"Nobody ever pushed me into boxing," says Tommy Fury who is now undefeated in five fights but carries the weight of his family name. "I'm not here to try to equal anything that anybody else has done."
Thursday 18 March 2021 08:15, UK
Tommy Fury was always there, you just didn’t notice him.
He was in the background at the gym staring longingly into the ring. He was ringside when nobody knew who he was. He was among the celebrations in Dusseldorf, drowned out by bigger, louder relatives.
Now the younger brother of Tyson Fury has his own spotlight it comes with criticism that he is a wannabe and a poser, that his boxing record is inflated just to look good on social media. Tommy Fury, though, has heard all this before. Remember, he was always there, you just didn't notice him.
"Everybody looks at my career through a magnifying glass with a notebook and a pen," Tommy tells Sky Sports.
"Everything I do wrong goes straight onto Twitter and Instagram."
He is among the latest crop of up-and-coming boxers with a famous surname - the path most recently trodden by Chris Eubank Jr and Conor Benn now has Tommy Fury and Campbell Hatton taking their earliest steps.
It comes with critics who cite hanging onto the successful relative's coattails but Tommy says: "They don't understand that I don't feel that pressure because, as a 14-year-old kid, it was already there.
"'Look, it's Tyson's brother, let's watch him spar!'
"'It's Tyson's brother, let's watch his first amateur fight!'
"It's nothing new to me for everybody to be judging and criticising me.
"If Trevor from four doors down doesn't like me, it doesn't change my life. Trevor can keep spouting whatever he wants about me!"
Tommy shot to fame in the summer of 2019 on Love Island - he had, by that time, already won his first two professional boxing matches but they had gone under the radar, as most boxers' earliest assignments are designed to do.
The mainstream fame he now has due to his frolicking on reality television was held up as proof that he wasn't a serious boxer. But when Tommy obliterated three opponents in the past 14 months, the criticism evolved to picking holes in the quality of those rivals.
It's true that, of Tommy's five opponents, three had never previously won a fight. Combined they have 12 wins, five draws, 174 defeats. They are an uninspiring bunch.
But it's also true to say that most boxers begin slowly before they have a name worth following - for Tommy, the process was in reverse.
"He had only been stopped once," Tommy says of his most recent foe, Scott Williams. "A lot of good names couldn't get him out of there, but I did it in two rounds."
Williams has lost all 10 of his fights but possesses the remarkable honour of having fought two Love Island contestants. He went the distance with Idris Virgo, a 2018 contestant and now, like Tommy, an unbeaten prospect.
Boxing was Tommy's passion and his career before he was sought out by Love Island and accepted their invitation, astutely considering that raising his public profile would eventually benefit his sporting ambitions.
The 21-year-old is a half-brother of WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury (they share a father in 'Gypsy' John Fury, the fearsome voice that booms from the sidelines whenever either is in the ring).
John had 13 professional fights himself yet Tommy insists he was never forced into the family business.
"Ever since I can remember, boxing was always there," he says. "When I was a young lad I remember my dad was banging about in the garage.
"But nobody ever pushed me into boxing. Nobody ever threw a pair of gloves in my face or told me to go running. Nobody forced me to go into boxing. I don't have to fight. But it's something I love.
"It is addictive. And it's in us. Whatever a dad does, the son will follow on."
Tommy was a talented rugby player when Tyson, 11 years older, was already impressing inside the boxing ring.
The surname grew infamous due to Tyson while Tommy was still a boy. He remembers: "It's a funny thing because people would ask me at school and I'd say: 'My dad is a boxer'.
"They would take a step back!
"Ever since then, I thought it was a cool thing to do. It's not a job that everybody does. Some people think it is barbaric or gladiatorial. It's our job. It's like having a cup of tea to us.
"The fact that many people don't do it, many people don't succeed, gives me the extra motivation to push on."
A father and an older brother who were both feared fighters inevitably brought problems to Tommy's door as a teenager.
"It brings a whole different [life]. If you go out for a drink with the lads, people will offer you a fight," he says.
"People say: 'Who are you? You've done nothing!'
"People with a few drinks down them would say things on a regular occurrence when I used to go out.
"All the way through school I had challenges. Then in the boxing gym I had challenges because of my surname.
"It brings a whole set of problems but, in hindsight, they weren't problems. There is a lot of jealously in the world and I had to shut it out."
Tommy could have chosen an easier path when he came out of the Love Island villa as a legitimate celebrity with girlfriend Molly-Mae Hague.
But it was never even a consideration - there is a great clip from his time in the sun when, days after the event, he finally discovers that Anthony Joshua lost to Andy Ruiz Jr and could not hide his shock.
Did he not consider doing something apart from boxing when he was much younger?
"Definitely not because it's in my blood," he says. "My dad says that if it's in you, it will come out. Boxing is coming out of me now.
"There's nothing that compares to getting up every day to train and having a healthy mindset."
Tyson and Tommy's cousin Hughie is a heavyweight contender in his own right. Their father John's brother Peter trained Tyson to his first world title, and now trains Hughie.
There must be someone, anyone, in the Fury clan who does not fight.
"No! Everybody in my family loves fighting, loves a fight, and even if they don't train in boxing themselves, they can still have a fight," Tommy smiles.
"They can all throw their hands. You see a normal family kicking a football around but this is us. It's what I was born into. Everybody related to us. We don't have to train or think about it. Even if I didn't train, I could have a fight because it's in me. If somebody wanted to fight me, the fire in me would come out."
Tommy was by Tyson's side from his earliest fights, he was an unknown 15-year-old in the ring in Germany when his older brother upset Wladimir Klitschko. He was a celebrity in Las Vegas by the time Tyson battered Deontay Wilder.
"All of my memories are in a boxing gym," says Tommy who credits Tyson's example for why he pursued the same dream.
"I lived and breathed the sport since I was a child. I remember, in Warrington, the first time we properly trained together. He taught me and took me on the pads.
"When he trained I sat on a chair, watching. I knew that in 10 years it would be my turn and I could use all of these things that I saw to my advantage.
"I still think back to those days. Everything he did to prepare for his fights, I now do."
The Fury family has experienced hardships too. Tyson, after becoming world heavyweight champion for the first time in late 2015, experienced mental health problems and used drugs and alcohol. He spent three years out of the ring.
It was a strain on Tommy to witness his brother's downfall. He says: "Of course. It's not nice even when you see someone on the TV going through problems. When it's your own family?
"During those years, all we would wish for is that he would be alright and get back to being normal Tyson. Those years I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy."
Tyson's incredible revival has included the American trainer Sugarhill Steward, whose knowledge Tommy has benefitted from too.
There is no disguising that being Tyson's brother has enabled opportunities for Tommy. The question becomes how good is Tommy, really? Is he more than a gimmick made popular by a combination of his famous surname and reality TV?
It is telling that any mention of Jake Paul, the YouTuber-turned-boxer who has called Tommy out online, draws an exasperated response. A fight with Paul would be lucrative but would also consign Tommy to a category of 'entertainer' that he may never escape. He says Paul is not a "real, legitimate boxer" and is desperate to disassociate himself from the YouTuber boxing circus.
"I'm not trying to get any freebies," Tommy says. "I hear people say: 'He's only there because of his brother'.
"That has its pros and cons but nobody can fight for me. Boxing is the hardest job in the world and it's only me who gets through those ropes. It's only me who wakes up at 5am for a run when it's raining or snowing.
"As much as Tyson has opened doors, it's only me that can fight. That's what people don't understand - how hard this job is.
"I'm not following in anybody's footsteps. There's only one Tyson, only one my dad. I'm not here to try to equal anything that anybody else has done."
But because of Tyson and his dad, every move that Tommy makes inside the ring will be micro-analysed. He knows that. So far, he hasn't put a foot wrong.
Lawrence Okolie's chance to become a world cruiserweight champion against Kryzsztof Glowacki is on Saturday night, live on Sky Sports.