“Styles make fights.”
Anybody who follows the sport of boxing should be familiar with the aforementioned age-old adage. The premise is that in boxing, it is the styles of two combatants that will determine how exciting the fight will be for fans.
Two sluggers going full wack-a-mole until one is left unconscious is always an exciting adventure. Two defensive-minded tacticians tiptoeing around the ring is often a recipe for yawns and power naps. However, the Holy Grail for boxing matchups has always been the boxer versus the puncher.
That’s exactly what we got Saturday night when WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder faced off against the lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury.
For 12 rounds, the 6-foot-7, 212.5-pound Wilder stalked his larger opponent. The Bronze Bomber’s recipe for success was simple: throw two jabs followed by a concussive right hand. If unsuccessful, repeat until Fury’s face runs into a “one hitter quitter.”
The 6-foot-9, 256.5-pound Fury had an opposite strategy. Fury was like a gargantuan Joe Calzaghe. He threw quick and crisp combinations, stayed out of punching range and often dodged Wilder’s haymakers. Fury also often mocked Wilder, making faces, waving his arms and talking trash to his opponent.
Both men had successes and struggles. At times, Fury boxed circles around Wilder. In Round 3, Fury landed 11-of-30 blows compared to Wilder’s 4-of-31. At other times, Wilder landed pulverizing punches that could’ve (and should’ve) put Fury to sleep. The biggest example was the most iconic moment of the fight. In Round 12, down on two of the judges’ scorecards, Wilder landed a vicious combination that left Fury seemingly unconscious before he hit the mat.
It was Wilder’s second knockdown of the fight (the first happened in Round 8) and as Fury’s eyes rolled to the back of his head, the WBC champ started dancing and celebrating. The crowd and the Showtime announcer’s went nuts. Wilder’s wife screamed, “I [freaking] love you” from the crowd. The fight was over….except it wasn’t.
After lying frighteningly still for the first six seconds of the referee’s count, Fury came to and somehow managed to get to his feet before the referee reached 10. Not only did he get to his feet, but as Wilder furiously fought to close the show, the “Gypsy King” landed a few solid counter punches that likely altered his seemingly-sealed fate as a knockout victim.
Both fighters made it to the final bell, exhausted and hurt. It seemed like a fight in which neither guy deserved to take an L. Wilder showed the ridiculous power that has made him the most-heralded American heavyweight in the past 15 years. Fury showed the pure boxing skills that defy his size and helped him become the lineal heavyweight champion by defeating Wladimir Klitschko in 2015.
The Showtime announcers and many of the British fans in attendance felt that despite the two knockdowns, Fury had done enough to deserve a victory. Others thought that Wilder’s power carried the fight and that he deserved the win even though he couldn’t finish Fury off in the ring.
The ringside judges couldn’t agree on a victor either as the fight was declared a draw. Alejandro Rochin scored the bout 115-111 for Wilder. Robert Tapper scored the fight 114-112 for Fury and Phil Edwards scored it even at 113-113.
As always happens in competitive fights, a faction of fight fans screamed “robbery.” They felt Wilder, the American, received some home cooking over his British opponent on U.S. soil. That idea defies that Edwards, the judge who scored the bout even, is also British.
It also defies that fact that many of the earlier rounds of the fight were extremely close as neither fighter landed many punches. In fact, during the first eight rounds of the fight, only one round (Round 3) featured a difference of more than two landed punches between the two fighters. And in only four rounds of the fight, did either boxer land at least 10 punches.
That means there were a bunch of rounds where the total punches landed was 7-5, 4-6, 3-5, etc. Fury was superior from a technical aspect but Wilder landed the harder and more impactful punches. I scored the bout 113-113; seven rounds-to-five for Fury with the extra point from the two knockdowns evening things out.
Ridiculous outrage aside, Saturday’s fight was a phenomenal event. It proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that the heavyweight division is back! Despite several (contrived) shoving matches during the promotional tour, after the bout, the two combatants embraced and heaped praises upon each other. The hype, controversy and excitement of the first fight means the rematch clause will likely be activated immediately.
"I'm willing and ready to give Fury the opportunity ASAP. It's only right to give Fury a rematch as soon as possible," Wilder told reporters on a teleconference, according to ESPN. "I'm ready whenever he's ready to do it. I'm ready to give the fans what they want to see and end this talk once and for all."
Fury has yet to commit to an immediate rematch, but the man certainly deserves time to rest, relax and take some time to make a decision. An immediately rematch seems to be a slam dunk considering the goodwill between the two fighters, the praise Fury gave to his opponent and the lucrative paydays that will be created by the spectacular first fight.
Before this bout, I questioned the PPV-worthiness of the event. After the brilliant performance by the two combatants, dropping PPV bread on a rematch is a no-brainer.
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