Shaking his head with a resigned acceptance at the inevitable verdict, Tyson Fury remained calm as his hand, and that of reigning WBC champion Deontay Wilder were raised simultaneously by referee Jack Reiss. The 113-113 drawn scorecard of UK judge Phil Edwards confirmed a stalemate decision in a strangely similar way that British veteran official Larry O’Connell had done in another sizeable UK-American heavyweight clash back in 1999. At that time O’Connell’s 115-115 raised the eyebrows of a certain Lennox Lewis, whom O’Connell adjudged to have drawn with Evander Holyfield in their Madison Square Garden blockbuster. Lewis was among the majority of observers who thought Fury had beaten Wilder in Los Angeles last night.
Another was Paulie Malignaggi. Outspoken as ever, Malignaggi roared: “I don’t know what to tell you. I can’t even do my job!” as he attempted to dissect for his Showtime employers a fight he clearly believed Fury had won. Malignaggi’s ire turned swiftly to judge Alejandro Rochin whose 115-111 total in Wilder’s favour was so baffling it verged on Adelaide Byrd levels of contempt. Bias? Corruption? Incompetence? Who knows. Scoring for the Stateside broadcaster, longtime ringside observer and writer Steve Farhood posted a far more sensible 115-111 in Fury’s favour.
The knockdowns for Wilder, in rounds nine and 12, kept it close. Floyd Mayweather told Jim Gray at ringside earlier in the evening that he had scored the first five sessions as a shutout in Fury’s favour. Floyd often comes across as a little distracted in interviews and will often say the first thing that comes into his head. Fancy hat perched neatly on his cranium, eyes darting furtively in and out of camera shot, “Money” frantically searched for the next cliche to drop. This time his observations were on the money. Tyson’s movement, jab, and footwork were all on point. Meanwhile, heavy-handed Wilder was struggling to let his shots go. Straight hands were missing; replaced by the characteristic looping hooks that would always eventually land against lesser opposition. The self-appointed Gypsy King was not so easy to nail.
Until he slowed down and presented a more stationary target that is. A clubbing shot to the top of Fury’s head, around the ear, dropped him in round nine, offering the champion some belated hope. As it turned out, Wilder was well in the fight, and Fury needed rounds like the 10th to remain in the WBC king’s reach on two of the cards. Fury’s resolve, fighting spirit and ring intelligence pushed him on in that very session. Mentally, as much as physically, bullying Wilder to the ropes, it was an important psychological ploy for Tyson who could easily have gone into his shell after the knockdown. On the contrary, Fury refused to wilt. Wilder’s softly spoken head trainer Mark Breland -an excellent fighter in his day- refrained from inserting the much-needed stick of dynamite into his fighter’s behind. It was Wilder who surely lagged behind, in need of a huge finish.
In the 12th and final round, Deontay upped the tempo. Tyson was dropped again. Heavily this time. Finally, Wilder straightened the right hand – and it landed. The follow-up left hook aided Fury’s fall to the canvas. More fidgety referees might have waved it straight off; Fury can thank his lucky stars that he was competing in an American ring and not a British one. Jack Reiss gave Fury the chance to rise from the canvas and plough on from what appeared like an impossible situation.
The sands of time for Fury were running low. Wilder had plenty of time to finish the execution. Strangely the Alabama man stood off, failing to capitalise on his big moment and seal a classic come-from-behind win. Fury even briefly re-seized the initiative and pushed Wilder on to the back foot. Some even gave him the round. The judges quickly scribbled in their final scores and paved the way for a lucrative rematch. Losing an inordinate amount of weight did not overtly impact upon Fury’s display. The chin held up too as the Manchester heavy showed commendable powers of recovery against one of the sport’s hardest punchers. Battling demons outside of the ring has become Tyson’s forte. The enthralling Staples Center pay-per-view headliner showed he still has plenty to offer inside the ropes as well.