A few hours have now passed since the announcement of a draw between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury left most observers surprised.
The heavyweight battle at Staples Center in Los Angeles was compulsive viewing – gripping throughout and punctuated with intense moments of drama that raised the heart rate.
Fury, stepping into a huge bout many thought would be too difficult for him at this stage of his comeback, boxed sensationally well. The man known as “Gypsy King” showcased his full repertoire of footwork, feints, head and upper body movement, fast jabs, timing and trap setting. There were moments in the fight when Wilder looked bewildered with what was in front of him. Crucially, though, Deontay stuck to his task and his vaunted power came through for him on two occasions when he sent Fury to the canvas in rounds nine and twelve.
The ninth round knock down came from a right hand which connected behind the ear and had Fury unbalanced before a short left hook to the chin deposited Fury on his backside. The final round knock down was far more serious. A right-left combo, both which rattled the head of Tyson, had the English boxer flat on his back and looking done for the night.
Remarkably, though Fury, or should I say Lazarus, somehow managed to recover and get up before the excellent referee Jack Reiss had reached ten in his count.
The reference to Lazarus is an easier sell as the deeply religious Fury remarked himself during a lively post-fight press conference: “I think I had the holy hands on me tonight and they brought me back. They rose me to my feet on the brink of defeat.”
Amazingly, in the sessions where he was knocked down it could be argued that Fury won the remainder of both rounds. However 10-8 scores for Wilder in those rounds are fine, no argument from me there. Indeed those were the only two rounds I scored in favour of the defending WBC champion. The remaining ten all went to Fury on my card resulting in a 116-110 card for the challenger. I expected similar scores to be returned by the judges but they had other ideas – 115-111 (Wilder), 114-112 (Fury) and 113-113 – a split decision draw.
After witnessing such an entertaining boxing match this left a bad taste in my mouth. Once again, when the world was watching boxing can't get out of its own way. As I alluded to earlier in the piece Wilder deserves tremendous credit for sticking with it and continually trying to land the power shots on Fury. Many other fighters would have lost heart at being so comprehensively out-boxed for so long.
For someone his size Fury shouldn't be able to move the way he does in the ring. His swift footwork must be a nightmare for opponents and his upper body defensive swaggering must be frustrating for those trying to lay gloves on him. There were many moments in this bout where Fury avoided three or four Wilder shots with head/body movement, countered, reset his feet and got back in position to get behind his dominating jab once again. The accumulation of these instances is the reason he piled up the points on my card.
The only aspect of Fury's performance I didn't like was the show-boating he indulged in at times. Hands behind his back, raising his hands above his head, sticking his tongue out at Wilder and dancing around might entertain the crowd but it also looks like the line between being confident and being over-confident or casual has been crossed. Fury wasn't show-boating at the time of either knockdown but perhaps his mindset allowed his concentration to lapse just slightly in both of those moments.
Boxing scoring being so subjective means you are never going to get agreement across the board but barring the two flashes of Wilder's power I find it hard to make a case for the American in any other aspect of boxing scoring criteria.
Two respected former world champions who were both on TV duties for the fight seem to agree.
Lennox Lewis was on the BT Sport broadcast in the UK: “Tyson Fury won the fight for me. I think Deontay boxed very poorly. I just saw Tyson Fury come back from drugs, depression, two years of inactivity and massive weight loss, to out-box the WBC champion who was gifted a draw.”
Paulie Malignaggi on Showtime in America focused on the 115-111 card submitted by judge Alejandro Rochin of Mexico: “This decision is a joke. Alejandro Rochin better never work a day of his life again in boxing. I don't know what else to tell you.”
It must also be stated that the sportsmanship between Wilder and Fury as the dust was settling was exemplary. There was healthy respect as both men spoke in the ring following the result – Wilder believing that the knockdowns were enough for him to have won; Fury polite and thankful that the fight was a good one, refused to complain.
Fury's big night in LA continued at the aforementioned post fight press-conference. Here are some of the highlights:
On his well documented demons –
“I've fought back from suicide, mental health and anxiety and I wanted more than anything tonight to show the word that it can be done. Anything is possible with the right mindset. If you sacrifice and dedicate you can come back. I sit here and I say I was on the brink of suicide, I mean suicide and I came back with the help of Ben Davison and a great team around me we were able to achieve what we achieved tonight.”
On the decision and how he handled it in the ring –
“I was telling my brothers and my family to keep quiet. There was about 8000 travellers, they probably would've smashed this arena up if I had instigated it. I just wanted to be an ambassador for my country and my people.”
The presser ended with Fury leading those in attendance in a sing-along of Don McLean
‘s American Pie
. It was amazing to see and showed that Fury had already put the fight's outcome in perspective. The Gypsy King may not have been awarded a win in the ring but he certainly would have won plenty of new fans and charmed those media members who were present for the sing song.
With the way he fought and conducted himself Tyson Fury is a worthy heavyweight champion for the entire world. He may not have a belt to back that up but in the minds of many he is the number one heavyweight on the planet once again.
Wilder retained his slice of the heavyweight pie in Los Angeles last night but a rematch is inevitable. It will be a huge event and I assume Las Vegas will break the bank to host it. Fury and Wilder will share a ring again next year – next time though there will be far more slices of American Pie in the pot and hopefully a conclusive outcome.