“As goes the heavyweights, so goes boxing.” It’s an adage that held true for virtually all of the first half of the 20th century, the 60s, 70s, late 80s, and 90s. It’s also an adage that fight fans conveniently overlooked for much of the 2000s and 2010s, after Lennox Lewis “let the next era begin” and ushered in a wave of dreadful, anti-climactic hogwash.
But despite all the Klitschko-ridden mismatches we have persevered through over the years, fans certainly didn’t forget what a true heavyweight mega-fight felt like. Because when Tyson Fury stepped into the ring to face Deontay Wilder for a second time, a similar electric atmosphere swept the boxing world that can only be felt when two of the best big men step in the ring for the ultimate prize in sports. Lucky for us this time, fans would get a fight that exceeded all expectations.
In front of a packed MGM Grand that broke the record set by Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield for biggest live gate in a heavyweight fight, Fury made the first entrance to the ring on a chariot to the tune of Patsy Cline’s “Crazy”. But theatrics aside, Fury was on a mission to accomplish what practically no one realistically thought he would actually set out to do: come right after the most feared heavyweight puncher in a generation and go for the knockout.
But like always, Fury made good on his promises as he immediately picked up where he left off in their first battle, bringing the fight to Wilder and keeping the “Bronze Bomber” on the back foot. While he had to take several hard right hands to do it, it didn’t take long for Fury to make the most fearsome heavyweight puncher in the world suddenly look reticent, unsure of himself, and completely out of his element. As when we watched Mike Tyson fall to Buster Douglas in 1990, we now saw Deontay Wilder suddenly in the midst of an existential crisis and struggling to compute how the man he once had on the brink of a KO defeat was, out of nowhere spanking him from pillar to post.
While Wilder’s mortality was put on display for much of the first two rounds, the reality of the situation did not sink in until late in the third when Fury decked Wilder with an overhand right. It had landed in a vulnerable spot on Wilder’s left ear and caused his legs to come out from under him, sending him crashing to the deck for the first time in nearly ten years. Deontay made it to his feet, but it was clear his equilibrium was shot, and perhaps more importantly, his self-perceived aura of invincibility was placed in serious jeopardy. For a fighter who prides himself on his destructive “Bronze Bomber” alter-ego, a man who goes out of his way to strike fear into each fighter he steps into the ring against, being placed in this situation on the biggest stage of his professional career was going to be a huge hurdle to overcome.
To Fury’s credit, he did not go for broke following the knockdown, realizing that wounded tigers are dangerous as Wilder has shown to be in the past against Luis Ortiz. “The Gypsy King” continued to take the fight to Wilder, but made sure to smother the “Bronze Bomber” before Deontay could respond to Fury’s onslaught. In addition to Wilder’s equilibrium being compromised, Fury’s sheer physicality was clearly taking its toll on Deontay, as the WBC champion was beginning to show serious signs of fatigue in the fourth round.
By the fifth, Fury was clearly uninhibited in his attack and was practically manhandling Wilder, both in-close or at long range. Fury managed to score another knockdown of the Alabama native with a left hook to the body, but it appeared to be more of a result of Wilder’s general discombobulation than any one particular punch. With blood streaming out of Wilder’s ear, fans were beginning to question if his Thor’s Hammer of a right hand could bail him out of this dire situation. But as hard of a puncher as Wilder is, it is nearly impossible to lean on your power when you have no legs to deliver it from.
As ESPN commentator Joe Tessitore put it in round six, Fury was almost “ragdolling” Deontay Wilder, who appeared to be fighting on pure instinct at this point. Not only that, but Fury was clearly gaining momentum, smelling blood and even going so far as to lick it off Wilder’s ear at the end of round six. Was that too much? Maybe. But hey, it comes with the territory and on this night, “The Gypsy King” was making the ring into his own personal madhouse.
The end came in round seven when trainer and former champion Mark Breland decided he had seen enough and threw in the towel. Both Wilder and assistant trainer Jay Deas were notably disappointed with Breland’s humane decision, as both would have rather had gone out on their shield than be subject to merciful capitulation.
“Deontay’s such a puncher so you have to give him every bit of the benefit of the doubt,” said Deas afterwards, clearly at odds with Breland’s decision to throw in the towel. “I haven’t talked to Mark about it, but we’ll talk about it and figure out exactly what happened there.”
I’m sorry, Jay, but what happened there was that Breland may have saved your fighter’s life, the same way Angelo Dundee may have saved Muhammad Ali’s life when he overrode Drew “Bundini” Brown and forced an end to a completely unnecessary beating at the hands of Larry Holmes. The power Wilder generates is obviously conditional, and it’s nearly impossible to return to devastating form when you’re exhausted, dazed, and have a 273 pound blood-thirsty heavyweight destroyer pouncing all over you. He was hurting, bleeding and possibly concussed. Even taking into account the slim chance Wilder could turn the fight around with one big punch, that was a hypothetical, and highly unlikely, outcome, while the damage he was suffering was very real.
As for Fury, “The Gypsy King” poked fun at how little the boxing world took his chances of scoring a knockout seriously heading into the fight. “Not bad for an old fat guy who can’t punch, aye?”
Fury also stated that he is only starting to perfect his new approach as a more aggressive, offense-minded puncher under the tutelage of new trainer Javan “Sugar” Hill. “We’ve had seven weeks to perfect the style that takes years at the Kronk Gym, in and out. I aim to get back to work straight away, and believe me, we’re going to be putting guys away left, right, and center.”
Wilder does have a contractual right to a third fight with Fury if he so chooses, but if Deontay opts, for whatever reason, to sit out a third fight with “The Gypsy King,” Tyson Fury does have a lucrative alternative on his mind. “If Deontay don’t want the rematch, then let’s go AJ.”
I’m not sure if the 90,000 seat capacity in Wembley Stadium will be enough to quench all the interest in an all-British heavyweight mega-fight between Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua, a fight that would be for every conceivable marble available in the heavyweight division. But something tells me that Fury’s knockout of Deontay Wilder was already the pinnacle achievement of the “Gypsy King’s” celebrated career, the night that he once again did exactly what he set out to do, and that is to shock the boxing world and bring home the bacon on exactly his own terms.