The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury

By Anthony Walker Dec 2, 2018
Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed below are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Sherdog.com, its affiliates and sponsors or its parent company, Evolve Media.

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Deontay Wilder retained the WBC heavyweight championship in a split draw with Tyson Fury on Saturday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. With it came some good, some bad and some ugly:

THE GOOD: HEAVYWEIGHT HORSESHOES, HAND GRENADES


Combat sports exist in a strange bubble that at times seems like it’s not a part of the world in which the non-initiated live. However, there is something about the heavyweights that resonates outside this small but dedicated community. There are plenty of examples of the bigger men not delivering on the action. Limited gas tanks and skills not on par with their lighter counterparts have frequently been their undoing once the opening bell rings. Still, we keep coming back and keep hoping for something special. Nearly the entire sporting world turned its attention to the Staples Center in Los Angeles with those same hopes on Saturday, and it was one of those rare moments that lived up to the massive expectations.

With respective heights of 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-9, the two were undoubtedly a sight to behold for anyone with a passing interest in fights. However, on paper, a meeting between WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder and lineal champion Tyson Fury had all the makings for the regrettable disappointment that tends to follow the big men. On the path to Wilder’s 39 knockout victories, he has been criticized for relying too heavily on his athleticism and unearthly power while neglecting the classic fundamentals of the Sweet Science. Fury was a year removed from a drug- and alcohol-fueled depression that led to massive weight gain and suicidal thoughts.

Fortunately, “The Bronze Bomber” and “The Gypsy King” lived up to the hype. Wild swings in momentum accompanied the impressive defensive footwork of Fury and the unbridled power of Wilder. While the resulting split draw has raised the ire of many fans around the world, the fight itself delivered on the action and suspense.

Beyond what we witnessed at the Staples Center, heavyweight boxing appears to have a bright future. Obviously, the draw makes an easy setup for a rematch between Wilder and Fury. The missing link to the undefeated heavyweight puzzle is WBA, IBF, IBO and WBO titleholder Anthony Joshua. Fury and Wilder have been vocally pursuing a bout with the English superstar and likely used their own pairing to leverage some power away from Eddie Hearn’s top draw. If anything was accomplished in their showdown, a little extra pressure was put on Joshua and his team to make a fight with either man. Whether the rematch comes first -- with Joshua facing the winner -- or his making a date with whoever can settle on mutually favorable terms, Joshua’s presence in the background only adds to the gravity and aftermath of the event.

THE BAD: OCEAN’S TWELVE


Another huge boxing event consumed the casual public and resulted in another controversial draw. Needless to say, the results of the main event left many angry, confused and ready to write off the sport of boxing once again. The 17,698 in attendance, particularly the thousands who were there in support of Fury, were unhappy, to say the least. From my vantage point, it looked like Fury was the better boxer but was simply content to make Wilder miss on his haymakers and various looping punches after shutting down his jab. With that said, he failed to capitalize consistently. The offensive inactivity allowed Wilder to steal close rounds, even if his accuracy was far below the average.

Factor in Fury’s slow start, his rally at the midpoint and seeing his momentum halted by a knockdown in the ninth before rallying again in the 10th and 11th, and the fight looked even going into the final round.

The thunderous left hook that dropped “The Gypsy King” halfway through the 12th round saved Wilder from his first defeat while providing both men with their first blemish. Fury’s resurrection from what looked like sudden death in the arena was a strange embodiment of the fight as a whole. Wilder found himself outboxed in moments while Fury found his good fortune suddenly interrupted by a burst of violence from Wilder. The end result was a 36-minute drama with no real resolution.

As frustrating as the lack of a definitive result can be, it’s a very accurate account of the fight. It’s hard to clearly point to one man as the absolute victor with so much conflicting information. While punch stats have their limitations in assessing a fight, even those show a fairly even contest. The bad part about this draw was not the result itself but the optics. The draw that ended the first meeting between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin was just over a year ago and resulted in tons of controversy leading up to their rematch. With big business comes corruption, and boxing is big business. While promoters are eager to run to the bank for another go ’round, fans and pundits see discrepancies that only lead to more paydays.

While all parties involved will happily take our money again, a fight this close is hard to quantify but does not warrant the frequent robbery cries that follow close decisions. Even with the highly questionable 115-111 scorecard for Wilder turned in by Alejandro Rochin -- much like the 118-110 from Adelaide Byrd in the first Alvarez-Golovkin match -- neither man can claim that victory was wrongfully snatched from him. The higher the level of competition, the closer the fights can be. In a game where millimeters and micro measurements make the difference, sometimes there is no clear winner.

THE UGLY: A PENNY WITH A HOLE IN IT


Besides a terrifying body shot from light middleweight champion Jarrett Hurd that ended Jason Welborn’s night early, the standout finish of the event came from heavyweight Luis Ortiz. He had his way with the grossly outmatched Travis Kauffman. The Cuban showed some of the same patience and skill that pushed Wilder to his limits in March. His win was enough to keep him relevant in the upper echelon of the division.

The flipside of that coin is Kauffman. The man simply took entirely too much punishment. With the big men comes the possibility of one shot prematurely ending a fight, but there’s a limit to the amount of punishment a fighter should absorb before it’s considered a lost cause. When one man appears flustered, is unable to land basic offense and is constantly fleeing from danger, that limit has been reached. When one man has not claimed a singular moment, much less a round, and has been dropped multiple times, that limit has been reached.

After Kauffman endured nearly 28 minutes of almost entirely unanswered offense, referee Thomas Taylor mercifully called a stop to the bout. Kauffman being allowed to continue just shy of the last minute of the last round is a failure of his corner to protect its man. Taylor stepping in earlier may not have been warranted simply because Ortiz was measured enough to keep the swarming onslaughts that usually attract the attention of the officials to a minimum. However, his corner should have been able to tell that danger was just around the bend.

After being dropped in the sixth and eighth rounds, it was clear that Kauffman had nothing to offer and was only still in the fight because Ortiz allowed it. By the time he was dropped in the final round, the end was nigh. There was no reason to keep the fight going at that point.

While fans were settling into their seats at the Staples Center, Adonis Stevenson lost to Oleksandr Gvozdyk by brutal knockout in Quebec. He was transported to the hospital and, according to reports, was listed in critical condition. Let that be a reminder of the risk these men and women take every time they step into competition. Needless damage is one of the worst things that can happen in combat sports. A responsible corner takes much better care of its fighter than Kauffman’s.

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