Committed contrarian Fury clasped his hands together in front of a cabinet displaying his WBC belt as he emphatically rejected his nomination for the Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY) award, which pitted him against the likes of Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton and Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson when it was announced on Tuesday.
The unbeaten “Gypsy King” responded to the contentious call by reiterating his claim to be the “people’s champion”, provoking a divided reaction fueled by the homophobic, sexist and anti-Semitic views he had expressed in the past.
“This is a message for BBC Sport and their SPOTY award,” announced Fury on social media, adding that he was “blessed by god.”
“Please take me off your list as I’m the people’s champion and have no need for verification or any awards.
“I know who I am and what I’ve done in sport. I have the love of the people, which is worth more to me than all the awards in the world. To anyone who supports me, don’t vote. All my love, the Gypsy King.”
Fury issued an apology in 2016 for a video posted online in which he made a range of discriminatory comments against gay people, women and Jews, and he also accepted a backdated two-year doping ban in 2017.
The giant brawler has been on a relentless mission to present himself as a reformed and inspirational figure, speaking openly about his life-threatening depression, cocaine use and range of other personal problems that had been part of the reason for his absence from the ring for almost three years after famously beating Wladimir Klitschko to win five titles in 2015.
While his legion of loyal admirers lauded him as a legend, many others accused Fury of attention-seeking and questioned the motives behind his apparent shunning of the recognition.
“Talk about getting the violin out and begging for support,” one unconvinced viewer fired back. “This move was really badly advised.
“It’s cringey as f*ck. If people can’t see past this PR stunt, you should seek help.”
When another insisted that Fury had been driven by opportunistic self-promotion, a reader sarcastically asked: “What, the guy who dressed in stars and stripes in Vegas and a Mexican flag on Mexican Independence Day, and appeared in the WWE?”
Others argued that Fury had known he was unlikely to win and pointed out that the BBC, which is frequently suspected by audiences of acting in the interests of its image rather than accuracy, had hardly produced a diverse list of nominees.
“Five men, including one who has a record of being homophobic and misogynistic, and only one woman?” asked one. “Great.”
Fury supporters felt that the reliably bland awards ceremony should have nominated the fighter last year, with his emphatic win over Deontay Wilder in February to win the title clearly swaying bosses to now shortlist arguably the most colorful and outspoken character in British sport.
He finished fourth when he was nominated for the award in 2015, having admitted at the time that he did not want to win it because he was “not the best role model for the kids” and would not “appreciate” the award.
The BBC considered removing him from that year’s list after comments he made about Olympic hero Jessica Ennis-Hill, who finished third, caused outrage and the launch of a petition to have him struck off as a candidate.
Speaking to IFL about Ennis-Hill ahead of his fight with Klitschko, Fury said: “That’s the runner, isn’t it?
“She’s good, she’s won quite a few medals. She slaps up good as well. When she’s got a dress on, she looks quite fit.”
Asked in the same interview for his opinion on female boxers, he said he was “all for it” and “not sexist” before adding: “I believe a woman’s best place is in the kitchen and on her back.
“That’s my personal belief. Making me a good cup of tea, that’s what I believe.”
A respondent who was unable to look beyond those and other remarks said: “For those forgetting, Tyson Fury is still a homophobic, sexist bigot and shouldn’t have been on the list in the first place.
“He won one fight. If that is our bar for contenders then it is time to scrap the whole thing.”
Another said: “The minute David Beckham won the award in 2001, it lost all credibility.
“The show is just a tedious, tokenistic ‘wokefest’ nowadays.”