Tyson Fury produced the most destructive performance of his boxing life to end Deontay Wilder’s five-year reign as WBC heavyweight world champion in seven thrilling rounds of their Las Vegas rematch.
The Briton, 31, pummelled his rival in a way few could have imagined following their 2018 draw, flooring him in the third and fifth rounds while constantly backing the most-feared puncher in the division up in a way no-one has done before.
A jab and right hand – the combination Wilder has wiped men out with repeatedly – sent the American down in the third, stunning the MGM Grand Arena.
Wilder, who was making his 11th defence of his title, fell again before the round was out – this time a slip – and was ragged under the pressure, before a right and left hand to the body sent the 34-year-old down in the fifth.
Fury delivered everything he had promised, transitioning from his hit-and-move style to overpower, outwork and bully his previously undefeated rival until the towel came in during the seventh round.
This was more than a world title win, it was a statement – and as Fury was held aloft by his corner after victory was sealed, the days of depression, weight gain and despair that cost him the belts he claimed in 2015 seemed a lifetime away.
Thousands of British fans who had descended on Sin City saw their hero take an age to arrive at the ring on a throne, while sporting a golden crown. It was the only time Fury moved slowly all night.
He hit pads in the ring as Wilder made his ring walk – just like he did 15 months earlier in Los Angeles – and his start was rapid, with a flurry of hooks prompting cries of “there’s only one Tyson Fury” from the crowd.
Actors Michael J Fox and Jason Statham, as well as Super Bowl winner Patrick Mahomes, watched as Fury raised his hand at the end of the opening three-minute round and things began to feel markedly different to 15 months earlier.
He simply did not take a backward step, forcing Wilder to the ropes and ensuring the champion had no say in the pace of proceedings. And in the third round, those who had paid the kind of ticket prices that made this the highest gate ever in Nevada, rose to their feet at the sight of Wilder floored for just the second time in his career.
A right hand behind Wilder’s ear – the same shot the American had floored Fury with nine rounds into their first fight – did the damage. Wilder then fell again as Fury simply bulldozed him. At the bell, the pair glared at one another and Wilder knew he was in a place no fighter wants to be. The Britons sitting ringside did not want to be anywhere else.
Was the weight Fury had gained shining through? Was it the new training set-up he has adopted since their draw? Whatever it was worked to perfection. He was putting on a boxing clinic and a right-left combination to the body dropped the stunned Wilder once more in the fifth.
Fury was docked a point for punching on the break but he did not seem to care or blink at the punishment, instead continuing to feint and twitch to set shots up before unloading on a man who had started a slight favourite. He led 59-52 59-52 and 58-53 on the cards when the towel came in.
During fight week there had been much debate over where this sits in the pecking order of the greatest nights of heavyweight action. There was little consensus. What we know with certainty is this version of Fury is the best yet. This was a masterclass.
Wilder, the under-appreciated champion of half a decade, knew this was the night he could truly silence doubters. Some 43 fights into an undefeated career his ability was still questioned by many and ridiculed by some.
The right hand that boxing is used to seeing but still struggles to explain never showed up. It was telegraphed time and again and Wilder – who was cut close to his left ear – was out of sorts.
The highest weight of his career may be served up as a reason for his shortcomings but the gulf was huge.
In the five or so years since Wilder won the title, Fury claimed three world belts, lost them without fighting in a haze of drugs, alcohol and depression, and gained the kind of weight that saw many dub his boxing career over.
Now he sits back at the top of the mountain, with a back-story that has lent itself to shaping cult-hero status in the UK and a burgeoning profile Stateside.
He may flippantly say this title means little to him. He may continue to threaten to walk away from boxing in the short term. We can be certain he will lead us all a merry dance until the day it is all over. When it is, this win will be remembered.
There will be talk of a third Wilder fight, talk of a historic all-British scrap with Anthony Joshua and perhaps even the allure of Saudi Arabian money given the country’s power brokers were ringside in Las Vegas.
But the next moves can wait for now as here, on the ruthless Strip where dreams are so often dashed, Fury completed his journey from personal despair to sporting glory.
What a ride it has been. Hopefully he is now better placed to once again live with one of sport’s most sweetest of introductions – heavyweight champion of the world.
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