Column: The fists of Tyson Fury live up to the heavy hype
Tyson Fury entered the ring Saturday night on a throne with a crown on his head and walked out of it with the WBC heavyweight championship belt around his waist.
Fury dominated Deontay Wilder in the highly anticipated rematch of the undefeated heavyweights and forced Wilder’s corner to throw in the towel in the seventh round. Fury took almost every minute of every round, knocked down Wilder twice and landed 58 punches to 18 by Wilder.
“The king has returned,” Fury said in the ring after his victory before leading the sold-out crowd of 15,816 at the MGM Grand in a singing of Don McLean’s “American Pie.”
Fury’s win caps one of the great comeback stories in sports history as Fury battled mental and drug problems five years ago and saw his weight balloon to nearly 400 pounds after he defeated Wladimir Klitschko to become the lineal heavyweight champion.
Before Wilder and Fury made their entrances, Lennox Lewis, Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson were introduced to a star-studded crowd that included Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Jon Gruden and Michael J. Fox.
It was a reminder of a time when the heavyweight champion was a household name in this country and when heavyweight championship fights rivaled the biggest championship games in other sports.
After a two-decade hiatus, heavyweight boxing returned to center stage and basked in the national spotlight it used to enjoy.
Not since Tyson, Holyfield and Lewis were facing each other has a heavyweight championship fight garnered the amount of mainstream and national attention as Saturday’s fight between Wilder and Fury.
It was impossible to turn on the television last week and not see the fight being talked about on ESPN or Fox Sports, co-producers of the bout.
Not only did the fight feel big but it delivered on the hype. From the fighters’ grand entrances to each round, the fight lived up to the billing and probably will lead to a third fight in September or October with a mega-fight against Anthony Joshua, the WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO heavyweight champion, in the near future.
Saturday’s fight broke the record for a heavyweight gate in Las Vegas, according to Top Rank president Todd duBoef, with the previous record being the second fight between Lewis and Holyfield in 1999 that drew nearly $17 million at Thomas & Mack Center. That record probably will be broken later this year when Wilder and Fury become boxing’s next great trilogy.
“Deontay Wilder came here tonight and he manned up and he really did show the heart of a champion,” Fury said. “I hit him with a clean right that dropped him and he got back up. He is a warrior. He will be back. He will be champion again, but I will say, the king has returned to the top of the throne!”
It’s appropriate that the Lakers will face the Boston Celtics on Sunday before Monday’s memorial at Staples Center for Kobe Bryant.
There was no team Bryant relished playing and beating more than the Celtics.
My favorite memory of Bryant playing the Celtics came Jan. 31, 2010 in Boston when the Lakers came back from an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the Celtics, 90-89, on a game-winning shot by Bryant over Ray Allen.
The highlight, however, came after the game. As Bryant got out of the shower in the visiting locker room, he was mockingly humming Boston’s unofficial anthem, “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” by Dropkick Murphys, over and over again.
Los Angeles says goodbye to Kobe Bryant on Monday, but his competitive spirit will forever live in the hearts and minds of the people who watched him grow up and flourish.
When the Celtics routed the Lakers in Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals in Boston, Bryant remembered hearing that song constantly so he would play it in the offseason to remember how he felt that night.
“I listened to that song every single day because it just reminded me of that feeling,” Bryant said. “I’m listening to Dropkick Murphys all the time just because I want to remember that feeling.”
Bryant would win his fifth and final title that year when the Lakers defeated the Celtics in Game 7 at Staples Center. It was perhaps the high-water mark of his 20-year career.
“If I lost that championship, I’d be miserable,” Bryant said. “I’d be absolutely miserable.”
The stage for Monday’s memorial for Bryant will be 24-by-24 feet in honor of the number Bryant wore for the last half of his career and will be placed in the center of the Staples Center floor with seats surrounding it. The guest list will not only include current and former Lakers, but several players Bryant mentored.
Oregon guard Sabrina Ionescu, who was one of Gianna Bryant’s favorite players, is scheduled to speak before flying up to take on Stanford that night. The Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings are scheduled to face each other Tuesday, but many players on the Kings, including coach Luke Walton, who played with Bryant, are scheduled to be at the memorial. Golden State’s Steph Curry is expected to attend. The Memphis Grizzlies play the Clippers on Monday night at Staples Center after the memorial and several players from both teams are scheduled to attend as well.
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