Quintessential outsider Fury a champion in all but name
Epic comeback win only foiled by judges who allowed Wilder cling on to his crown
Tyson Fury lands with a right during the WBC World Heavyweight title fight against Deontay Wilder in Los Angeles. Photograph: Tom Hogan/Inpho
Ultimately, Tyson Fury did win.
He could not beat the judges, but he beat the odds of life. And, in one of the many interviews he gave after drawing with Deontay Wilder in Los Angeles on Saturday night, he laid out priorities that will always mean more to him than mere victory in a boxing match.
As Dave Coldwell, who expertly guided Tony Bellew’s career, remarked on Twitter, Fury “might not have a belt with him when he comes back to the UK, but he’ll feel like a champion when he walks the streets.”
Turning to his inquisitor’s camera in the corridors of the Staples Center – a venue more used to the quieter musings of basketball players – Fury spoke above the post-fight anger that had gathered on his behalf to address an audience with whom he shared a greater concern.
“For all the people out there with mental health problems,” he said, “I did it for you guys.”
He could have spoken, too, to those suffering souls addicted to alcohol or drugs. Or the homeless, to whom he has pledged a lump of his estimated £8m earnings. He knew all these experiences. He would have a captive congregation, too, in the travelling community for whom he is king.
There is nothing about exclusion with which Fury is not achingly familiar. It is often said boxing is a sport for outsiders. Fury comes from outside the outsiders. He talks to and for people who will never be insiders. It is why he genuinely does not value money. The currency he deals in is loyalty – to his own.
Fury and Frank Warren gambled well in taking this fight when Anthony Joshua and Eddie Hearn did not like the numbers that Lou DiBella threw their way. They were playing a longer game, and knew the pot would grow the longer a unification fight was allowed to simmer.
Now, though, the calculations change. On this showing, Joshua will be even more convinced he has the measure of Wilder – by name and nature – who boxed poorly, for the most part.
As for Fury, however, those 12 quality rounds have brought him to a pitch of excellence nobody could have envisaged when he came back from his self-imposed longueur a year or so ago as a 28-stone drunk.
When Fury said before this fight that winning one of his titles back three years after beating Wladimir Klitschko would be “not much” in his restructured life, it was dismissed as the ramblings of a man who has struggled for a solid grip on reality for years.
Surely, he was repeatedly asked, it would be the most heroic effort for him to conquer the American ogre, who had knocked out 39 of his 40 opponents, and whom he acknowledged was the most dangerous puncher in the sport.
No, he insisted.
Once you have been to the top of the mountain, you’ve seen the ultimate view. You’ve done it, he said. Doing it again could never be the same.
Except this was a different mountain, a lean, muscled brain-buster, a fighter who could barely contain his own power. But Fury did not view his task as survival. He would win through self-belief, talent and bloody-mindedness.
Despite his best efforts – without argument, reaching the high-point of his skills – the officials wrenched matters from his control more effectively than Wilder threatened to, outside the two knockdowns.
That the British judge, Phil Edwards, concluded Fury’s dominance for all but two – or maybe three or four – of the 12 rounds justified a call of 113-113 is a mystery.
But more problematic was the card of Mexico’s Alejandro Rochin, whose view of the first four rounds was at odds with nearly everyone whose eyes witnessed them. He gave them all to Wilder. For those who have not seen the fight, it is worth a rewind.
So, the pain was multiplied. Disappointment joined the fleeting physical bruises of absorbing the most potent leather in the business, the second knockdown looking as conclusive as any Wilder has inflicted on his victims.
But, from a state of near paralysis on his back after shipping a long right and a chilling left hook, Fury rose like a mummy from a crypt. He threw off his bandages and stomped after his tormentor, briefly threatening to rip his head from his shoulders.
Wilder was mightily relieved when the final bell sounded. And, of course, the rancour was forgotten. The manufactured animus was almost the most unbelievable component of the deal, one struck in five minutes, according to Fury.
Both parties said a rematch is more likely than either Fury-Joshua or Joshua-Wilder. Perhaps.
Nevertheless, Wilder can thank his fists and those 10-8 rounds for keeping him in the picture at all. His connections might be talking up a rematch, but he knows he has a lot of work to do if he is not to endure a repeat of those frustrations against an opponent whose style could hardly be more nightmarish for him.