Boxer Tyson Fury apologises for 'tongue-in-cheek' comments
Tyson Fury has apologised for any offence his controversial comments about women and homosexuality may have caused.
Fury, 27, from Manchester, claimed one of boxing's biggest upsets this year when he defeated Ukranian Wladimir Klitschko for the world heavyweight title in Dusseldorf last month.
But his inclusion in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year competition has courted controversy.
Speaking from the stage at the SSE arena in Belfast, he said: "I have said a lot of stuff in the past and none of it is with the intention to hurt anybody.
"It's all very tongue-in-cheek, its all fun and games for me. I am not really a serious type of person.
"Everything is happy-go-lucky with Tyson Fury. If I've said anything in the past that has hurt anybody, I apologise to anybody who has been hurt. It was not my intention to do that."
Fury has faced a barrage of criticism over his personal views since he won the WBA, IBF and WBO belts.
He sidestepped becoming embroiled in more controversy when he declined to add to the storm surrounding his comments on arrival on the red carpet.
Outside a small but vocal group of protesters staged a picket at the arena doors.
Up to 30 gay and equal-rights campaigners held banners and chanted slogans such as "Anti-woman, anti-gay, Tyson Fury go away" and "Tyson Fury hear us clear, we don't want your bigotry here".
They were kept well away from the sports stars but the protest coincided with the arrival of the 7,500 audience and there was some, at times, tense interaction with fans in the lengthy queue.
John O'Doherty, director of The Rainbow Project, an LBGT support group, said: "It is very disappointing that the BBC have ignored public opinion and refused to remove Tyson Fury from the shortlist, even though his late addition came after his disgraceful and inflammatory comments about women and gay people."
Some 130,000 people had signed a petition calling for the BBC to remove the controversial fighter from its shortlist after allegedly homophobic and sexist comments.
The protesters were supported by Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who was attending the sports ceremony alongside the region's Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin.
Mr McGuinness said he stood in solidarity with the campaigners but stopped short of saying the BBC should have excluded Fury.
Mr McGuinness said: "We believe that the remarks that were made by Tyson Fury were disgraceful, they were appalling, they were misogynistic, they were homophobic and they have no place in a modern society. I think those remarks should be withdrawn.
"I am someone who was the subject of an attempt made by the Thatcher administration to put pressure on the BBC to not show a programme that I participated in, so I don't think as a politician that I should dictate to broadcasters what should be on the airwaves or not."
Tennis ace Andy Murray and heptathlete Jessica Ennis-Hill are among the favourites to win the coveted 2015 SPOTY title.
Cyclist Lizzie Armitstead and Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton were also among the list of 12 nominees.
Shadow culture secretary Michael Dugher had called for Fury to be dropped and sports minister Tracey Crouch reminded the boxer that as a sports star, he is role model.
Although Gabby Logan, who will present the awards show alongside Gary Lineker and Clare Balding, said it was right for his sporting achievement to be recognised, she said she would be "disappointed" if he won.
At least one fellow-nominee said he would not share a drink with Britain's world champion boxer at a glittering red carpet reception before the awards ceremony in Belfast.
Olympic long jump champion Greg Rutherford said: "He is not the sort of somebody I would spend any time with socially."