Deontay Wilder draw against Tyson Fury was the correct result despite Brit’s masterclass
TYSON FURY was denied one of sport’s greatest redemption tales when a final-round knock-down earned Deontay Wilder a draw in an epic WBC world heavyweight title fight.
The Mancunian Gypsy King had failed a drug test, suffered crippling depression and ballooned to 28st in weight after defeating Wladimir Klitschko to claim three belts in 2015.
But he out-boxed the unbeaten champion from Alabama for long stretches with a masterclass of evasion.
Fury was knocked down in the ninth and the twelfth to allow Wilder to hold on to his belt by this finest of margins – with a re-match now almost certain.
Wilder ended ahead on one judge’s scorecard, behind on another and level on that of Englishman Phil Edwards.
The two men showed enormous mutual respect and affection after the result was called – and both taunted Britain’s WBA, IBF and WBO champion Anthony Joshua, who they both claim, ducked a reunification contest with Wilder.
Yet this was a triumph for Fury, who defied widespread predictions that his ring-rust, along with his physical and mental tribulations, would leave him unable to live with Wilder.
In the 28th fight of his pro career, Fury may have lost his unblemished record but he certainly underlined his world-class status with the same sort of slippery ringcraft which had seen off Klitschko.
This man is a true piece of work. He is an erratic motormouth outside of the ring but a true proponent of the noble art when he is dancing and weaving on the canvas.
And while his first knock-down never looked too serious, the combination which floored him in the twelfth looked so decisive that Wilder performed a throat-slitting gesture to suggest it was game over.
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Yet Fury showed extraordinary courage to continue and finish strongly with Wilder unable to finish the job in hand.
The sense of anticipation had been genuine in the build-up.
This promised the essence of great sport – the simple fact that nobody could honestly have a clue what was going to happen.
Fury had been away from elite action for three long years and, since dethroning the great Klitschko in Dusseldorf in 2015, he had been to depths of Hell and back.
Nobody knew how the Mancunian would cope either mentally, given his issues with addiction and depression, or physically, given the gaining and losing of ten stones in weight.
Wilder was explosive, Fury elusive.
But at the end they knew they had helped to make one another as sportsmen of worldwide repute.
There were thousands of travelling Brits but still a significant chunk of empty seats in the 21,000-capacity Staples Center.
Wilder has struggled to find the fame and impact his talent deserves but this was billed as a breakthrough night for the man from Alabama.
The challenger looked supremely relaxed on his ring walk, dancing wildly as his travelling army serenaded him with a chorus of ‘Fury’s On Fire’.
But that was low-key compared to Wilder, who was dolled up in a peacock-feather robe, golden mask and jewelled crown.
Anyone expecting a cagey start from the notoriously slippery Fury would have been surprised by a lively opening round.
Wilder, three stone lighter than the 18st 2lbs Fury, was the more attacking but the Gypsy King finished the opener strongly and played to the galleries with his arms aloft at the bell.
Fury’s jerking and jitterbugging, twitching and twerking must make him a nightmare for any opponent to nail down.
And while Wilder also took the second round, Fury’s exile from the big time – with just two low-key tune-up fights earlier this year – had not seriously affected his agility and speed.
He looked to have edged the third and by the fourth and fifth, some of Wilder’s work was verging on the desperate – those long, flailing arms failing to hit their rapid moving target, with Fury establishing superiority.
Fury was doing plenty of grinning.
He cannot have known for sure whether the old magic was still there until he’d got into the white heat of a proper battle but it was still apparent, all right.
In the seventh, Wilder had him on the ropes with a flurry for punches but Fury produced the best shot – a right hook which buckled the champion’s knees.
Right at the end of the eighth, Wilder produced his most telling work of the night to date with a combination that rocked Fury back on his heels but the bell brought him swift relief.
And a minute into the ninth, Fury was sent crashing to the canvas – for just the third time in his career – with a clubbing right hook to the back of the head.
But Fury was soon back on his feet, showboating, sticking his tongue in a pretty convincing impersonation of a man who had not been badly hurt.
And Fury landed the better shots to win the tenth and eleventh – Wilder, simply wilder and wilder, knowing he had to pull something special out of the bag.
But then, early in the final round, Wilder landed with a crunching right that sent Fury backwards before he flattened the challenger with a left.
The Brit was seemingly down and out, yet he simply did not know when he was beaten and after convincing ref Jack Reiss that he was fit to continue, he finished the contest strongly.
He leapt onto the ropes in his corner to celebrate a ‘victory’ that was far from certain.
And while the audience booed the judges’ decision – they hate a draw in any sport in the States – it was tough to argue that it was not a fair and just outcome.
Fury is an extraordinary fighter – and you can only imagine him being sharper still when these two meet again.