Five years ago today, unbeaten heavyweights Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder met for the first of three memorable fights (and counting, as we never know, these two may meet again in the future). At the time, Fury was a former world champion who, though never losing his crown in the ring, had been out of action for many months, this as Fury battled the demons of depression.
Coming back with two low-key wins, these fights a far cry from Fury’s huge win over Wladimir Klitschko in November of 2015, Fury surprised many by challenging ruling WBC heavyweight champ Wilder. Wilder was the KO King, his spotless 40-0(39) ledger a most imposing one. Would Fury, who had lost something like 100 pounds since returning from his layoff, be able to live with Wilder’s power, much less defeat it?
The fight that took place at The Staples Centre in Los Angeles gave us many surprises. First of all, Wilder tipped-in at a lowly 212 pounds, to Fury’s 256. The two men had engaged in a fun series of pressers, and now the fight was on.
Wilder vowed to “baptise” Fury. Fury, 27-0(19) declared how he would “beat the bum!”
It turned out that neither man won. Officially. But Fury sure walked away as the hero.
In a fight that was part technical, part explosive, part chess-match, Wilder was outboxed for long periods, yet his vaunted punching power kept him in the fight as far as points won. Fury, looking a little fleshy, was nevertheless loose-limbed and sharp. Wilder, who had let Fury get under his skin, looked angry as he tried to get the KO. Wilder scored in the ninth, dropping Fury as he landed a left hook followed by a right hand. Fury was not badly hurt but he lost the round.
Fury, who enjoyed switching stance during the fight, bossed rounds 10 and 11. Before the most astonishing moment of the fight came. Indeed, what happened in the 12th and final round ranks as one of the most astonishing things ever seen in any heavyweight title fight.
Wilder, sensing he was behind on the cards, finally broke through with genuine power, his right-left combo to the head of Fury landing flush and sending him down and on his back, we thought for the count, if not for long into the night. But somehow, some way, Fury, who “woke up” at the count of 5, shocked the world by getting back to his feet.
Wilder felt for sure he had wiped Fury out. Instead, Fury regained his feet and then had success in the remaining moments of the round, even pushing Wilder back. It was a truly incredible achievement, with Fury pulling off a near-miraculous comeback.
But when it was all over, the judges were split, with one judge scoring the fight in Fury’s favour at 114-112, the second judge having it a wide 115-111 for Wilder, and with the third judge having it all-even at 113-113.
The two rivals would have to meet again, and as we all know, they sure did, with Fury stamping his authority on the rivalry. But five years ago, the talking point was, how the hell did Fury do what he did in rising after being bludgeoned by those two flush bombs in that amazing final round?
Fury himself said he didn’t know how he got back up, hinting that divine intervention may have played a part. Five years later, and that 12th round and what Fury was able to do during it is still inspirational stuff.