Good, bad, worse: Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder gave us a gem

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A critical look at the past week in boxing

GOOD

Boxing fans dream all their lives of a fight like the one on Saturday in Las Vegas.

Sound like hyperbole? I’ve been covering boxing for most of that past 30 years and have been a fan for much longer. I’ve seen many great fights. And I don’t hesitate to say that Tyson Fury-Deonaty Wilder III was one of the best, particularly if you consider the division and magnitude of the event.

The ebbs and flows. The ability of both fighters to overcome extreme adversity, including four of five brutal knockdowns. The will to fight through exhaustion. And a dramatic knockout to cap off the night.

Those are the ingredients of a classic battle. And the fact it happened on a heavyweight championship stage made it all the more memorable.

Fury gave a truly remarkable performance, the greatest of his career. He wasn’t fighting the same man he overwhelmed and stopped in seven rounds last year. He was face to face with a warrior bent on revenge and the powerful right hand that could exact it.

The Englishman took a walk through hell, including two knockdowns in the fourth round that would’ve ended the night of most heavyweights. He withstood the assault, continued to battle and finally stopped his brave, but beaten nemesis in the 11th round to retain the title he took from Wilder in their last fight.

I can’t say with certainty but I believe Fury might’ve clinched a place in the International Boxing Hall of Fame on Saturday night. These type of performance in these type of fights tend to create legends.

Wilder? The former champ lost a fight but undoubtedly gained legions of fans with his courageous effort. That might not mean much to him now but it will in time.

There were no losers in this incredible fight.

***

BAD

I hate the fact that Fury can’t fight Oleksandr Usyk immediately for the undisputed heavyweight championship.

That matchup would be best for the sport, having a single, recognizable king in the glamour division. No heavyweight in the four-belt era has ever possessed all the hardware. And, of course, the fans would embrace it.

Alas, Usyk is expected to face former titleholder Anthony Joshua sometime early next year. The relatively small, but talented cruiserweight-turned-heavyweight stunned Joshua and the boxing world by winning a unanimous decision and three of the four major belts last month.

Fury could fight the winner of the Usyk-Joshua rematch for heavyweight supremacy but that could be a year from now. And, as we know, anything can happen in that time to prevent the fight from taking place at all.

We have no choice but to be patient and hope.

In the meantime, Fury has some worthy potential opponents for the spring. Dillian Whyte would be a compelling foe, particularly in the U.K. Maybe Fury fights there next.

I also like Andy Ruiz Jr. or Robert Helenius for Fury, if promotional rivalries can be overcome. Ruiz has his history with Joshua, which makes him a compelling story. And Helenius has now destroyed Adam Kownacki in consecutive fights, rejuvenating his career.

You can bet that Fury will give us a show both before and during his next fight, whomever the opponent is. And, of course, he almost certainly will continue to build his legacy by having his hand raised.

Then, if we’re lucky, it will be on to either Usyk or Joshua.

***

WORSE

One must feel for Wilder.

The man swore that we’d see a different fighter from the one who was stopped in seven rounds by Fury in February of last year. And we did. However, he ended up suffering the same fate. He has now lost back-to-back fights to his rival, which is a significant step backward in his career.

Of course, we understand the bitterness he surely is feeling right now.

We can only hope that he will come to understand the gift he gave us on Saturday. Wilder lost a fight but he gained untold admiration from those who saw the fight, which might not lead directly to another title shot but is precious nonetheless.

Few believed Wilder could give Fury much of a fight after the beating he took the last time. In the end, he turned a mismatch into an unforgettable war through sheer determination.

Wilder is known primarily as a puncher. And we knew he was tough, as he showed in his first fight with Luis Ortiz and in the final moments of his last fight with Fury. He wanted to continue. However, we didn’t know he was this kind of warrior, the kind who would risk it all to emerge victorious.

How many times in that fight did he appear to be on the precipice of demise only to somehow find more energy and battle back? I doubt I was alone when I thought during one of those moments, “My God, how is he doing this?”

Indeed, he would’ve gotten up from his third and final knockdown. He simply couldn’t, which referee Russell Mora recognized immediately. Wilder had given more than enough.

If a fighter can lose by an 11th-round knockout and emerge as a winner, Wilder is that fighter.

***

RABBIT PUNCHES

I was impressed with heavyweights Frank Sanchez and Jared Anderson, who won their fights on the Fury-Wilder undercard. Sanchez (19-0, 13 KOs) fairly easily outboxed Efe Ajagba (15-1, 12 KOs) en route to a unanimous decision. And Anderson (10-0, 10 KOs) stopped overmatched Vladimir Tereshkin (22-1-1, 12 KOs) in two rounds. Who’s most likely to win a heavyweight title? Tough one. Sanchez, a product of the Cuban amateur system, is an excellent boxer but doesn’t seem to have a warrior mentality. That could hinder him longterm. Anderson seems to be the complete package but he’s young, only 21. It’s too early to get a bead on him. I’ll be wishy washy: I won’t be surprised if both of them end up with a title one day. … Robert Helenius (31-3, 19 KOs) has brought his career as elite heavyweight back to life with back-to-back victories over Adam Kownacki (20-02, 15 KOs), including a beat down that ended by disqualification on the Fury-Wilder card. The 6-foot-6½ Finn seems to be better than ever 37, which might not be good news for other top heavyweights. This guy is a threat to anyone. …

Slugger Edgar Berlanga (18-0, 16 KOs) received a stiff test from Marcelo Coceres (30-3-1, 16 KOs), surviving a ninth-round knockdown to win a unanimous decision in a competitive fight on the Fury-Wilder card. Berlanga didn’t look like an elite fighter. It’s starting to look as if he won’t live up to the hype. … The biggest surprise on the Fury-Wilder card was former 154-pound titleholder Julian Williams’ split-decision loss to Vladimir Hernandez (13-4, 6 KOs). The Williams who defeated Jarrett Hurd by a unanimous decision to win his belts in 2019 probably would’ve found a way to beat the relentlessly aggressive, but limited Mexican. The current version of Williams (27-3-1, 16 KOs) couldn’t do that. Maybe it was an almost-21-month layoff and a spirited effort on Hernandez’s part. Maybe he’s just not the same fighter after his knockout loss to Jeison Rosario in January of last year. … Another winner on Saturday night was new trainer Malik Scott, Wilder’s trainer. He produced a different fighter from the one who was dominated by Fury last year. His took a significant step in his career as a mentor.

Related

Deontay Wilder: 'I did my best, but it wasn't good enough'

Tyson Fury stops Deontay Wilder in gripping heavyweight war

Frank Sanchez outboxes, easily outpoints Efe Ajagba

Robert Helenius pummels Adam Kownacki again, wins by DQ

Jared Anderson puts Vladimir Tereshkin away in second round

Edgar Berlanga survives stiff test against Marcelo Coceres

Vladimir Hernandez upsets Julian Williams by split decision

Tyson Fury vs. Deontay Wilder: live round-by-round analysis, results, full coverage