By David Robinett at ringside
Photos: Esther Lin/Showtime
It is a boxing adage as old as the sport itself, that power is the great equalizer. That rarely has rung more true than in the WBC heavyweight title fight Saturday night between undefeated champion Deontay “Bronze Bomber” Wilder (40-0-1, 39 KOs) and undefeated challenger and lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury (27-0-1, 19 KOs) before 17,698 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
In a fight controlled in large stretches by the inimitable Fury, Wilder parlayed two knockdowns to turn a certain decision loss into a split decision draw. One judge scored the bout 115-111 for Wilder, another 114-112 for Fury, and the third 113-113, allowing Wilder to retain his WBC belt and prompting inevitable and justified calls for a rematch.
As expected, the towering 6’9” Fury presented an awkward target for the 6’7” Wilder, with jittery limbs in constant motion stationed just outside a comfortable countering range. Fury’s gameplan was known to everyone from the outset, fight on the outside using his length and set traps for the occasionally undisciplined Wilder to try and catch him off balance or rushing in. The fight played out as expected, with Fury sticking to his plan, albeit mixing in the occasional showboating.
Meanwhile, you could just see the wheels spinning in Wilder’s head trying to figure out the best way to reach his quarry. Early on Wilder just missed with some big punches but as the rounds progressed Wilder started lunging more and missing by wider margins. Wilder tried going to the body too but, more often than not, his punches landed harmlessly on Fury’s massive elbows. For his part, Fury wasn’t initiating much offense either but was still winning rounds with his long jab and occasional right hand.
Fury had his best offensive round in the seventh, landing multiple left jab, right hand combinations that caused substantial swelling on Wilder’s face. Fury looked to be on his way to a decision victory when the equalizer finally came, a little late but better than never, as they say. A right hook to the top of Fury’s head in round nine dropped the big man after Fury was showboating, daring Wilder to hit him. Although not badly hurt, the knockdown changed the complexion of the fight, prompting both fighters to become more aggressive over the remaining rounds.
To that end, Fury came out the next round much like he did in the seventh, landing several unanswered left hand, right hand combinations to regain the momentum he lost the previous round.
But again, Wilder’s power came to his rescue in the final stanza, with a right hook causing Fury to topple over, before a left hook by Wilder a split second later slammed Fury’s head to the canvas. Lying helpless on the canvas, Fury looked concussed but, remarkably, Fury rose to beat the count and convinced referee Jack Reiss to let him continue. There weren’t any more big punches after that but the fact Fury was even able to get back up from such a vicious knockdown spoke volumes.
In the end, Fury was the better boxer, Wilder was the stronger puncher, and while one can question the margin on the card favoring Wilder, the end result was probably the fairest outcome, setting up a rematch that most fans will look forward to.