When you have been where Tyson Fury has been, what’s a bum decision in a boxing ring? The interpretation of the sweet science by Mexican judge Alejandro Rochin brought discredit upon itself by its emphatic violation of boxing norms. So at odds with the evidence was the 115-111 award to Deontay Wilder it served only to hollow out the WBC belt he retained while making Fury the people’s champion in Los Angeles, a far more valuable commodity than a bauble stained by incredulity.
Even the draw bestowed by British judge Phil Edwards stretched the limits of the imagination, despite the visits made to the canvas by Fury in rounds nine and 12. The devastating nature of the latter knockdown allowed Wilder to recover a degree of esteem and softened the sense of larceny that took place. It was theft nevertheless, but not one that left Fury without gain.
The events in the 12th round transformed our perceptions of Fury, elevating him to sacred ground occupied only by the few in boxing, a sport that holds in special regard a man who climbs off the deck. Make that two decks. “It was like the f****** Undertaker. It was like WWE,” said Wilder’s promoter Lou DiBella. “I tell you, very few boxers have ever popped back from one like that. I was running towards the ring, Shelly Finkel [Wilder’s manager] was already up the stairs. Fury’s eyes rolled in his head. And the next thing, he’s up.”
This might just be the quote that comes to define Fury’s career. Fury will tell you that the canvas from which he stirred was stretched across life not a ring. Getting up from a blow to the head, however concussive Wilder’s old one-two might have appeared, was nothing compared to the resurrection that brought him to this contest in the first place.
Forget the two comeback bouts against docile victims. This was Fury’s first competitive engagement for three long years. Since beating Wladimir Klitschko in November 2015, Fury saw his career and his life unravel in a way that should really have ended any prospect of a night like Saturday in the Staples Centre.
A downward spiral precipitated by a failed test for performance enhancing drugs inflicted all manner of wounds, most worryingly to Fury’s mental health. Fury had betrayed signs of a fragile temperament before he dethroned Klitschko, speaking openly about black moods and suicidal tendencies. His attachment to fundamental Christian doctrine further complicated the picture and, at his most erratic, led to the offensive homophobic, sexist and anti-semitic rhetoric that turned him into a pariah.
Though he apologised, it is a long road back from the dog house to acceptance. In sporting terms his rehabilitation is nearing completion. The schooling of Wilder on away turf reinforced the idea of mastery conjured by his victory over Klitschko. No longer can that be seen as a one-off, but the first step in establishing heavyweight legitimacy.
Fury has won many friends too for addressing mental health issues. By speaking openly and honestly about a condition that carries so much stigma, is so misunderstood and affects so many, he is doing his bit to raise awareness and address the problem of chronic underfunding in the provision of adequate and appropriate care. A big shout out for that.
But Fury remains divisive. He has been a hard watch at times and the cartoon braggadocio and what comes with it is a turn-off for many. But by increments he is earning a new respect where it matters, within the squared circle. A rematch with Wilder would be a compelling attraction, allowing either Fury to ram home his superiority or Wilder to redeem himself after what was an underwhelming performance by the WBC champion.
Wilder admits he let Fury corrupt the emotional space. He sought the single punch solution, to silence the mouthy Brit with his signature weapon, the big right hand. When he had Fury off his feet, Wilder had neither the wit nor the strength to finish him. His reputation, and that of the American heavyweight, is in need of some surgery if a record that boasts 39 KOs in 41 engagements is not to be seriously downgraded.
Anthony Joshua, pictured, the third element in boxing’s golden triangle, is the ultimate prize for both Fury and Wilder given the punch he packs in the heavyweight economy. Pound notes inevitably decide who fights whom in this business. Joshua has Wembley booked for April. He could have Fury or Wilder for company, or, more likely, we shall have to wait until Christmas 2019 to receive that gift.