LAS VEGAS — The man who calls himself the “Gypsy King” became the king of boxing Saturday in a stellar performance at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Pay little mind to the three heavyweight title belts that IBF-WBA-WBO champion Anthony Joshua added to his trophy case in December when he outpointed an out-of-shape Andy Ruiz Jr. in Saudi Arabia.
On Saturday, Fury showed Joshua, Deontay Wilder and every other fighter and fight fan in the world how it is done.
Joshua was timid, cautious and uninspired in his one-sided decision over a weight-addled Ruiz. Fury was bold, courageous and strong in going right after the man regarded by some as the biggest puncher in heavyweight history and chopping him down in seven one-sided rounds.
Fury knocked Wilder down with a sizzling right hand in the third and a crunching left to the body in the fifth, and had him staggering and wobbling around the ring for much of their heavily hyped fight for the WBC and lineal heavyweight championships.
After getting a disappointing split draw in their first fight on Dec. 1, 2018, Fury vowed to change his tactics. He changed his trainer, replacing Ben Davison, a close personal friend, with Javan “SugarHill” Steward, and said he’d go forward and knock Wilder out. Fury is a consummate boxer and most laughed off his pre-fight words as nothing more than hype to sell a very popular pay-per-view fight.
That, though, is just what he did, and not without plenty of risk to his health. Wilder scored 41 knockouts in his first 43 fights en route to a 42-0-1 record and the WBC title.
Fury’s defense has always been stellar, but it was his offense that neutralized Wilder’s power Saturday. Fury came out of his corner at the opening bell and winged a right at Wilder’s head that whistled just past the Alabaman’s ear. That set the tone for the night, even if Wilder didn’t know it at the time.
The 6-foot-9 Fury used everything in his arsenal. He was jabbing Wilder and keeping him from getting in punching range. He was throwing, and connecting, on the right hand regularly. And in the few times there were clinches, Fury smartly leaned his 273 pounds on Wilder’s back until referee Kenny Bayless broke it up.
He did everything that Joshua did not do in Saudi Arabia. Joshua won, but he didn’t do anything to help the sport or to prove he was the best in the world. He was timid and cautious and unwilling to accept risk.
Until Joshua lost to Ruiz last June, he’d been the top dog in the division because of his unbeaten record and his ability to fill stadiums. But his rise came when Fury was battling depression and had ballooned to 400 pounds and contemplated suicide.
It’s almost a miracle that Fury was able to go from a suicidal coked out alcoholic into a near-perfect heavyweight fighting machine in less than two years.
He was fit, fast and smart and had a loud portion of the sell-out crowd of 15,816 in his corner. They paid a heavyweight record $16.9 million for the privilege to see his crowning achievement.
He came to the ring wearing a crown and carried on a throne and he showed himself to be the king of boxing, not just by the result but by the approach.
That is the kind of performance that won’t just get his countrymen excited; it’s going to generate interest among fans all over the world.
He’s a witty, well-spoken man who worked tirelessly along with Wilder to sell the fight. He then went out and fought in a manner that made those who paid for it feel like they got their money’s worth, even despite the dreadful undercard that preceded it.
Fury holds all the cards now as he’ll move forward in an attempt to unify the belts. Joshua has a spring date with Kubrat Pulev in a mandatory defense he’s expected to win. After that, all of the pressure will be on him to sign to fight Fury in a bout for the undisputed title.
Joshua lost his advantages not only when he got knocked out by Ruiz last year, but by his tentative approach in the rematch. If you watched that fight and then watched Saturday’s Fury-Wilder fight, which guy would you pay to see fight again?
The heavyweight division is back and it’s Tyson Fury who is driving the train.
More Wilder-Fury 2 coverage from Yahoo Sports: