Dramatic Trilogy Ends with Tyson Fury as Boxing's Undisputed Heavyweight King

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistOctober 10, 2021

Tyson Fury, of England, celebrates after defeating Deontay Wilder in a heavyweight championship boxing match Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Chase Stevens)
Chase Stevens/Associated Press

He talks trash before fights.

He grapples and mauls during fights.

He croaks and croons after fights.

But there's one thing Tyson Fury does not do when it comes to fights.

He never loses them.

By beating trilogy foil Deontay Wilder for a second straight time and banishing him from the heavyweight division's upper stratosphere, Fury didn't just retain the WBC title he'd won last time around and earn his third victory (along with a disputed draw) in four career title-belt tries.

He became the undisputed heavyweight champion of a generation.

The chatty, bratty and perpetually colorful Gypsy King finally stopped Wilder at 1:10 of the 11th round of an instant classic at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, scoring the 31st victory and 22nd knockout of a tumultuous professional run that stretches back to a one-round blowout of a 191-pound foe at the old Nottingham Arena in 2008.

Back then, it might have been easy to dismiss him as the latest in a long line of hulking pretenders to the sport's ultimate throne, but the sublime skill subsequently displayed by the 6'9", now-277-pound Manchester native—quick hands, nimble footwork, effective defense—has proven he is much more.

And by the time Saturday night became Sunday morning, there was additional street cred to be had.

Chase Stevens/Associated Press

The 33-year-old endured as hellish a coronation as the big-man division can provide, teetering near the brink of defeat while on the wrong end of two Round 4 knockdowns—and sustaining intermittently heavy damage in nearly every round afterward—before landing his own one-shot show-closer in the 11th.

In three fights with Wilder—who'd stopped every previous foe—Fury was dropped four times.

But he never stayed down.

"It was a resilience. It was a stubbornness. It was an unwillingness to give up to the other guy," ESPN analyst Andre Ward said. "Both guys showed guts. Both guys got up from the floor. Fury had more to give."

Indeed, their dual resilience made for the kind of rivalry capper that left fans breathless and announcers voiceless, eliciting comparisons to past slugfests and legendary trilogies.

Wilder went down and nearly out from a combination in the third, scored his two knockdowns with sledgehammer rights in the fourth and was down again from a counter right after missing a sweeping left hook in the 10th.

The end in the 11th came after a brutal combination left him dazed in the corner, where Fury then just missed with a left hook before following with an overhand right. It landed around Wilder's left temple and rendered him instantly limp—right arm dangling lifelessly over the top rope—before he crashed face-first to the floor.

Chase Stevens/Associated Press

Referee Russell Mora had already begun waving it off by the time Wilder landed, and the now-twice-beaten ex-champ was obviously still in distress upon arriving back to his stool in the corner.

He left the ring without comment soon after and was taken to a nearby hospital for what was labeled "precautionary reasons" by his training team. Fury begrudgingly gave credit to a foe for whom he'd developed an intense enmity.

"I'm made of pig iron and steel, baby," he said. "I was hurt. Wilder is a strong puncher, and he's a tough, tough man. It's worthy of any trilogy in the history of the sport.

"I'm the best in the world, and he's the second best."

Having dispensed with pleasantries, Fury immediately reassumed typical post-fight character and swiped the microphone from Bernardo Osuna to gasp out a version of Marc Cohn's 1991 hit Walking in Memphis that was creakily morphed into Walking in Vegas.

As a singer, he's not much to remember.

As a fighter, he's making himself impossible to forget.

Thanks to Anthony Joshua's second upset loss in three years—this time to bulked-up cruiserweight Oleksandr Usyk two weekends ago in London—Fury stands head and shoulders (both literally and figuratively) above every other current heavyweight. He can make a convincing case for himself as the top heavyweight whose career has taken place primarily within the 21st century.

Sebastian Konopka/Associated Press

No active heavyweight has as many title-fight wins as the man Fury's now knocked out twice (Wilder), and the longest-reigning champion thus far in the 2000s (Wladimir Klitschko) happens to be the man Fury beat by unanimous decision to claim his first share of the crown back in 2015.

And though he's only won three fights with belts on the line, Fury has done so with such authority and versatility that it's difficult to figure many of the early century's other championship flotsam and jetsam would have had much to offer in terms of a competitive matchup. That makes him the best the division has seen dating back to another man on Saturday's broadcast team, Lennox Lewis.

Lewis bridged the 20th and 21st centuries, reigning as WBC champion in 1993-94 and again with one interruption from 1997 until his last fight in 2003. He also held the IBF, IBO and WBA titles.

Asked whom he'd put atop the generational heavyweight list, ex-HBO blow-by-blow man Jim Lampley also deferred to Fury.

"Off the top of my head, yes. He is unbeaten, Wlad was not," Lampley, who called many of Lewis' fights and later worked with him, told Bleacher Report. "Lennox did do [Hasim] Rahman and [Mike] Tyson in 2001 and 2002, but the point is solid. Most who were ringside see [Fury] with two wins over Wilder and a clear win over Wladimir."

Fury, trained for a second time by Kronk Gym disciple SugarHill Steward—the nephew of Lewis' former trainer Emanuel Steward—seemed to embrace the significance of the win and his team's role in it, too.

"October 9, 2021, will go down in history as a great fight," he said. "If it wasn't for Sugar, America's own and Detroit's own, I wouldn't have gotten through that tonight.

"But don't ever doubt me. When the chips are down, I can always deliver."