They came, they saw and left bigger men
The day after the fight, the noncombatants left town unmarked, entertained. A group of Tyson Fury’s fans ran for a cab to the airport and broke the record for the number of large men in one taxi. Inside the hotel they had left, Fury, with a cut face and swollen forehead, was reflecting on the dubious scoring that earned Deontay Wilder a draw in their world heavyweight title fight.
Fury said he just wanted to get home: “I’ve got a little daughter there and she’s probably forgotten me. She’s only a year old.”
A sad look crept over his wife Paris’s face as she lowered her gaze to the table.
For those outside the ring, boxing is a slice of entertainment: a guilty pleasure to some, a completely reasonable form of sport to many. But the day after, you see glimpses of the cost to those who part the ropes. They risk death and serious injury – mental impair- ment in later life. They can be called bums and quitters and frauds by punters. And they are at the mercy of judges’ scorecards, especially in the opponent’s backyard, as Fury was on Saturday.
Wilder, so truculent all week and menacing in his ring-walk get-up, was an entirely different man an hour after the battle. For days he had exuded a furious resentment of all Fury’s provocations. After the fight, though, he spoke like a soul singer: soft, mellow, reflective. Almost the first thing he said was: “Getting hit in the head ain’t cool.”
Pre-fight hype treads a fine line between turning casual spectators off the sport and finding the right emotional touchpoints, which Wilder v Fury did. But even with our adrenalin still flowing, we owe it to them to stop and consider what they have to go through to provide this spectacle, the money from which is no guarantee of happiness.
Both fighters in Los Angeles made a point of articulating the reality behind the 12-round show, the “night out” that left Wilder fortunate to still be in possession of his belt. No wonder, you might say, he was being philosophical.
“We both go home happy,” said Wilder.
“That’s what it’s all about – two fighters whup each other and hug each other at the end, although, in the buildup to the fight, we just wanted to kill each other. That’s the magic part about it; being able to beat each other up, then at the end say, ‘I love you, bro, have a great day, I’ll see you soon’.”