Middleweight world champion Billy Joe Saunders has warned that Tyson Fury might not "see 30 years old" if he is not helped back to health. The 28-year-old heavyweight performed a U-turn within hours of announcing his retirement on Monday (3 October) – but Saunders admitted he is still "very concerned" about his long-time friend's wellbeing.

Fury, 28, has twice withdrawn from a much-anticipated rematch against Wladimir Klitschko, with the Fury camp recently saying he had been declared "medically unfit" to fight. The situation has been clouded further by a report from ESPN which claims Fury tested positive for cocaine in the build-up to the rematch.

"I'm very concerned that he won't see 30 years old. Very concerned," Saunders confessed, according to Sky Sports. "If the public don't get behind him, and he doesn't get the help he needs, it could affect his life and his family's lives forever.

Saunders, the current WBO middleweight world champion, refused to condone Fury's controversial behaviour since he dethroned Klitschko last year – but he has implored the public and the media to throw their support behind the outspoken heavyweight.

"I'm not saying everything he's done's right. Not even a 'You've done right, you've done wrong' - [he needs] 'It'll be alright, don't worry about it, chin up'. Give him a bit of that and perhaps he might see a little bit of light, it might give him a little bit of confidence," Saunders shared.

"I've spoken to him, but he's down, he's very down, he's not in a mood to talk to anybody. He's mentally not there. Nothing shocks me at the moment, because he's not mentally right. He needs help. He's in a bad place at the minute. I know him very well; extremely bad place."

Fury, meanwhile, appeared to retire and unretire from the sport in the space of three hours on Monday afternoon, after he initially said he would walk away from the ring in a foul-mouthed Twitter post. "Boxing is the saddest thing I ever took part in, all a pile of s**t, I'm the greatest, & I'm also retired, so go suck a d**k, happy days (sic)," he said.

Shortly afterwards, however, the undefeated heavyweight insisted he was joking and that he would soon be returning to the ring. "Good news is I'm getting the right help & I'll be back even stronger than before, try & stop me!! God is great, blessed is Jesus (sic)," Fury later tweeted.