WILDER vs FURY
WBC heavyweight champ Deontay Wilder escapes from Tyson Fury with controversial draw
‘I SAW HIS EYES ROLL. GOD KNOWS HOW HE GOT UP’
BUT for an act of superhuman recovery, we would all be hailing Deontay Wilder
as the architect of one of the most sensational finishes in heavyweight history. And it’s true, the WBC champion deserves more credit than he’s currently getting for his part in a highly contentious draw that will surely be the fight of the year.
Moreover, were it not for Wilder’s stunning three-punch combination in the 12th and final round inside the Los Angeles Staples Center, Tyson Fury would now be showing off the WBC title and toasting the greatest victory of his colourful career. But those punches and subsequent rise from them only enhanced what was already one of the most incredible stories of the modern era. Forget the controversy and the mind-blowing score of 115-111 handed in by judge Alejandro Rochin in Wilder’s favour. Because Tyson Fury deserves better than for us to only dwell on that.
“I don’t know what fight the judges were watching,” said Fury, from a hotel in downtown Los Angeles, the morning after the fight. “It was the baddest [worst] decision since first Lennox Lewis-evander Holyfield fight. It’s stuff like this that gives boxing a bad name. All the reports will be about how bad the decision was.
“I thought I won the fight comfortably, even though I had to climb off the floor twice. If I didn’t get knocked down twice, I would still have lost on one judge’s card [Rochin’s]. He should be banned from boxing. Or at least go to Specsavers.” Like all the best boxing stories, the headlines kept changing from the moment this fascinating matchup was announced in August. Even as the cards were being read out by Jimmy Lennon Jnr the plot twisted and turned. (The other two being 113-113 from Phil Edwards, and 114-112 – the same as Boxing News – in Fury’s favour from Robert Tapper).
Yet the defining narrative of the showdown must not be those controversial scores or even Anthony Joshua losing significant momentum as the division leader. ³
³ No, this must be about Tyson Fury brilliantly regaining his place among the best fighters on the planet against all the odds. About him taking the best Deontay Wilder could throw at him to craft one of the greatest comebacks of them all.
Everyone knew Fury’s story going into this clash. The obesity, the addiction to booze and drugs. The depression and savage disregard for himself that almost cost him his life. The subsequent return to fitness, the unconvincing comeback bouts against subpar opposition. And the Deontay Wilder-shaped mountain he volunteered to climb, supposedly too soon.
What we didn’t know – what we couldn’t possibly know – was the extent of his recuperative powers.
After outboxing Wilder, outsmarting him and, for large portions of the 12-rounder, outpunching him, Fury’s head, after being positioned with a jab, was cannoned into dreamland by that famed right hand. As the 30-year-old collapsed, Wilder followed with a lethal left hook. The challenger’s head jerked one way and then another. Not one fight-ending blast but two, and in rapid succession. The Englishman landed on his back. Knees bent, arms lifeless and eyes vacant.
As the referee Jack Reiss started to count it seemed like a waste of time. Some journalists even shouted for the American official to stop the fight so Fury could receive treatment. Relief thundered through the champion. Job done, at last. As he danced his victory dance, Fury lifted his head, regained the feeling in his arms and legs and hoisted himself vertical.
If you’ve seen 1978 horror movie Halloween, think of the ending when Laurie Strode presumes she’s killed the villainous Michael Myers and sobs in relief, only for the audience to see him sit bolt upright in the background as the stabbing soundtrack increases in volume. Indeed, Wilder must have felt that similar feeling of dread when he turned to see Fury not only on two feet but jogging on them. All it needed was the Halloween theme to start booming from the speakers inside the arena and the surreal scene would have been complete.
More remarkable than that, even, was what followed.
With two minutes to survive, Fury did so comfortably. He taunted the champion with his hands behind his back, with his tongue out, and set about taking the fight to him. A right hand, and then another, wobbled the increasingly weary Wilder. As the final bell loomed, it was the Alabama man who was the more delicate of the two.
“I don’t know how he got up,” Wilder commented. “I really thought I had him out of there. I hit him with the right and left hook, I saw his eyes roll. God knows how he got up.”
While Fury offered only praise to his opponent, Wilder – though respectful – suggested the count had started too late, that Tyson was given precious extra seconds to recover. But it should be stated on record now that there was no long count. From the moment Fury thudded into the canvas until he assured Reiss he was okay, only 10 seconds had elapsed.
“Fair play to Jack Reiss, he’s a fantastic referee, the best I’ve ever experienced,”
‘FAIR PLAY TO THE REFEREE. HE’S THE BEST REFEREE I’VE EVER EXPERIENCED’
Fury said. “He did say in the changing room before the fight, ‘If anyone goes down, I will give you chance to prove you’re okay. But you must prove you’re okay, otherwise I will stop the fight’.”
It was the second time that Fury had proved he was okay. The first fall, a lighter one, came in the ninth round and at a point when the contest already seemed beyond “The Bronze Bomber”. Wilder chased Fury to the ropes in that session. The challenger ducked but Wilder whacked him on the back of the head with his right hand to send him crashing down. The blow bordered on the illegal, but the American had gained an unexpected foothold.
Which brings us back to the start. Wilder played an enormous part in this contest. If Fury deserves the headlines, it is because of what he had to overcome.
Wilder might look back on the bout and cringe at his mistakes, but his heart and desire to win was simply relentless.
It’s true that after a tight opening few sessions he was struggling for ideas. During the middle rounds and the point when Fury’s reserves should have been tested, Wilder could not break through. Like Wladimir Klitschko three years ago, Deontay found the Tyson Fury conundrum too confusing to solve and too dangerous to attack. And only those who have faced Fury will know how totally demoralising that can feel. The Englishman was so clever in what he was doing. The herky-jerkiness that initially seemed likely to exhaust him, threw Wilder off plan. At one point, Fury evaded a five-punch volley from Wilder without even moving his feet. It was like nothing his rival had experienced before. Each time Wilder came forward, he was punished by counters. And those counters carried enough weight to prevent the all-out onslaught that was promised beforehand. However, Wilder’s own recovery is testament to what he offers a division that is thriving at the top. In every single one of his 41 bouts, his power has played a significant part in the outcome. It’s true he’s wild and crude and lacks the natural skill of some his rivals, but in an era where boxers are bigger and stronger than ever before, Wilder’s ability to short circuit anyone should not be underestimated again. Let’s please not forget that the champion was outweighed by a whopping 42lbs, either. Nor should Ben Davison, Tyson’s young trainer, be left out of the congratulations. He was ridiculed in some quarters when he was appointed as the man to oversee Fury’s return. Davison’s first job, to ensure Fury shifted 100lbs, was achievement enough. That he then guided Fury through this bout adds another layer to his reputation.
It should also enhance the fighter’s standing too. A lot was made of Tyson’s uncle and former trainer Peter Fury’s part in the previous ride to the top. Suggested, several times, that Fury would not be able to rise again without him. With hindsight, that was doing the Traveller’s own efforts a disservice. Because Tyson Fury, whoever is in his corner, really is a special fighter.
So what comes next? The rematch is suddenly the most appealing fight in the division. How Joshua felt while watching his countryman and Wilder, for so long his closest rival, steal the limelight only he will know. But don’t doubt that he will be keen to regain it as soon as possible. And therein lies yet another bonus of Saturday night’s epic battle; there are now three unbeaten heavyweights atop the division, who will all be jostling to prove they’re number one in 2019.
One senses it’s crucial for Fury’s future, when considering his past, that he is granted the chances he deserves.
“You win some, you lose some and, in my case, you draw some,” Fury deadpanned. But whatever the judges ruled, Tyson Fury’s performance on Saturday night was the culmination of the biggest victory of his life.
THE VERDICT Fury rises from the flames in a truly great fight and deserves more than just a draw. But Wilder plays his part, too.
WHAT A PUNCH: Wilder follows a right hand with this left hook as Fury topples
OUT COLD: Fury crumbles and as the count begins [right] he is barely conscious
THE BOSS: Fury’s jab is key in taking control of the ght
FIRST KNOCKDOWN: Fury hits the deck in the ninth but he will recover quickly