(Reuters) - WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders has backed former world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury to resolve his doping issues and fight on the undercard for the Briton’s title defence against Georgian Avtandil Khurtsidze in July.
Fury was charged by UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) last June for allegedly consuming a performance-enhancing drug. He vacated his titles, admitted to battling depression and his boxing license was revoked in October pending an investigation.
The former WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight champion, who has not fought since beating Wladimir Klitschko to win the titles in 2015, maintained his innocence prior to a UKAD hearing scheduled for last week that was subsequently postponed.
“Mentally, Tyson is out of the dark place which worried me. We had long chats and, like me, realised that what we do is box,” Saunders told reporters of his compatriot while promoting his fight on Monday.
”It all comes down to there being only one thing for him and that’s boxing. He is good for the sport and it would be a shame to see it taken away from him.
“There wasn’t a day when he wasn’t up early in the morning ready to go out, running by the beach... Everything is there with Tyson, it just needs putting back together.”
Saunders also said that Fury would be more popular than British world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua had he displayed a more personal side to the media.
”You only see the media side of Tyson, what the man puts out there,“ Saunders said. ”When you know him personally, he’s different. If he was to show that side, he’d be loved more than Anthony Joshua.
“He’s 28 years old and never been arrested. I‘m 27 and have been arrested 12 times, so he’s got a better record than me. He’s a good family man, not an animal.”
Unbeaten Saunders (24-0) will meet the 38-year-old Khurtsidze (33-2-2) at the Copper Box Arena in London on July 8.
Reporting by Aditi Prakash in Bengaluru; Editing by John O'Brien