Hughie Fury's obsession to become a world champion is such that he has, in his words, "sacrificed" having a normal life. He has never had a girlfriend because of his single-minded focus to train and improve as a boxer.

In a revealing interview with Guardian writer Daniel McRae, Fury, a Traveller like cousin and former world champion Tyson, tells of leaving school at the age of 11, and of his feelings when father and trainer Peter, whom he clearly worships, was twice sent to prison.

Fury, who has just turned 23, fights New Zealander Joseph Parker for the WBO heavyweight world title at the Manchester Arena on Sunday morning NZT. The stakes are high for both men - Parker in his second title defence because he is of course the champion, and for Fury because he has lived only for this moment and the odds are that a loss will mean he won't get such an opportunity again.

"I always said to myself: 'I'm going to be world champion.' I wanted to give my heart and soul to get there. And I've sacrificed everything," Fury told McRae.

"I've had no teenage life, no drinking or having friends. I trained like a professional from a young age. No kid has done what I've done - going alone to train with different people who would shout at me when I showed up at their gyms.

"I've never had a girlfriend. I've always concentrated on boxing because my dad said: 'Women and boxing don't go.' He's a wise man so I've listened and here I am - fighting for the world title in my home town."

Fury tells of a life on the margins in the United Kingdom. The Travelling society are often discriminated against, but what makes his story all the more compelling is that he has never considered doing anything else.

Parker, a 25-year-old, is a well-rounded individual, a talented musician and singer who has done a building apprenticeship, but Fury learned to read and write properly only after leaving school.


Fury said: "After a few months of high school I said: 'What's the point when I already know what I want to achieve?' I knew it would mess with my boxing."

Asked if he would have liked a better education, he said: "Yeah, 100 per cent. But in school I never learned anything. I didn't even know how to read or write. Out of school I learned reading and writing, everything, on my own. I would read signposts and texting on phones helped. I managed to get there but it would be nice to have a full education. I sacrificed everything because I always believed I'd become world champion. I said to my dad: 'This is what I want to do,' and he always supported me."

Peter Fury, who had a run-in with Parker's promoter David Higgins in a press conference in London at the start of the week, was happy to allow his son to leave school. He himself threw himself into education for the first time when sent to prison. Peter was jailed twice - the first time in 1994 when he received a 10-year sentence for dealing in amphetamines.

Peter said: "Our culture [as Travellers] has always said it's my responsibility as a father to look after my family. So when your sons get going they are on the way to looking after their wives and children. If he liked school I'd have left him in there."

Peter was jailed a second time in 2006 on a money-laundering charge and needed a special visa to enter New Zealand for Hughie's first scheduled fight against Parker in May. The fight never took place because of a back injury to Hughie. Instead, the pair are set to fight in the Englishman's home town.

Hughie, asked about his feelings when his dad was sent away for a second time, said: "It was never easy not having your dad around - but that was really hard. That second time he was in jail for two years. I visited him every week in Manchester prison and he was always asking about my fights and giving me advice.

"I remember him coming out of prison both times. The first time we were in Lancaster staying with granny and grandad. When we came into the house we heard someone playing the saxophone. It was my dad, in the front room. We weren't expecting him to be home so it was unbelievable. He really has been through bad times and it was horrible seeing your dad going in and out of prison."

Once in jail, Peter decided to make the most of it, saying: "I thought: 'I'm not going to be like most inmates. I'll educate myself'.

"I took English courses, literature, writing and business. I passed 11 exams which had nothing to do with prison. They were outside colleges who would come in when you wrote their exams. My writing wasn't so neat but my ideas were good."