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 up the most-feared puncher in the division in a way no-one has done before.
A jab and right hand – the combination with which Wilder has wiped men out repeatedly – sent the American down in the third, stunning the MGM Grand Arena.
Wilder, making his 11th defence, fell again before the round was out – this time a slip – and looked 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 Vegas saw their hero take an age to arrive at the ring on a throne, 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 as he did 15 months earlier in Los Angeles – and his start was rapid, a flurry of hooks prompting chants 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 their first meeting.
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 only the second time in his career.
A right hand behind Wilder’s ear – the same shot with which the American had floored Fury 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.
Wilder was taken to hospital after the fight and didn’t appear at the news conference
Was the weight Fury had gained making the difference? Was it the new training set-up? 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.
Wilder, under-appreciated through half a decade as a champion, knew this was the night he could fully silence doubters. Some 43 fights into an undefeated career his ability was still questioned by many, and scorned by some.
Wilder’s fabled right hand never showed up. It was telegraphed time and again and the Alabama fighter – who was cut close to his left ear – quickly left the arena to go to hospital for stitches on the damage.
Coming in at the highest weight of his career may be offered up as an explanation for his shortcomings, but the gulf between the fighters was huge.
In the years since Wilder first won the title, Fury has claimed three world belts, lost them without fighting amid problems with drugs, alcohol and depression, and gained the kind of weight that meant many assumed his boxing career was over.
Now he is back at the top, with a back-story that has helped shape cult-hero status in the UK and now a burgeoning profile in the US.