LOS ANGELES — Their fight was ruled a split draw, but Tyson Fury was the real winner of Saturday night’s heavyweight championship bout with Deontay Wilder at Staples Center even if the scorecards didn’t say so.
Both fighters have an argument as to why they deserved to win, and while the end result can be debated there’s no need for conspiracy theories. Wilder gets to retain his WBC belt and stays unbeaten. But Fury walks away with an even bigger prize by validating his standing as the most intriguing personality in the division.
Long after one judge scored the bout 114-110 for Fury, another had it 115-111 for Wilder and the third judge saw a 113-113 draw, Fury led the press tent in a rendition of “America Pie.” And while the lyrics suggest, “This will be the day that I die,” Fury appears to just be getting started.
In an entertaining and dramatic fight that The Post scored 113-113, Fury answered questions about the toll a 2½-year absence from the ring to battle drug and alcohol addiction had taken on his body. The answer is apparently, not much. The 6-foot-9 Brit showed plenty of stamina going 12 rounds and plenty of heart by twice getting off the canvas. The blows he took from the 6-7 Wilder in the 12th round would have finished most fighters. But Fury somehow just beat the count and actually finished strong as he did in the ninth round when he was first dropped.
“Not too many people thought I could come in and box like that,” Fury said. “I’m the lineal champion of the world. I’m not going to lay down because I got punched in the face and knocked down.”
He also proved entertaining. Whether it was the press conferences leading up to the fight, his antics during the fight and his sing-a-longs after the bout, Fury easily transformed from comic to crusader to cocksure champion.
Wilder deserves credit, too. He will learn from this fight. He should have invested more time to the body instead of spending all his efforts headhunting. It’s difficult for any man to solve Fury’s awkward style. His constant assortment of head movements and feints made for a difficult target. It made Wilder hesitant to let his punches go. He didn’t apply enough pressure early, allowing Fury to settle into the fight.
But Wilder was persistent. He first caught Fury in the ninth with a left hook that dropped the challenger, and down on points in the 12th round Wilder was able to connect with a devastating combination that looked like it had finished Fury.
“I guess it was the building up to the fight and wanting to knock him out for the fans,” Wilder said. “But I’m a man of few excuses. I’m happy with my performance. I’m happy with the outcome. We’ll live to see another day. It was a heck of a fight to see who is the best in the heavyweight division.”
The two men were trading toe-to-toe when the bell sounded and a crowd of 17,698 roared its approval. The winner was supposed to face Anthony Joshua, who owns the WBA, IBF and WBO titles. But a Wilder-Fury rematch might be more in demand and easier to make.
“I’m not going to take anything away from the Bronze Bomber,” Fury said. “Deontay Wilder is a heck of a champion. I thought I won the fight. But two men tried their hardest. I’m sure we’re going to put on a good show in the second fight.”
Fury wanted to dedicate his comeback to those battling mental health issues. He was 400 pounds and contemplating suicide a year ago. Now he’s back at the top of boxing.
“Anything is possible with the right mindset,” he said.
The heavyweight division probably won’t have an undisputed champion anytime soon. But it finally has a heavyweight division worth our attention.
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