Saturday night’s heavyweight clash of the titans between champion Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury may not have ended in the result that many hoped for or agreed with, but it has succeeded in capturing the attention of the lucrative casual boxing market.
Skilled Fury is not always in exciting fights, but as far as the American boxing fan is concerned, he is excitement personified. Up-and-down battles with Steve Cunningham and now Deontay Wilder, fused with his vibrant personality, have endeared him to the viewing public. Broadcasters BT Sports and Showtime (with the enigmatic Paulie Malignaggi ranting about the decision) were dissatisfied with the outcome, but focusing intently on the overall decision diverts attention away from how much excitement the bout generated among hardcore and casual sports enthusiasts.
As observers in the UK and beyond railed hard against the scoring, their US counterparts were mostly discussing a different narrative. Scorecards in favour of Wilder (particularly Dan Rafael’s 114-112) were mostly derided, but digging a little deeper it appears that there was more sympathy with cards in favour of the WBC champion than first appeared. After scouring a few YouTube channels and US-based podcasts, there was surprisingly little opprobrium regarding the result. In fact, one podcast I digested had all three contributors comfortably admitting that they had Wilder ahead at the end but could satisfy themselves with the draw.
Rather than disputing whether Fury won, or whether Wilder won, the draw has genuine benefits. Analysts on the likes of ESPN spent Monday morning positively crowing about how exciting the bout was. The 12th round was likened to old-time classics such Bowe-Holyfield. General sports fans loved it; casual boxing fans loved it – the main event and the excitement it generated was under discussion rather than the result. The bout was so enthralling that a rematch is not only expected but anticipated. Who wouldn’t want to see that again?
Rather than lamenting the scorecard of Alejandro Rochin as the cliched “black eye for boxing” or groaning in resignation at how this sport continually shoots itself in the foot when it comes to clearly defining a victor, perhaps we should view the draw as the most positive narrative to emerge.
Plans are already afoot for a money-spinning rematch. Tyson Fury has been making negative comments about Wilder, while the Alabama man has questioned the supposed long count. After the post-fight love-in, the niceties must be shelved, and some hate summoned up to sell a return, a return that promises to be quite the attraction. Fury and Wilder are the talk of the town; people are waiting to shell out to see them settle the score. Observers who had no intention of paying pay-per-view prices (£20 in the UK on BT Sports) are now ready to cough up.
While in one corner there is a sizeable mob sharpening the pitchforks and lighting the torches, ready to head in the direction of Mr Rochin, the Mexican official may have unwittingly set in motion a remunerative series of bouts. Bank balances are set to be boosted, legacies defined, and a clamour is growing Stateside that may even leave Anthony Joshua, now the heavyweight division’s third wheel, looking across slightly enviously at his two rivals’ increasing popularity and marketability