It is a gory wound that sums up the state of the heavyweights. For most of 12 rounds Saturday, blood poured into Tyson Fury’s right eye. It was hard to see.
The morning after, it was hard to see what’s next for a division that always looks to be in a state of chaos.
Fury returned to the United Kingdom on Sunday after getting stitched up after sustaining two cuts, one along the eyebrow and another on the right eyelid, in a unanimous decision over Otto Wallin, a Swede who was as surprising as he was unknown.
Fury needed 47 stitches, according to Top Rank, for a two-inch gash sustained in the third round and a cut on the eyelid suffered about three rounds later at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas in a bout as ugly as it was one-sided.
On the cards, Fury (29-0-1, 20 KOs) won easily. One look at the 118-110, 117-11, 116-112 scores said Fury did what he had to. But one look at his bloodied face says something very different. His fight with Wallin (20-1, 13 KOs) figured to be simple step toward a rematch of his dramatic draw with Deontay Wilder at Staples Center in December.
Wallin was an afterthought in the days before the opening bell. Through 12 rounds, however, he delivered some heavy-handed punishment that raises questions about whether the rematch can happen on Feb. 22.
That was the projected date not long after Fury signed a $100-million deal with Top Rank and ESPN. A calculated waiting game, full of predictable hype and marketing, was all part of the business plan in the buildup for a much-anticipated sequel. But that plan didn’t include 47 stitches. Healing has its own plan, its own timetable.
The question was whether Fury could reasonably expect the cuts to completely heal during the five-plus months before he and his fresh scar tissue would again encounter the rocket right that Wilder employed to knock him flat twice on Dec. 1.
In the immediate aftermath of his decision over Wallin, Top Rank’s Bob Arum and Fury promoter Frank Warren sounded hopeful. Arum said he was told the cuts were “ephemeral.” Warren said during the post-fight news conference at T-Mobile that the doctor there told him that the cuts were deep, yet clean. What they couldn’t know at the time, however, was the number of stitches necessary to sew up the cuts. At about the time they spoke, Fury was at Las Vegas’ University Medical Center getting 47 of them.
Even if Fury heals quickly from what was otherwise a gritty defense of his lineal heavyweight title, there is concern that he won’t be able to get back into the gym for the kind of serious sparring he would need to get ready for Wilder.
“If it doesn’t heal well, the fight might have to be pushed back,” Warren said. “Hopefully, that’s not going to be the case. It depends how it heals. If it’s okay, it won’t be a problem. It’s not just the fight. It’s the training and sparring. He has to be 100%.”
Fury was greeted by some predictable controversy when he got home. His father and former trainer, John Fury, was critical of his son’s performance and trainer Ben Davison.
In post-fight Twitter, John Fury said his son was “weak as a kitten.” On Twitter, he also said that if he continues as he did against Wallin it would “cost him his career.”
In retrospect, there are questions about why Wallin was picked as an opponent for a projected tuneup toward what has been seen as the richest heavyweight rematch in years. Unlike the orthodox Wilder, Wallin is left-handed. In part, the Swede’s southpaw stance might have resulted in the cut on the eyelid. It was blamed on a head butt, which often happens in a match between an orthodox fighter and a left-hander. The first cut was the result of an overhand left from Wallin late in the third.
Before opening bell, Davison said he was fine with a bout against a left-hander. Then, Davison said it would force Fury to stay mentally sharp. Turns out, it left him bloodied and now uncertain about when he’ll fight Wilder.
Predictably, Fury shouted about Wider moments after the scores were announced. With blood still pouring down one side of his face and onto trunks that looked like stained butcher cloth, he called out Wilder.
“Deontay Wilder, I want you next, bum,” Fury said. “All preparation is good. This is me fourth fight back and got me in good preparation for the big boy, the ole ‘Bronze Bomber,’ the big dosser.”
But Wilder might have looked at Fury’s bloody mask and wondered whether he might be fighting the winner of the Andy Ruiz Jr.-Anthony Joshua rematch instead. It is scheduled for Dec. 7 in Saudi Arabia. Ruiz threw the heavyweight division into familiar turmoil in June when he stepped in as a substitute and upset Joshua at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Further controversy and more turmoil followed in the decision to take that rematch to Saudi Arabia.
Then, there was a bloody Saturday in Las Vegas. It didn’t look good. Then again, it looks about the same for a heavyweight division that never seems to change.