olympic champion to convert his gold medal into a professional world title. But I doubt he’ll even make the short-list.   

Actually, no boxer has won this award since Joe Calzaghe in 2007, when Ricky Hatton was third in a vintage year for the fight game.

This has been another one, with more Brits holding world titles than at any time in the sport’s history.

However an awful thought crosses my mind. Should Tyson Fury defeat Wladimir Klitschko to become the heavyweight champion of the world later this month surely he would have to become a leading contender for the BBC crown.

One winces at the prospect.

For Dr Steelhammer is not alone in thinking that Fury is off his rocker. That is not a medical diagnosis as Klitschko’s doctorate is in philosophy, not physics. But there are many who will concur with the multi-belted world heavyweight champion’s view that Batman is batty.

“He definitely has some screws loose in his mind,” declared Klitschko at his mountain retreat training camp in Austria last week.

Fury's extreme opinions on homosexuality, abortion, paedophilia and devil worshipping, expressed in an extraordinary off-the-wall, rambling interview with a Sunday newspaper, clearly have shocked Klitschko. And perhaps they should also concern the British Boxing Board of Control.

“He has mental issues for sure,” says Klitschko. “His comments make me sick. They were disgusting and had nothing to do with the promotion. They just showed the true insides of Tyson Fury. He has the brain the size of a walnut. He is an unhappy man."

Some might say a disturbed one, too.

One wonders what might be discovered lurking in Fury’s muddled mind if the Board called for a psychiatric as well as a physical examination before he steps into the ring against Klitschko in Dussledorf on November 28.

Would it, as Klitschko suggests, find that he is actually bipolar (a condition once known as manic depression)? And if so, should he be allowed to fight?

In the interview he accused Klitschko of being a "devil worshipper", and claimed that Armageddon was nigh and that paedophilia might one day be made legal.

Is this man fit to fight for the World Heavyweight title,” queried the headline which accompanied his demented drivel. Good question.

And should he win, could he be seriously considered as Sports Personality of the Year? I shudder at the prospect.

Never mind Batman. Fury is more Jekyll and Hyde. There are times when he has a certain engaging eloquence but more frequently of late he is showing a disturbingly dark side to his persona.

His latest ranting goes well beyond the often dubious realms of pre-fight hype. He even admits that his bizarre opinions might leave him open to assassination.

It is par for the course, as in an earlier interview he had even talked of contemplating suicide.

A shock win for Tyson Fury over Wladimir Klitschko could put him in the Sports Personality of the Year  frame
A shock win for Tyson Fury over Wladimir Klitschko could put him in the Sports Personality of the Year frame ©Getty Images

He seems consumed not only by religious fervour, but homophobia. In 2012 he threatened then rival David Price that he was going to put "you and gay lover Tony Bellew" in intensive care. Last October, he tweeted: "I think @LennoxLewis & wlad @Klitschko r 100% Homosexuals!!"

This is not Fury playing it for laughs, selling tickets or simply being a wind-up merchant. It seems more the product of a seriously troubled mind.

For someone who professes to be so deeply committed to religion and the teachings of the Bible he can be shockingly profane, with language trawled from the cesspit.

He has been censured and fined three times - costing him a total of £32,000 ($49,000/€46,000) - for disreputable conduct involving foul language and his homophobic tweets.

Yet as I say, there are occasions when he can be immensely charming, humorous, even quite likeable.

But one wonders whether big fight nerves are getting to him as D-day approaches.

Last week he could be seen smashing a water melon open with his head and spewing the contents towards the camera. Nice one for the kids to copy, eh?

Klitschko must think he is bedevilled by barmy British heavyweights. First there was David Haye’s T-shirt displaying the Ukrainian’s decapitated head, then Dereck Chisora spewing water into his face after slapping that of his brother Vitali, and now Fury’s wheeze as a caped crusader and religious nutter.

You have to admire Wlad’s phlegm. He’s seen it all and dealt with it all before, from 1996 when he won the Olympic super-heavyweight gold in Atlanta – through a 66-fight career which had some literal ups and down early on but sees him as second only to Joe Louis as the longest-reigning heavyweight champion.

Could the undefeated 6ft 9in Fury, with 24 wins and 18 KOs, beat 6ft 7in Klitschko, with three defeats in 67 bouts with 53 KOs, and thus become the first Traveller to win a world title?

In the boxing ring anything can happen when giants collide and it is possible, especially as Klitschko’s 39-year-old legs are slowing and Fury is younger by a dozen years. But highly improbable.

No-one has looked like doing so in the past 11 years in which he has had 19 successive successful title defences.

I doubt Fury is skillful enough to outpoint the cultured Ukrainian and he doesn’t punch hard enough for his size and weight to knock him out. He has also been put on the floor by a light-heavyweight.

Wlad The Impaler, whose equally erudite big brother Vitali relinquished his version of the title to battle in the even more dangerous political ring, being re-elected as the mayor of Ukrainian capital Kyiv this week, may lack charisma but he has the class and the clout.

When Fury dressed up as Batman he proclaimed himself to be "a psychopath."

Wladimir Klitschko will meet Tyson Fury on November 28
Wladimir Klitschko will meet Tyson Fury on November 28 ©Getty Images

Klitschko was not bothered then and he clearly isn’t now. "For a long time now I have been observing opponents getting under their own skin," he said.

"It was the case with David Haye but I'm a very good therapist and I made him a better person – he carries himself a lot better since I beat him.

"It is is bad for you if you let your emotions take over in the ring. Fury needs to control himself the way I did that day with Chisora. Can he do it? Given his mental issues, I don’t think so.

"Chaos means emotions and emotions are a downside in boxing. Tyson Fury is digging himself deeper and deeper. That's good for me."

But not too good for boxing.

In the meantime Tyson remains full of sound – and Fury.

“I’m my own man. On that night you’ll have the most colourful, charismatic champion since Muhammad Ali." he said.

“I’m the one the world’s been waiting for. I’m the man to fill Ali’s boots. The world needs me to change the landscape of the division away from these robots.

“We’re heading for a new year, a new era and a new heavyweight champion.”

As they say in the Lotto TV ad, please don’t let it be him!