LAS VEGAS (AP) — After three fights featuring nine combined knockdowns and many unforgettable moments, Tyson Fury finally ended his epic heavyweight rivalry with Deontay Wilder with one last valedictory punch.
Fury got up from two fourth-round knockdowns and stopped Wilder with a devastating right hand in the 11th round Saturday night, retaining his WBC title in a thrilling conclusion to a superlative boxing trilogy.
Fury (31-0-1, 22 KOs) finished Wilder for the second straight time in their three bouts, but only after a back-and-forth evening featuring five combined knockdowns and several apparent moments of imminent defeat for both men. Wilder ultimately ended up facedown on the canvas at 1:10 of the 11th round after a chopping right hand fired from high in the air by the 6-foot-9 Fury.
“It was a great fight,” said Fury, the sport’s lineal heavyweight champion and a former unified world champ. “It was worthy of any trilogy in the history of the sport. He’s a top fighter, and he gave me a real (test) tonight.”
Wilder was knocked down in the third round and appeared to be on his way out, but he improbably rallied to knock down Fury twice in the final minutes of the fourth. The British champion was profoundly shaken, but he also gathered himself and fought on.
Wilder (42-2-1) absorbed enormous punishment and appeared to be physically drained for much of the bout, but the veteran American champ showed his toughness while still throwing power shots on weary legs.
Fury knocked down Wilder again with a concussive right hand midway through the 10th, but Wilder stunned Fury in the final seconds of the round. Fury persevered — and after the referee jumped in to wave it off in the 11th, Fury climbed onto the ropes in weary celebration before a frenzied crowd of 15,820 at T-Mobile Arena on the south end of the Las Vegas Strip.
“Don’t ever doubt me when the chips are down,” Fury said. “I can always deliver.”
Fury then broke into a rendition of “Walking in Memphis,” in keeping with his post-fight tradition of serenading his crowds.
The fight likely concluded one of the most memorable rivalries in recent boxing history, a trilogy defined by two remarkable displays of pugilistic tenacity. Any three-fight series is a rarity in the fractured modern sport, but Fury and Wilder brought out the best in each other through a rivalry spanning nearly three calendar years.
They met first in late 2018 in downtown Los Angeles, where Wilder knocked down Fury twice in the late rounds of an excellent fight otherwise controlled by Fury. The second knockdown in the 12th round left Fury flat on his back and motionless while Wilder celebrated, but Fury improbably rose and reached the bell in a bout judged a split draw.
The second bout was in Las Vegas in February 2020, and Fury’s dominance was much clearer. The British champ battered Wilder until the seventh round, when Wilder’s corner threw in the towel on a one-sided victory and Fury claimed Wilder’s WBC title belt.
In this climactic third meeting, Wilder was somehow even tougher — and he repeatedly came close to beating Fury, a superior technician.
Wilder opened the first round with a strong jab and a good game plan, but appeared to tire early when he didn’t hurt Fury early. In the final minute of the third, Fury stunned Wilder with a shot and then escaped a clinch to land a two-punch combination that put Wilder down to his knees. Fury battered Wilder again with the crowd on its feet, but Wilder made it to the bell.
Fury appeared to be in control until late in the fourth, when Wilder landed a powerful right hand squarely to the top of Fury’s head. Fury staggered and eventually fell to the canvas, only to get up and then be put down again moments later amid the crowd’s stunned roars.
Fury made it to the fourth-round bell, and both fighters landed impossibly big shots without a knockdown in the fifth and sixth. Fury hurt Wilder in the seventh with a series of punches that sent Wilder sprawling back against the ropes.
Fury hurt a visibly exhausted Wilder again in the eighth with two huge shots, and the ringside doctor examined Wilder before allowing the fight to continue into the ninth.
Another damaging right hand from Fury swept Wilder’s legs out from under him in the 10th, but Wilder finished the round, even hurting Fury late.
It ended with one more right hand from close range. Wilder reached for the ropes on his way down, but landed facedown with his eyes glassy.
The bout was another loss for Wilder, but a validation of the former U.S. Olympian’s impressive toughness, as well as his determination to get this third fight even after the one-sided nature of their second meeting.
Last year, Wilder handled his first defeat since the 2008 Beijing Olympics in bizarre fashion. He fired Mark Breland, his longtime trainer who threw in the towel, and then accused him of spiking his water bottle with a muscle relaxant. Wilder also claimed Fury had illegal gloves, among a litany of far-fetched claims that left Fury — no stranger to ridiculous behavior himself — ridiculing Wilder for his lack of professionalism.
“I beat him three times,” Fury said after the finale. “I tried to show him respect, and he wouldn’t give it back.”
But Wilder also exercised the rematch clause in his contract to reclaim his belt, and an arbitrator ruled in his favor after Fury attempted to book a showdown with fellow British heavyweight Anthony Joshua. Fury resignedly agreed to complete the trilogy, but made it clear he expected to stop Wilder again.
It happened, but only after much more drama than even Fury could have imagined.
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