Tyson Fury on Saturday retained his WBC heavyweight crown with a spectacular 11th-round knockout of Deontay Wilder, as their trilogy fight delivered a boxing classic.
In an epic battle in front of 15,820 fans at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, both fighters were knocked down on multiple occasions in an enthralling contest full of improbable twists and turns.
Fury looked to have gained the upper hand after flooring Wilder in the third round, only for the 35-year-old from Alabama to respond with two knockdowns that had the English champion clinging on desperately in the fourth.
It was the bigger, heavier Fury — landing the cleaner and more damaging blows — who finished the stronger, and the champion had Wilder down once again in the 10th with a right hook.
Wilder responded bravely to that knockdown by wobbling Fury in return, but the brutal energy-sapping nature of the fight, and Fury’s relentless physicality, finally took its toll on Wilder in the 11th.
With the American exhausted and on the ropes, Fury landed the decisive combination.
A right uppercut scrambled Wilder’s senses before Fury crashed a right hook into his opponent’s temple that sent the challenger tumbling to the canvas, barely conscious.
“Shots like that end careers,” Fury said. “I just hope that he’s OK, because he took a lot of punishment tonight.”
“Don’t ever doubt me,” Fury added. “When the chips are down I will always deliver. I give him the glory for the victory. He’s a tough man — he took some big shots tonight. It was a great fight tonight as well as any trilogy in history.”
The bout was the third installment of an acrimonious rivalry between Fury, the trash-talking self-styled “Gypsy King” and Wilder, the heavy-handed knockout specialist regarded as one of the most destructive punchers in the sport.
Fury had scored a seventh-round knockout of Wilder in their second fight 20 months ago, after the two men shared a controversial draw in their first meeting in Los Angeles in 2018.
The fighters entered the ring on Saturday at their heaviest fighting weights, with Fury tipping the scales at 125.6kg and Wilder at 108kg.
Wilder’s camp said the extra bulk was designed to give their fighter a quick early rounds knockout.
“He caught me twice in the fourth round, but I was never thinking: ‘Oh, this is over,’” Fury said. “He shook me, put me down, but that’s boxing, and that’s life as well. It’s not how many times you get knocked down. You’ve got to keep fighting and keep moving forward.”
Fury persevered — and after the referee jumped in to wave it off in the 11th, Fury climbed onto the ropes in weary celebration. He then broke into a rendition of Walking in Memphis, in keeping with his post-fight tradition of serenading his crowds.
Wilder, who was taken to a Las Vegas hospital following the fight as a precaution, did not speak to the press following the bout.
In brief remarks he acknowledged he had struggled to deal with Fury’s size.
“I did my best, but it wasn’t good enough,” Wilder said. “I’m not sure what happened. I know that in training he did certain things, and I also knew that he didn’t come in at 277 [pounds] to be a ballet dancer. He came to lean on me, try to rough me up and he succeeded.”
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