Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder concluded their trilogy with one of the great heavyweight wars in October. John Dennen reported from an extraordinary week in Las Vegas
TYSON FURY and Deontay Wilder put each other through a kind of hell, one that was astonishing, at times frightening and, frankly, exhilarating to watch throughout. It’s hard to believe any other fighters could have endured the punishment they subjected one another to. Ultimately it was Fury’s remorseless will to win that saw him rise, twice, from brutal knockdowns, both in the very same round, and walk on through Wilder’s shots. Walking on, that is, through the heaviest blows “the biggest puncher in the history of the sport,” as Tyson himself put it, could muster to end their last battle with the defining punch of the hundreds the two have traded. Theirs is a rivalry that’s stretched from 2018, encompassed three enthralling fights and finished with the most dramatic contest of them all at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Fury enjoys boxing. He relishes the instinctive skill he can put to work in the ring. But here we didn’t see the type of Fury that mesmerised Wladimir Klitschko with feints and footwork six years ago in Germany. This was something else. A world heavyweight championship fight of extraordinary ferocity. It fused the elements that had made the first two Fury-Wilder bouts so compelling and then layered the drama on thicker still.
Fury has natural boxing skills, engrained in him over long years of practice in the ring and gym, but on this night he was drawing on different instincts. He was calling up something more primal, an elemental desire to fight, to bring on the pain that comes with it and to endure himself.
In the days before the bout, Fury was the familiar figure of mischief, ridiculing Wilder’s litany of reasons, excuses really, that had become increasingly implausible as to why the American had been ‘cheated’ out of their second fight. In reality that had been a heavy defeat for Wilder. Yet Deontay refused to admit it, refused to acknowledge it as a knockout because he’d been stopped on his feet and in his mind betrayed by a “disloyal” trainer, Mark Breland, who’d made the right call then and deserved more than getting the sack. Fury had merrily goaded Wilder and his new-look team. Wilder didn’t want to engage. He’d tried to block out the taunts and insults coming back at him. But trying to ignore Fury is like trying to blot out the kind of bad dream that haunts a fitful sleep. By the time of the weigh in, Fury was something altogether more intimidating. Standing up on the scales he wore a wide-brimmed hat, a nod to the wrestler The Undertaker and a reminder of how Fury can rise seemingly from even the hardest knockdowns. No one realised then that he would have to do just that twice over in this third fight.
A towering six foot nine, Fury had looked huge as he weighed in at 277lbs. “I’m probably one of the heaviest heavyweight champions in history,” he said later. Standing on the scales Fury barely looked at the assembled cameras but wheeled on Wilder to point down on him and bellow, “Obliteration!” so loudly it was like a curse. In that moment Fury was a nightmarish apparition. You can’t out-talk Tyson Fury, you can’t outshout him, you can’t get your own words through when he’s in full flow. For fight night the transformation was complete. Fury was ready for war.
Nevertheless, Wilder knew he could hurt him, and a fighter who simply refuses to believe when he’s beaten, despite all the available evidence, can be a dangerous man.
Wilder began the night with a wait. He kept Fury, the world heavyweight champion, idling in his dressing room as the American took his time to enter the ring. But if Wilder’s heart was “rattling” in his chest as Fury’s booming voice had insisted the previous day, at the first bell he didn’t hesitate to engage. He sent punches rattling round Fury’s ribs. Wilder targeted the body with jabs and slinging right hands. That back hand was fast and dangerous. It found its way through.
Fury stepped off him, backing up a couple of paces when Wilder lunged into him. There was power in those body shots, especially when the American caught him at full extension. They gave Fury pause. He spent the first round assessing them. But in the second, Tyson ground forward, leaning his weight down on Wilder when he mauled up close. He would use those clinches as a weapon, boring in on Wilder, draining the challenger’s energy as Wilder tried to heave Fury off him. Deontay had come in a career heaviest, at 238lbs, so he’d be strong enough to hold the Englishman back. But quickly it was exhausting his reserves.
The third round was explosive. Wilder clubbed hard rights down. Even when he half-bowled those punches over, Fury, rearing back, felt the weight of them. But, just as it looked like Wilder was gaining the ascendancy, Fury smashed him into the ropes with a left hook and a right hand. As Wilder reeled into the centre of the ring, an uppercut and a left hook scythed him down.
If it looked in that moment like Wilder was a losing man, he himself either didn’t believe it, or wouldn’t accept it. He rose, he recovered and he put Fury through hell in the fourth round. A straight right blasted in to stagger Fury and have him stumble down. It took him a while to clamber up as well but he managed to beat the count, only for more hurtful punches to catch him, shock him and drop him a second time all in the same round.
He was badly stunned. Fury though has shown remarkable resilience before and this night was no exception. He forced himself upright and didn’t change his approach. He kept on coming forward. Wilder might be the most dangerous puncher in boxing, but with another kind of savagery Fury continued to go for him, however much of his own pain he had to swallow to do so.
“If it wasn’t for Sugar [Hill Steward, trainer], America’s and Detroit’s own, I wouldn’t have gotten through that,” Tyson said. “He told me, he said get your jab working, big guy, and throw that right hand down the middle. That’s how the big dogs do it.”
In the sixth round Fury stuck his jab into Wilder. Even when the American swung for him, Tyson beckoned Wilder on. The American would oblige. Fury though made use of his left, knocking his jab into Wilder’s chin and hurting him with each of those connections. Those jabs had Deontay shaking at times, but he stubbornly kept his legs under him even as he tired and his form became more ragged, round after round. The jabs helped Fury get himself back on top of the fight. He drove heavy rights down after his left, his weight pouring in behind them to send Wilder backwards, tossing him into the ropes at times. He blasted one-twos down and seized Wilder up in those nasty clinches. The American tired. He looked disorganised. Yet even when Fury managed to stun him, Wilder stayed on his feet through these punishing rounds. He kept finding wickedly hard rights to clip Fury with real power.
In the 10th round a reckless left hook soared across. Fury ducked it and came back with a countering right. That shot contained terrible force. It knocked Wilder’s feet out from under him. Wilder’s legs stiffened before he even hit the canvas. Yet the former holder of the WBC belt picked himself up and managed to finish the round well, seeming to stagger Fury as he unleashed wild hooks himself.
Ultimately though it was Fury who found the conclusive finish. He bulled Wilder into the ropes again and then uncorked a monstrous right hook. That sent Wilder spinning down to the canvas. It severed the American, momentarily, from his senses. Fury turned, watching Wilder crumple to the canvas. He knew at once he didn’t need to throw another punch. The Wilder trilogy was over. Fury had won.
“I felt it,” Tyson said. “He was getting tired and he was getting fatigued and I hit him solid with a crunching right hook right inside of the temple. Shots like that they end careers and I just hope that he’s okay. He took a lot of punishment tonight from left uppercuts, right uppercuts, right hooks, right hands, he definitely took some punishment.”
Referee Russell Mora waved it off at 1-10 of the 11th round. That was the last punch of their trilogy of fights and the end of a contest that had seen both men hurt, badly at times, and both showing real fortitude as they rose, again and again, to trade innumerable power punches. It wasn’t the most polished performance of Tyson Fury’s career in terms of pure boxing. But for the level of savagery and unbridled drama, it is unmatched. One of the great heavyweight fights to conclude a historic trilogy.
Tyson Fury is pre-eminent in his era and now the winner of this era’s greatest heavyweight fight. “Let’s just say I’m the lineal champion of my era. I can only be the best of my day and I’ve done that. I’m the best fighter in my era. I’m a generational fighter. I actually feel sorry for all these guys that have to fight me,” he said, “because they’re fighting the fighter of their generation.”
To top off his evening, he parted with his own rendition of Walking in Memphis. It was a night the 15,820 in attendance will never forget. The “Gypsy King,” of course, finished with a song, a victory and a celebration. There could only be one Tyson Fury.
The Verdict Simply unbelievable.
FOR Fury, understandably, next up, comes a rest. “Before I start thinking about fighting other men, I’m going to bask in this victory because tonight was one of my greatest wins, I got off the floor to do it. I’m the big dog in the division,” he said. “Guys from today like Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk and everybody else, they’re all good champions but I’m too sharp and too clever. I place myself right on top of the pile. Any man born, I believe I’ve got a really good chancing of beating him. There is always a way of beating Tyson Fury and I’ve always said it, very, very clearly. Just got to knock me spark out and if you can’t do that, I’ll win and that’s it.”
The WBC, the sanctioning body whose belt Fury holds, will mandate the winner of Dillian Whyte vs Otto Wallin as his next challenger. Mauricio Sulaiman, the WBC president, told Boxing News that: “The WBC has reviewed the complete heavyweight situation and the winner on Saturday night will be allowed one month to try to secure the ultimate unification for the undisputed [crown with Oleksandr Usyk]. If that does not happen then the winner has to fight the mandatory, which is the interim champion. Dillian Whyte is fighting [Wallin for it] on October 30 so we will see.”
Bob Arum, Fury’s promoter, however has a plan to keep the Joshua fight alive. “[Fury-Usyk] would be a big unification but obviously Usyk has an obligation to fight Joshua, Joshua has the right to fight Usyk, so Eddie [Hearn, Joshua’s promoter] would have to sit down with Joshua, I can sit down with Usyk because his manager is a close friend of mine, Egis Klimas, and I’d sit down and put a scenario together that would make sense. Two champions fight, the winner has to fight Joshua. What’s wrong with that? All of the fights are huge. Eddie, from Eddie’s standpoint, runs the risk of just doing Joshua-Usyk and being out of the picture completely,” he told Boxing News.
WHAT THEY SAID
“I did my best, but it wasn’t good enough tonight. I’m not sure what happened. I know that in training he did certain things, and I also knew that he didn’t come in at 277lbs to be a ballet dancer. He came to lean on me, try to rough me up and he succeeded.”
“I’m made of pig iron and steel! [Wilder] is a tough man. He took some big shots tonight. It was a great fight, as good as any trilogy in history. I beat him three times [the first was a controversial draw] and I’m a sportsman and wanted to give him some love and respect.
And he didn’t want to give it back. That’s his problem.”