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Sinn Fein's Maskey comes out fighting on Tyson Fury's side as he says public must decide who scoops sports award

By Allan Preston

Published 16/12/2015

Hard hitting: Tyson Fury
Hard hitting: Tyson Fury
Former fighter: Alex Maskey
A young Alex Maskey in the ring

Sinn Fein MLA Alex Maskey, has defended contentious boxing champion Tyson Fury ahead of this Sunday’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards show in Belfast.

Mr Maskey, a former amateur boxer, met world champion Fury while serving as Lord Mayor of Belfast and argued that winning “one of the most coveted prizes in sport” should be enough to have him on the awards shortlist.

And he said it was up to the public to decide who wins the award.

Fury has been criticised since an interview with the Mail on Sunday in which he said: “There are only three things that need to be accomplished before the devil comes home: one of them is homosexuality being legal in countries, one of them is abortion and the other one’s paedophilia.”

The heavyweight king was also accused of sexism after a YouTube video emerged of him saying Olympic heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis-Hill “slaps up good”, before adding: “A woman’s best place is in the kitchen and on her back — that’s my personal belief.”

In November, Mr Maskey took to Twitter to congratulate Fury on his heavyweight victory over Wladimir Klitschko last month.

“Delighted for Tyson Fury winning the biggest prize in the ring and in the champ’s own hometown base too. Just glad now had the faith in him.”

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph yesterday, Mr Maskey still had praise for Fury, but was reluctant to comment on the furore that has surrounded the boxer in recent weeks.

“He is what he is, obviously, and he said what he had to say,” the South Belfast MLA said.

He added: “He made a number of local community visits and everyone thought he was very good. Certainly my impression was that he gave young people plenty of time.

“He didn’t have a sense of himself as an important person. He was very grounded.”

In September this year, Fury said he wanted to enter politics and hoped to become MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale. Having a mother from Belfast, he said that he had taken inspiration from Mr Maskey, who was the first Sinn Fein Lord Mayor of Belfast.

Meanwhile, a number of gay rights organisations plan to protest at the Sports Personality of the Year Awards ceremony at the SSE Arena this Sunday.

John O’Doherty, Director of The Rainbow Project, said: ‘It is very disappointing that the BBC has 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.

“An excellent boxer Tyson Fury may be, but his extremely callous and erroneous remarks about our community make him an unworthy candidate.”

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