LOS ANGELES – In the aftermath of their epic heavyweight title fight Saturday at Staples Center, the best in the division since Lennox Lewis duked it out with Vitali Klitschko in the same arena in 2003, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury both spoke of going home and getting some rest.
It’s understandable, but it’s also a huge miscalculation.
After the breathtaking performance they put on and the myriad storylines that came out of their pulsating split draw, Wilder and Fury need to spend the next week on the road, reliving the night of their lives and preparing for what lies ahead.
If done properly, what lies ahead is money, and lots of it. Of course, they can revisit the by-now well-worn old saw that IBF-WBA-WBO champion Anthony Joshua and his promoter, Eddie Hearn, blew it by failing to agree on a fight with Wilder and allowing Fury to step into the breach.
And while the pay-per-view numbers for Showtime don’t figure to be staggering, they set themselves up for a mega-rematch.
Fury entered the fight all but unknown in the U.S. except to the hardest of hardcore boxing fans. On Saturday, I asked my Uber driver if he planned to watch the fight. He uttered the two words that should smack the promoters and those deep inside the boxing landscape into reality:
When I told him Wilder and Fury were fighting for the heavyweight title, he shrugged his shoulders.
“I only follow the Filipino guy now,” he said, referring to WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao.
I tried it again on Sunday when an Uber driver picked me up near Staples Center to drive me to Los Angeles International Airport. What did you think of the fight last night, I asked and, unsurprisingly, he delivered a version of the same answer.
“There was a fight last night? Who fought?”
Showtime, the fight’s promoters and mostly Wilder and Fury should spend the next week or 10 days making certain that doesn’t happen again.
A rematch is in order and could do huge numbers if done properly. And then that winner could go for the undisputed belt in his next fight against Joshua, assuming Joshua keeps his titles and doesn’t again make another poor decision.
Fury’s metamorphosis from a guy who defeated the legendary Wladimir Klitschko for the title in 2015 and dropped immediately into a dark depression into a fun-loving guy who was singing and joking into the wee hours Saturday after the first blemish on his record is hard to ignore.
He repeated the story again Saturday, for those who weren’t aware. Plagued by mental illness and in the throes of a depression after reaching the pinnacle of his sport, Fury became suicidal and ballooned to 400 pounds.
“There wasn’t many people who thought I could come here and box like that after two-and-a-half years out of the ring,” Fury said of his dark period after the Klitschko fight. “It’s not been any secret what I’ve been doing out of the ring. I was living like a rock star. And that ain’t a great thing, by the way, because I’ve had a very low time doing it. I fought back from suicide and mental health and depression and anxiety.
“I wanted more than anything tonight to show the world that it can be done. Anything is possible with the right mindset. If you believe in yourself and sacrifice and dedicate with the right help, you can come back. When I sit here and say I was on the brink of suicide, I mean suicide, and I came back with the help of [trainer] Ben Davison and the great team around me, we were able to achieve what we achieved tonight.”
It was, in many ways, Fury’s night. He not only came back from the brink in his personal life, but in the fight itself, he came back when he was dropped violently with a blazing right and a crunching left hook after it. Yet, he didn’t give up and showed a champion’s heart in willing himself to his feet.
Despite Fury’s nearly superhuman ability to rise and continue to fight, Wilder’s reputation as boxing’s hardest hitter was enhanced. He gave up 44 pounds to Fury and still managed to drop him twice.
More impressive than the knockdowns is when said knockdowns occurred. Fury went down for the first time in the ninth and then in the 12th, when the outcome hung in the balance. Wilder is one of the few heavyweights who can carry his power with him throughout a fight.
That makes him dangerous and will send a message to future opponents that they can never relax for even a second.
The real benefit of this night is in showing a growing and suddenly thriving heavyweight division, and setting Wilder and Fury up for a lucrative rematch.
Now, though, is not the time to take the foot off the gas. Undoubtedly, Wilder and Fury are sick of talking about their fight, but opportunities like these only come around once in a career, if that, for most fighters.
The iron is most definitely hot. Now is when they need to strike.
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