Troubled British boxer Tyson Fury has announced that he will voluntarily vacate his WBO and WBA heavyweight belts, opening the door to a potential title fight for Kiwi Joseph Parker.
Fury confirmed in a statement Thursday afternoon (NZT) that he’d relinquish both titles following a tumultuous few weeks during which he both tested positive for, and admitted to, use of cocaine, in an effort to focus on his rehabilitation.
As the current number one contender in the WBO rankings, Parker’s upcoming bout with Andy Ruiz now takes on another dimension, with a possibility that the sanctioning body's vacant heavyweight title will also be up for grabs.
“I feel that it is only fair and right and for the good of boxing to keep the titles active and allow the other contenders to fight for the vacant belts that I proudly won and held as the undefeated heavyweight champion of the world when I defeated the long-standing champion Wladimir Klitschko,” said Fury.
“I won the titles in the ring and I believe that they should be lost in the ring, but I'm unable to defend at this time and I have taken the hard and emotional decision to now officially vacate my treasured World titles and wish the next in-line contenders all the very best as I now enter another big challenge in my life which I know, like against Klitschko, I will conquer.”
Fury took to social media shortly afterwards, tweeting a video of country singer Graham Brown's rendition of 'Wine into Water' along with a plea of 'Father help me get it back together'.
The 28-year-old’s uncle and longstanding trainer Peter Fury supported his nephew’s statement, confident the fighter would be able to bounce back from his recent issues.
“Tyson will be back stronger from this and I will make sure, no matter what we have to deal with, Tyson not only comes back but will reclaim what's rightfully his.”
The British Boxing Board of Control were set to conduct a hearing overnight to review the status of Fury’s boxing license, however it appears they may have already made their decision, with his name conspicuously absent from their online fighter registry.
The 'Gypsy King' hasn’t fought since defeating Wladimir Klitschko back in November 2015, and has twice withdrawn from a rematch with the Ukrainian, on one of those occasions being declared “medically unfit” by his own team after a bout had been scheduled.