On his long and painful road back to the summit of the heavyweight division, Tyson Fury has survived sinking sixteen pints of Stella a day, swelling to 27 stone, an addiction to cocaine, a doping scandal and an aborted attempt to kill himself. Now add to that list a Deontay Wilder overhand right and slashing left hook, which twice sent Fury crashing to the canvas in this most thrilling of heavyweight contests.
Somehow, Fury hauled himself skywards on both occasions to draw this barmy, brutal world title fight, and in doing so he climbed to impossible new heights.
This was a script so plainly implausible that even the well-heeled luvvies who had travelled down from Hollywood Hills turned for the exits scarcely able to comprehend what they had just witnessed. The end result: a split decision draw that sees Wilder fortuitously retain his WBC heavyweight world title, after Fury dominated the early rounds only for Wilder to twice catch him late on as the contest grew increasingly frantic.
Neither man was happy with the outcome. A rematch is not just a formality — but a must. “I had a holy hand upon me tonight that helped bring me back,” a battered and bruised Fury smiled in his post-fight press conference. “But I thought I won the fight. We were away on home soil and I was knocked down twice, but I still genuinely believe I won that fight.”
Not once, but twice, Fury rolled away the stone and stepped back into the light. For so very long, this had been a boxing masterclass to sit alongside that neon-bathed victory over Wladimir Klitschko in Düsseldorf: an exhilarating carnival of movement, showboating, counter punching, ring craft and heart to which Wilder seemingly had no answer. Time and again, the American strode forward in those early rounds looking to uncock that harpoon of a right hand, only to find himself flailing at thin air, like a man trying to catch the rain.
But, in the bitter end, the law of statistics dictated that Wilder would land, as the painful realities of Fury’s extended period away from the sport closed in on him like a cold winter. First in the ninth, when Wilder pinned him cruelly into the corner and unloaded a hateful right hand that bypassed his defence and landed flush on the back of his head. And again in an extraordinary final round, as a cutting right-left combination appeared to render him unconscious.
As Fury lay flat on his back, staring vaguely up at the ring lights like a daydreamer counting the clouds floating past, the glorious fiction that he has so breathlessly proselytised as fact looked set to crumble into dust around him. With one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the sport slipping from his grasp and his eyelids by now impossibly heavy, Fury somehow made it up at nine, saving his skin and salvaging the fight.
Wilder could not believe what he had witnessed. “What an amazing fight, but I have a lot of questions,” he said later. “I don’t know how he got up. And I don’t know why they didn’t start the count earlier. But we don’t make no excuses. I was overthrowing my right hand because I really wanted to get him out of there, and maybe my emotions got the better of me.”
Those fortunate enough to procure a ticket to the gleaming Staples Center, while two blocks away the desperate and downtrodden eke out a pitiful existence in torn tents scattered along the freeway, witnessed a vintage Fury performance before those breathtaking final few rounds. A snarling Wilder wasted no time in striding forward and swinging that huge spindly right arm of his, only for Fury to dextrously lean back with all the breezy leisure of a man reclining into a deck chair, then springing forward on the counter to open a small cut above Wilder's eye.
Perhaps it was at that point, with his home crowd on his back and the blood trickling gently into his eye, that Wilder should have realised he was boxing not in the prize ring, but on a chessboard. But still he marched forward, exchanging stratospheric leading left hooks with Fury in the seventh, desperately attempting to lure his rival into the dogfight we all felt him too intelligent for.
Wilder’s reward: a pair of ramrod rights landed on the break that kept the challenger on top. Not to mention countless moments of cartoonish arrogance from a beaming Fury, who had his arms clasped behind his back one moment, and then raised triumphantly in the air the next.
But such vainglory did not last into the late rounds as Wilder landed with not one, but two devastating shots. It was the second of these that demanded every last ounce of Fury’s strength to survive. Battered by such a spiteful combination, the end looked to be nigh for Fury as his head snapped back off the canvas with the sickening bounce of a ping pong ball. Somehow, he rose at nine.
Later, Wilder feebly attempted to invoke a reprise of boxing’s greatest ever controversy: the “long count” from the Dempsey-Tunney fight of 1927. But it will be Fury, not Wilder, who flies out of Los Angeles on Monday morning with the greater sense of injustice.
Alejandro Rochin of Mexico scored the fight 115-111 to Wilder, Robert Tapper of Canada had it 114-112 for Fury and Phil Edwards of the United Kingdom scored the bout even at 113-113. “What disappoints me is the British judge, I don’t know what fight he was watching,” Fury muttered darkly. “The British Boxing Board of Control needs to have a little word with him.”
Something that is not up for dispute is that this fight needs to happen again, and soon. “One hundred per cent we will do the rematch,” Fury added in the ring, to the cheers of the crowd. His promoter, Frank Warren, was quick to add they want to bring the contest to England. “Of course there will be a rematch,” he said. “And it’s time for Fury to come home, it would be nice to see it in a London football stadium.”
If that fight even has half the drama of this one, it will go down as another classic.
BT Sport Box Office exclusively showed Wilder v Fury and will show Warrington vs Frampton on December 22, find out more at www.bt.com/sportboxoffice.
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