Tyson Fury completed the greatest comeback in modern sports history on Saturday night when he knocked out Deontay Wilder in the seventh round to add the WBC’s version of the world heavyweight championship to his own lineal claim to the title.
The Gypsy King made good on his promise to go for a knockout in the hotly anticipated rematch against a bogeyman regarded as boxing’s most dangerous puncher. He came forward from the opening bell, dropped the champion for the first time in a decade with a right hand to the temple in the third round, then again with a clubbing left to the body in the fifth.
By the sixth, Wilder was bleeding from his left ear, his legs were completely gone and he appeared unable to defend himself as Fury picked him apart. When referee Kenny Bayless waved it off at the 1:56 mark of the seventh after Wilder’s corner threw in the towel, it set off scenes of pandemonium among the sold-out crowd of 15,816 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
“I hit him with a clean right that dropped him and he got back up,” said Fury, who landed 82 of 267 punches (30.7%), compared to 34 of 141 for Wilder (24.1%) according to Compubox’s punch statistics. “He is a warrior. He will be back. He will be champion again.”
The conventional wisdom suggested that Fury would have been well-suited to reprise the tactics from their inconclusive first encounter 15 months ago, when he spent most of the evening boxing Wilder’s ears off with erratic feints, a stubbornly effective jab and deft upper-body movement belying his towering 6ft 9in frame. Even after suffering knockdowns in the ninth and 12th rounds, the latter of which left him seemingly unconscious on descent, Fury came off the floor each time and finished the round coming forward.
Instead, Fury replaced Ben Davison, the astute young trainer who marshaled his astonishing comeback from personal abyss, with the Kronk Gym alumnus SugarHill Steward. He deliberately packed on extra weight for Saturday’s rematch, eating six meals and drinking eight litres of water daily in search of a size advantage against the lighter American, coming in at 273lb at Friday’s weigh-in as Wilder weighed a career-high 231lb.
He insisted he would be more offensively minded for Saturday’s return meeting, where he went off as a slight +115 underdog. But the only thing you know about Fury is you never know.
The 31-year-old from Manchester has now captured WBC’s version of the long-fractured heavyweight championship after winning the WBA, WBO and IBF titles five years ago when he ended Wladimir Klitschko’s decade long reign in Düsseldorf.
Fury never lost those belts in the ring, instead surrendering them into the heavyweight ether amid a 31-month layoff, where they have since been absorbed by Britain’s Anthony Joshua. His return to the summit of boxing’s prestige division on Saturday night seemed unthinkable at rock bottom, when he ballooned to 400lbs and contemplated taking his own life.
Now a summit meeting between Fury and Joshua to unite all four titles and crown an undisputed heavyweight champion for the first time since Lennox Lewis looms as perhaps the richest fight in boxing history – that is, if Wilder doesn’t exercise his option for a immediate rematch.
More to follow.