When Tyson Fury (27-0, 19 KOs) takes on Deontay Wilder (40-0, 39 KOs) at Staples Center on Saturday night in one of the biggest heavyweight bouts in years, he is fighting for a victory in the ring that would mirror his extraordinary comeback from the brink of personal disaster.
Not many fighters have reached the pinnacle of their sport as sublimely as Fury did when he defeated the seemingly unbeatable Wladimir Klitschko in November 2015.
And while many boxers have fallen hard and fast after their greatest triumphs, not many have dusted themselves off and resumed their careers with the vigour displayed by the 30-year-old man named after Mike Tyson.
“To see where he’s at today is a testament to this man and what he’s done,” said his promoter, Frank Warren.
“Coming from rock bottom to being here, not as the contender but the lineal champion, it’s truly remarkable.
“He has already answered a lot of questions about himself, and now he has to answer the biggest one.
“If he is 80 percent of what he was, he beats this guy. Who is the better boxer out of the two of them? One is a far more accomplished boxer, it is very smart the way he fights. He is a very, very intelligent boxer and one of the most difficult to fight.”
Everything about Fury is enormous. The self-described “bald, big-bearded hulk of a man” is a thick 205cm tall with a voice that can sound like tyres on gravel, yet he carries the physical presence of an elite athlete, not a bar bouncer.
Fury showed that athleticism while carving out a spot in Britain’s crowded boxing landscape.
And then it all fell apart. A lucrative rematch with Klitschko had to be scrapped when he tested positive for cocaine use after a summer of partying, and he gradually lost all the title belts he had claimed.
He didn’t get himself together again until last year, and Britain’s licensing board reinstated him in January.
Fury returned to the ring for two moderately impressive wins over outmatched opponents last summer- but those were proper warm-ups for this shot at Wilder, Fury says.
“It took me about 2 1/2 years to actually start missing the sport,” Fury said.
“Once I started missing it, the fire re-lit again. I’m just happy that I’ve worked to reach this position again.
“I stand here as an ambassador for mental health, and I am the people’s champion. I’ve got millions of people around the world that look up to me. I’m fighting for those people.”