Billy Joe Saunders has insisted Tyson Fury would be even more popular than Anthony Joshua if the wider world saw the man he has spent time with in a recent training camp.
Fury joined Saunders in Marbella, where the WBO middleweight champion began preparations for his July 8 title defence against Georgia’s Avtandil Khurtsidze, in his attempts to launch his comeback.
Avtandil Khurtsidze will meet Billy Joe Saunders inside the ring on July 8 at Copper Box Arena in London, promoter Frank Warren announced on Saturday.
British fighter Liam Walsh idolises Floyd Mayweather Jr but says he will not be put off by his hero watching him fight this weekend against Gervonta Davis.
Despite the postponement, as revealed by the Press Association, of his hearing with UK Anti-Doping relating to allegations he and his cousin Hughie tested positive for nandrolone in 2015, both Saunders and their promoter Frank Warren hope he will return on July 8.
Eighteen months have passed since he became the world heavyweight champion by defeating Wladimir Klitschko, and eight since he vacated his WBA and WBO titles to focus on his battle against depression after admitting to using cocaine.
Fury remains a divisive figure owing to a series of controversial and offensive comments, but Saunders is adamant that if he widely displayed his true personality, he would be held in greater affection than reigning champion Joshua, Britain’s latest darling.
“You only see the media side of Tyson, what the man puts out there,” said Saunders, 27.
“When you know him personally, if he was to show that side he’d be loved more than Anthony Joshua, honestly. He’s a bit cuddly.
“We go through what he’s been through and how he’s come through it and what he has done and what he hasn’t done and where he went wrong, really. They are deep conversations but it worked. He got in training and he hasn’t looked back.
“He’s being very honest with himself. When we were out there we stopped in a garage to put some fuel in the car and bought some Smints. He was reading the packet and saying he wouldn’t have them because they had too much sugar in.
“When he’s on it, he’s on it. There wasn’t a day when he wasn’t up early in the morning ready to go out, running on the beach. The first time running he couldn’t run two miles; then he got up to five, so he is definitely improving. Everything is there with Tyson, it just needs putting back together.
“He had a sweat suit on every day; it’s hot in there in the gym and he really put the work in. Never once did he have quit in him.
“Each day he was looking brighter; I hope we can get a fight announced for him soon again.
“Tyson is a good mate of mine we have been friends for years.”
Speaking in October 2016, Saunders revealed his concerns about the “bad place” the 28-year-old Fury was in and that he may not even live to see 30.
He has more recently been pictured far heavier than his fighting weight, and claiming he was 25 stone, but those around him are increasingly positive about his mental state, Saunders included.
“I was worried about him but not now,” he said.
“He’s got a bit to go physically but he’s mentally fit. Boxing has got him off the drink, I wouldn’t like to see boxing taken off him.
“Hopefully Tyson will be on the same [July 8] bill. He just has to get this sorted out [with UKAD]. As far as I am aware, there is nothing really to sort out, just wasting a bit of time.
“He hasn’t done anything majorly wrong. I don’t know why he is in the position in the first place.”