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Published: October 10th 2021
The Tyson Fury–Deontay Wilder boxing trilogy came to a spectacular end on Saturday night in Las Vegas (October 9th 2021) when Fury knocked out an exhausted Wilder in the 11th
round. This was only the fifth trilogy between heavyweight champions in boxing history - after Patterson-Johansson, Ali-Frazier, Ali-Norton and Bowe-Holyfield. The earlier trilogies had all been tied 1-1 after two fights, whereas Fury entered the third fight unbeaten – after a controversial draw (many observers felt he had beaten Wilder on points) and a decisive knock-out victory.
I was unable to watch the fight live, as I would normally have done, because the sports bars in HCMC are closed owing to Covid. So I had to make do with a running written commentary from CBS Sports on my laptop. After the fight I was able to watch a video recording on Youtube.
The ring walks were ludicrous. Wilder – looking vaguely African in a red mask and cape and preceded by a mumbling rapper – entered the ring first. Then Fury – in black and red Roman general’s garb, wearing green boxing gloves, escorted by a cohort of helmeted and shield-bearing warriors – approached the ring to the accompaniment
of AC/DC’s ‘You Shook Me All Night Long
’. Quite the most over-the top ring entrance I have ever seen. If the contest were decided just on ring-walk spectacle, then Tyson Fury was the hands-down winner.
Just before the fight, when asked whether he believed Wilder’s new trainer would make a difference, Fury had said: “No. It’s one shithouse teaching another shithouse how to fight. Both a pack of losers, and they both ain’t worth a sausage. He couldn’t teach him anything. Man couldn’t fight himself, he was a shithouse. So when you’ve got a shithouse teaching another shithouse how to fight, you’re in for a real pack of shithouse cowards.”
Wilder had thrown similar, if less mellifluously phrased, insults. However, when the bell rang for the start of Round 1, all the posturing and badmouthing and braggadocio and showbiz counted for nothing. The time for bullshit and hype was over. Within the 35 square metres of the boxing ring all that mattered now was punches.
Before the fight, I had predicted a points victory for Fury. Although Wilder is a venomous puncher, I was not sure if he could knock Fury out. Knock him down maybe, but not
knock him out. Fury had got up from a Wilder bombshell in the final round of their first fight, so I figured the most likely result was a points victory for the more skilful Fury.
It proved to be a memorable fight because both boxers were hell-bent on attack. No quarter was asked or given. It was an old-fashioned punch-up with five knockdowns. First blood to Fury, when Wilder went down in Round 3. Then Wilder decked Fury twice in Round 4. And in Rounds 10 and 11, Wilder hit the canvas twice. By then he was totally exhausted and way behind on points, but there was a pleasing finality about the knockout.
During the fight, Fury used every pound of his 277lb frame to lean into, bully and make Wilder feel uncomfortable. His left jab was potent, and his right hand was murderous. Wilder’s defensive skills were almost non-existent. He kept his hands low, allowing Fury to tag him at will. Wilder had only one thing going for him: his fearsome right hand. Throughout the fight, he stalked Fury, looking to land the killer blow. In 42 out of the 44 professional bouts he had fought prior
to this one, he had knocked out every opponent - the best KO ratio in heavyweight boxing history. Only Tyson Fury had escaped that executioner’s right hand.
Tyson Fury is no ordinary boxer. He is a colossus, dwarfing other heavyweights in both weight and height. Unlike some heavyweights who look supremely fit (Wilder and Anthony Joshua), Fury has a belly and carries layers of flab around his waist. Beside the beautifully chiselled Wilder, he cuts a bloated and slightly comical figure. How could this ungainly giant with love handles possibly compete with the ‘Bronze Bomber’? Well, appearances can be deceptive. Despite his appearance, Fury was lighter on his feet than the plodding Wilder and had the greater stamina. And, crucially, he is a natural born fighter with a full and varied arsenal, whereas Wilder is a manufactured one-trick pony. Fury’s gypsy roots have given him a strong boxing heritage; his father fought bare-knuckled and unlicensed under the nickname 'Gypsy' John Fury.
By the halfway mark, Wilder was plainly exhausted and throwing increasingly wild and desperate punches. By contrast, Fury was pressing forward methodically, using his left jab to good effect and then exploding his right hand in Wilder’s
face. When Wilder threatened, Fury was happy to smother him in his gargantuan embrace. All the time he was building up a handsome points lead. After Round 4, which Wilder won 10-7 by virtue of his two knockdowns, Fury did not lose a single round.
Fury’s reward for beating Wilder is around $20 million. That includes the pay-per-view revenue. Fury was already the champion, so his status remains unchanged. His goal now is to unify the heavyweight boxing division. He is recognized as world heavyweight champion only by the WBC and the prestigious Ring magazine. The other boxing federations – the IBF, IBO and WBO – recognize Oleksandr Usyk of the Ukraine as champion. Usyk recently defeated Anthony Joshua, and they will probably fight again in early 2022. Fury will surely fight the winner and try to become the first undisputed heavyweight champion of the world since Lennox Lewis in 1999. I think the skilful Usyk is too small to stand much of a chance against Fury, and Joshua is just not good enough.
How good is Fury? Where does he rank in the heavyweight pantheon? I think the quality of present-day heavyweight boxers is rather poor. Deontay
Wilder is clearly the second-best heavyweight around, but he has looked very limited in the trilogy with Fury. Instead of ‘Brown Bomber’, perhaps he should be called ‘Brown Bummer’ or ‘Paper Tiger’. The big question is how Fury would have fared against the champions of yesteryear. My own feeling is that they would have found him a very awkward opponent because of his enormous weight (277 lbs) and height (6’ 9”) and reach (85” – even longer than Sonny Liston’s 84”). I think the young Ali would have danced around him, peppered him with left jabs and won on points. I think the young Mike Tyson might have knocked him out. I think young George Foreman and old Sonny Liston might have overpowered him.
Such speculation is interesting but entirely subjective. When asked during the post-fight Press conference today where he thinks he stands in the pantheon, Fury replied that “without sounding too sharp and clever, I’d place myself right on top of the pile. I believe that I could beat anyone in history. Any man born, I believe I’ve got a really good chance of beating him
.” Well, I beg to differ. I prefer what he said earlier in his speech: “I can only be the best of my day and I’ve done that. I’m the greatest heavyweight of my era, without a doubt
.” And with that we must surely agree.
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