Alan Hubbard

There is no doubt who was the star attraction when boxing returned to the Copper Box in the Olympic Park last Saturday (September 16) night.

No, not Billy Joe Saunders, the former Olympian who retained his World Boxing Organization (WBO) middleweight title against American Willie Monroe, while we waited for the later titanic televised tussle from Las Vegas between Gennady Golovkin and Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, billed as the fight of the decade.

Instead, it was Tyson Fury. Remember him? The giant Gypsy heavyweight who has not fought for two years and remains on the naughty step after failing a drugs test, the hearing into which has been mysteriously, and quite unfairly, delayed.

To say Fury at the Copper Box was mobbed is putting it mildly. Everywhere he went - even to the gents - he was followed like some pugilistic pied piper by hordes of fans and well-wishers. They sought endless selfies and autographs, for which he willingly and smilingly obliged, chatting away with them all.

Many shouted "you're the real heavyweight champ" and Fury himself obviously still believes he is. 

The 29-year-old has not fought since beating Wladimir Klitschko in November 2015 and cannot return until a UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) hearing into his ban takes place.

UKAD postponed the hearing last May, scuppering Fury's hopes of a July bout, and another scheduled for next month has been put back until sometime next year.

"How long must I be held up and kept out of action?" Fury angrily tweeted. "Clear my name and let me return to my former glory. I'm innocent, set me free!

"It's been 15 months since I've been under investigation, you're keeping an innocent man from fulfilling his destiny and from providing for his family.

"Everybody else is dealt with in a few months, why must I be treated any differently?

"Surely there must be a human rights law preventing this from happening to people!

"Either ban me or set me free as I've been in limbo for a long time! I want to move on with my life!"

Tyson Fury is still awaiting a UKAD drugs hearing ©Getty Images
Tyson Fury is still awaiting a UKAD drugs hearing ©Getty Images

During his absence from the sport, Fury has twice claimed he has retired before then deciding to carry on boxing.

UKAD, which charged Fury with a doping offence in June 2016, refused to comment on his ongoing case, adding that there is no timescale for its investigation. Really? That is quite scandalous.

The British Boxing Board of Control said at the time of the postponed hearing in May that Fury's licence was suspended "pending further investigation by UKAD into anti-doping and medical issues".

He will have to appear before the Board to request permission to be allowed to fight again - but it cannot rule on his case until UKAD completes his hearing.

UKAD revealed that Fury had been charged "with the presence of a prohibited substance" in June 2016. Four months later, the Board of Control suspended his licence after it was known he had also endured problems with mental illness and cocaine since his amazing win over Klitschko, when he became the world heavyweight champion.

Fury could face a two-year ban but his team are hopeful he will not - or at worst, any ban he does receive is backdated to November 2015.

He is keen to return to face fellow Briton and new International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Association heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua. This would be a fight worth more than £100 million ($135 million/€113 million), which could fill Wembley Stadium twice over.

Fury claims that a date had been pencilled in for April of next year.

"I could fight Joshua with one hand right now and beat him," he has boasted to Sky Sports. "You see, I'm a boxer, a skilled boxer, and muscle-beach men like him are made for me. It would be an easy fight.

"The boxing game is the sweet science and you saw that when I beat Wladimir. Now this kid with all the muscles, this Joshua, you see him, well he had life and death with Wladimir and I boxed Wladimir's ears off. I'd be disappointed if Joshua touched me."

Tyson Fury in action against Wladimir Klitschko in November 2015  ©Getty Images
Tyson Fury in action against Wladimir Klitschko in November 2015 ©Getty Images

The Manchester-based Fury, who reportedly ballooned to 25 stone, argues: "If you think about it, I was the first high-profile sportsman to start taking about what was happening to me, my issues. I told the truth, never held anything back and that's always been my problem.

"I tell the truth and people don't like the truth."

Promoter Frank Warren said: "It can't be right for Tyson who won't have fought for over two years. This has been a debacle of UKAD's making right from the beginning. How can they justify the time this is taking and the huge costs involved?

"One wonders whether Fury has been singled out for special treatment by the authorities simply because of who he is as much as what he may have done.

"Tyson has said some stupid things, there's no doubt about that. But there should be no prejudice. Whether you like him or you don't like him should have nothing to do with it.

"I do suspect that if any other sporting figure was subjected to similar treatment, people would be demanding a resolution.

"Boxing is what he does and he is being prevented from plying his trade, which wouldn't happen in other walks of life.

"If he is guilty and has to serve a suspension then so be it, but he also has the right to know when his time out of the ring has been served.

"It should all be based on facts and what I can't get round my head is why has it dragged on for two years?"

Tyson Fury, left, has targeted an all-British fight with Anthony Joshua ©Getty Images
Tyson Fury, left, has targeted an all-British fight with Anthony Joshua ©Getty Images

Why indeed? As far as I can ascertain, such procrastination is unprecedented.

Such an outrageous situation surely is worthy of investigation by the Sports Minister.

I understand there has been some internal restructuring at UKAD. Certainly someone there seems to have got their knickers in a twist.

I am no great cheerleader for Fury, whose huge talent I was first to publicise a decade ago when I had my card marked about him by the then British national coach Terry Edwards.

I found him a pleasant and amiable young man but we have not spoken since I upbraided him for unnecessarily using foul language at a media conference a few years back in front of an audience which included women and young children. It cost him a £15,000 ($20,000/€17,000) fine from the Board.

But I am unstinted in my admiration for him as a boxer and especially for his brilliantly constructed conquest of Klitschko.

I believe the Fury who used so much guile and gumption to dethrone the Ukrainian would have beaten any heavyweight in the world that night. And it is possible he still could.

I hope he is given the opportunity to try.

Meantime, the irony is he now has to watch his unbeaten younger cousin, Hughie Fury, son of his uncle and trainer Peter, attempt to wrest one of his former world heavyweight titles, the WBO belt, from the hands of new Kiwi holder Joseph Parker in Manchester on Saturday (September 23). Funny old world, boxing.

A final word on Golovkin's drawn bout with Canelo. Okay, it did not turn out to be the fight of the decade but it was a good, exciting and intelligently-fought scrap which I thought the marauding Kazakh won clearly by four rounds.

Those in the ring did their job splendidly but they were let down by two of those outside it - one judge who scored it a draw and the other who, quite incredulously, awarded it to the Mexican by ten rounds, 118-110.

Ten rounds? Jeez! When the gross mathematical aberration on her scorecard was revealed and rightly vilified the judge, Adalaide Byrd, burst into tears. She was immediately relieved of further big fight duties.

More importantly, she should have gone to Specsavers.