THE story of a boy who was named after Mike Tyson continues to astound. The kid grew up to be six-foot-nine and a fighting man who bamboozled opponents with a frame so gargantuan it had no business being so nimble and elusive. He used it to box on the backfoot, to switch, to slip punches, to dance. Then one night, with Mike Tyson watching at ringside, Tyson Fury reinvented his style, planted his feet and produced one of the most impressive heavyweight beatdowns Las Vegas had seen since fans were naming their kids after Mike Tyson.
Tyson, the troubled savage who is now at peace, jumped into the air with his arms aloft at ringside, proud of the man he inspired to fight. Deontay Wilder, dubbed by many as an even bigger hitter than “Iron” Mike was the man forced to take such a humbling and public thrashing in front of him.
Dropped in rounds three and five and stopped in the seventh when his co-trainer, Mark Breland, threw in the towel, Wilder left the ring without the WBC belt he had successfully defended 10 times before. Fury, 51 eventful months after ousting long-term champion Wladimir Klitschko in Germany, is the leader of the heavyweight division again. This time he is loved, not only the WBC champion but the people’s champion with a soaring reputation.
The battered and bewildered Wilder complained about the stoppage, at first thinking it was the actions of the referee Kenny Bayless. Jay Deas, the Alabama fighter’s lead coach, objected too. He had told Breland, a former welterweight champion of high regard, not to throw the towel when he gestured he might at the end of the sixth. Wilder must be allowed to ‘go out on his shield’, Deas said. Yet he was helpless in a corner, his spindly legs barely able to hold him up, his eyes glazed and slow to focus. Go out on his shield? Much longer and he would have been out on a stretcher.
Wilder had already entered dangerous ground and if there are any issues with the ending, they can only be that it came too late. Wilder’s balance was shot to pieces and defending himself was difficult. The fact that Breland, by virtue of not being the head coach, was not permitted to throw the towel under the rules and regulations, should be a moot point.
That the 34-year-old went to hospital in the immediate aftermath, to treat a two-centimetre concha cut in his ear that required seven stitches, should only underline the absolute necessity of the fight being stopped.
Such an injury should partly explain why Wilder’s balance was so poor from the early going. The second knockdown in particular was evidence of that: A left hand up high was followed by one to the body. Wilder’s legs, as he scrambled to get out of the way, crossed and he tripped over himself. There were at least three occasions when he completely lost his footing without taking a punch, careering forwards and backwards like a child attempting to ice skate for the first time.
None of that should detract in any way from Fury’s performance. The injured ear was caused by Fury’s bullying fists, so too the punches that wreaked havoc with Wilder’s equilibrium. Tyson, 31, attacked from the opening bell, sitting down on a forceful jab, cutting off the ring on faultless feet, doing exactly what was required to win and doing exactly what he said he would do all along. He put Wilder under pressure he’d never experienced before and did what many expected Wilder to do to him.
As early as the opening moments, Fury, composed yet spiteful, looked like the winner. And though he took a hefty right hand in the second (which resulted in a sizeable bruise), he never relinquished control. Wilder, by the end of that session, was under severe pressure. Fury was simply walking him down, making it all look so easy and making it look like fighting back was the hardest thing in the world for the American.
A huge right hand dropped Deontay in the third. Badly buzzed, he tried to indicate he had slipped. Fury moved in to remind him what had put him on the deck. Another right hand, the formation of which was perfectly disguised behind his long left lead, crashed into the Wilder’s temple. The ferocity from Fury was astonishing.
He had told the media for weeks beforehand that he was coming to knock Wilder out, that their first fight – which ended in a contentious 12-round draw and saw Fury famously out cold in the last round only to miraculously wake up before he was counted out – had taught him all he needed to know about the “Bronze Bomber”. Yet the media doubted his word. Last week, Boxing News, courtesy of this writer, published an article that predicted Fury would lose inside the distance, that his plan to go for the knockout was either hot air or badly misjudged. Frankly, who am I to doubt Tyson Fury, a fighter who knows more about the complexities of fighting than I ever could.
The all-consuming sensation that the Englishman was about to prove me wrong took hold moments before the fight as he made his way to the ring during one of the most memorable entrances in MGM Grand history. Smoke bellowed from beneath the throne he sat on. He was pushed to the ring by scantily clad women. Relaxation consumed him as sang along to Patsy Cline’s version of the Willie Nelson song, Crazy. He stood up, wearing a plastic crown and king’s outfit he had purchased from eBay, and blew kisses to the crowd who went ballistic with admiration.
If Fury was the villain in Germany, when he outhustled Klitschko over 12 rounds, he was every inch the hero here. As he looked out into the audience, with the 60’s love song still booming through the speakers, he bowed again before stepping into the ring. He was so relaxed, so at ease and so not remotely crazy, despite the theme tune, two scenarios sprang to mind: Either he was preparing to say goodbye or, as it transpired, he was on the brink of the most spectacular performance of his entire career.
Wilder’s own entrance is already destined for infamy. He blamed his defeat on the 40lb costume he wore, that his body was already aching as he stepped into the ring.
“Going up the stairs [into the ring] I knew immediately it was a different change in my body condition. After the second round, I had no legs,” Wilder said. “In the third round, my legs were just shot all the way through. But I’m a warrior and people know that I’m a warrior. It could easily be told that I didn’t have any legs or anything. People asked if there was something wrong. There was something wrong but I tried to bluff. I knew I didn’t have any legs because of my uniform.”
The punches he was taking couldn’t have helped his leg situation either.
Certainly they didn’t help his face which was badly swollen. By the end of the sixth round, Wilder was being blasted with every shot. He opened the seventh with courage but it wasn’t long before Fury’s long arms toyed with the champion’s defences, teasing them, making them look crude and amateurish.
A left-right-left scored in close. Wilder retreated to the corner, desperately hoping to find the one-in-million punch to turn things around. The end was approaching but there would be no miracle.
Wilder tried to cover up as more right hands slammed into him but he could do nothing but take them. It was all over at 1-55 of the round.
The day before at the weigh-in when Fury came in at 273lbs, significantly heftier than in the first fight, there were murmurs that he was not in peak condition. It was all part of the plan that, with the help of new trainer Javan “SugarHill” Steward, was perfectly formed. Former WBO middleweight titlist Andy Lee’s involvement, and the wonderful Kronk connection, played a huge part, too.
But it is the fighter, that kid named after Mike Tyson who grew up to be heavyweight champion of the world, who we must single out for the highest praise. He was gracious and charming in victory while insisting this new style is here to stay. What it really all points to is a boxer of extreme wisdom, talent and – crucially when mapping out greatness – ever increasing versatility.
When motivated and focused, Tyson Fury is a truly special boxer, one who we will likely be talking about as one of the best of them all in years to come.
The Verdict Awe-inspiring from Tyson Fury who, in this form, will be so very hard to beat.