The embodiment of what once made championship heavyweight boxing the most gripping of all U.S. sporting events returned in Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury’s heartfelt, power-punching draw.
“Are you not entertained?” Fury roared as he began his post-fight news conference late Saturday night at Staples Center, where 17,698 who generated a $3.5-million live gate were captivated in watching the Englishman almost miraculously rise from Wilder’s 12th-round knockdown – both events saving each man from defeat.
English judge Phil Edwards, selected as part of a concession Alabama’s Wilder made in not retaining a U.S. judge for the bout, scored the fight 113-113 after Mexico’s Alejandro Rochin was swayed by Wilder’s two knockdowns and awarded him a 115-111 score while Canada’s Robert Tapper gave the nod to Fury, 114-112, for his boxing acumen.
The outcome makes it highly likely that a 2019 rematch is coming, and while Fury’s promoter, Frank Warren, is pushing for a site in England like Wembley Stadium, the financial rewards available in Las Vegas will likely place the rematch there.
“How did I get up? … I don’t know. I had a holy hand upon me tonight that brought me back … I’m not the lineal champion of the world for nothing. I’m not going to lay down because I got punched in the face and got knocked down,” Fury (27-0-1) said afterward.
“And no matter what anybody says, Deontay Wilder is a hell of a champion. He showed incredible talent. I’m not the easiest man to fight, as you can see, but he persevered.”
The performance, as former three-belt heavyweight champion Fury returned from an extended battle with depression, cocaine use and alcohol abuse while ballooning to 400 pounds, was the type of theater produced for decades by American heavyweights like Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson became names forever etched in the sporting landscape.
“It puts me on up there,” said Wilder, whose title reign since 2015 has been accompanied by chides that his opposition is lacking and his skills aren’t finely honed. “There’s still work to be done. Boxing fans hold high expectations for us because they always dwell in the past, but we can make the future better right now.
“Boxing would be boring if everyone knew how to throw a proper jab, a proper right hand, a proper left hook. What would be so special? Styles make boxing unique and special, and if styles make great fights, why criticize it? I know my style, and it’s not going nowhere. We’re on the right road and the heavyweight division is well alive.”
That was never more evident than when Wilder unleashed the fury of his right hand and Fury did something wild by rising to referee Jack Reiss’ 10 count at around the 9.5-second mark of the 12th.
“It’s not been any secret what I’ve been doing outside the ring … living like a rock star, and that ain’t a great thing,” Fury said. “I fought back from suicide, depression, anxiety, and I wanted more than anything tonight to show the world that it can be done.
“About a year ago today, I was 400 pounds, in terrible shape. When I was down [in the 12th round], I was representing everybody who suffers around the world. I couldn’t stay down. I had to get up and show you have to continue, and if you can carry on, anything is possible.”
Wilder didn’t take the easy way out, either.
He said he had no idea what the scores were when he started the 12th, and his full pursuit of Fury was rewarded by landing a crushing right to the face and a following left hook that flattened Fury on his back.
“I wanted to knock him out for the fans, [for] my first pay-per-view,” Wilder said. “I wanted, as a champion, to seal the deal.
“But we live to fight another day and do it again for you guys. It’ll be easier to hit him. I’ll be more patient. I was over-shooting my punches. I was too anxious. My emotions got the best of me and the game plan,” to pound the body and emphasize accuracy on head shots, “went out the window.”
The drama places the focus of a rematch over Wilder’s ongoing pursuit of England’s unbeaten three-belt champion Anthony Joshua, who has put off Wilder.
Fury said Saturday’s fight happened because he texted Wilder to apologize for Joshua’s rebuffs and said he was the man who would fight for his country.
“It’s no secret Joshua didn’t want this fight because Deontay Wilder is the fiercest puncher in heavyweight history … he has lightning fists,” Fury said. “No wonder A.J. didn’t want this fight. He can’t move like me. He’d be nailed. A.J. would’ve never got out of the way of Wilder.”
Wilder called his post-fight position a “win-win.”
Fury was hailed for keeping his cornermen and supporters calm inside the ring as the scores were read. He estimated that with nearly 10,000 of his Traveler followers in attendance, any display of outrage might’ve triggered a riot inside Staples Center.
He knows another bout – and the riches it’ll provide – remains, and Fury was so thrilled by his Saturday showing, he took to closing his news conference by exuberantly singing “American Pie,” emphasizing one line in particular.