By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
In a result as surprising as it was entertaining, Tyson Fury defeated Deontay Wilder Saturday night by TKO to retain his Linear heavyweight title and win the WBC championship belt.
Fury came out with an aggressive strategy and kept Wilder backpedalling for most of the fight. The decisive moment came in the third round when a right hook from Fury connected with Wilder's left ear, sending the former champion to the canvas for the first time since 2011.
The punch that burst the left ear of Wilder. The boxer beat the puncher #WilderFury2 https://t.co/nJQtQzlmiv
Wilder would last four more rounds until his corner threw in the towel in the seventh, but it was clear the damage had been done. The damage done to his ear was enough to visibly upset his sense of balance. Fury would knock Wilder down again, with the Bronze Bomber finding the floor a few more times due to his lack of balance. Wilder was hospitalized after the fight, and his trainer told reporters the fighter would receive stitches for a cut in his ear.
What kind of fallout will the boxing world see from Wilder-Fury II? Here's five takeaways form the most anticipated heavyweight fight in a decade:
Tyson Fury can be a problem on offense
Throughout the buildup to this fight, Fury repeatedly said he goal was to knock down and knockout Wilder. While it came across as typical pre-fight trash talk, he backed it up and then some. The consensus coming in was that this bout would either end with Wilder winning by knockout or Fury winning on the cards, and that if Fury took the fight inside to Wilder he'd be pummeled.
Instead, the Gypsy King came in with a style we haven't seen from him, and it worked. Fury threw 267 punches to Wilder's 141, and landed at a higher rate (30.7 percent to 24.1 percent). The elusive element of his game was certainly on display as well, but that was as well-rounded a fight as he's put together.
This result shouldn't define Deontay Wilder, but it was definitely ugly
Social media was quick to throw around terms like 'overrated' and 'trash' when talking about Wilder after the fight. While it wasn't pretty from Wilder's point of view, Saturday night was more about Fury being an exceptional fighter than Wilder being exposed. The ear injury only compounds things, as losing his legs cost Wilder his punching power, his key trait.
That being said, it certainly wasn't a good look. While we learned Fury can be a true well-rounded fighter, we also witnessed Wilder trying to fight without his powerful right hand, something he couldn't do. He's not accurate enough to win with non-power punches, something he'll have to change if he wants to get back in the championship conversation.
Kenny Bayless had a rough night
As outmatched as Wilder looked at times Saturday night, referee Kenny Bayless seemed equally lost at times. Bayless has a decorated history as a boxing official, and worked Wilder's last title fight against Luis Ortiz, although his history is mainly with welterweights.
Saturday night he repeatedly struggled to separate the fighters when necessary, failed to end the fight when Wilder had clearly lost his legs, and seemingly unnecessarily stopped the fight to deduct a point from Fury in the fifth round. It's hard to say anything he did changed the final outcome, but like with any sport it's always unfortunate and annoying when officials insert themselves in the biggest moments.
Another setback for boxing in America
While Fury has a chance to use Saturday night as a launching pad to becoming an international icon, American boxing fans needed a Wilder win to help carry the sport back into the mainstream in the country. Boxing is at its strongest in the U.S. when there's an American world heavyweight champion, especially an undisputed one, something that hasn't happened since 1992.
Wilder presented a path to that becoming a reality, but after last night it's clear we are further from that reality than previously thought. Wilder-Fury II wasn't quite the turn off to fans Mayweather-Pacquiao was (that fight was just boring), but pending a win in a rematch Wilder doesn't appear to be the fighter to bring the sport back into the American mainstream.
Skip the rematch, let's get to Fury-Joshua
Their first fight went the distance when Fury was on his first year back from a three-year absence. Saturday night, Fury proved that first result may have been a product of his rust more than anything else. If Fury is on his game, Wilder doesn't have enough in his bag to beat him.
The fight contract included a clause where Wilder's team has 30 days to call for a rematch but given the beating he took in Las Vegas, there's some doubt as to whether or not they'll go through with it. If no rematch is called for, all attention and energy should be focused on a unification bout between the WBC and Linear champ Fury and Anthony Joshua and his WBA, IBF, WBO, and IBO titles.
Joshua has been hesitant to fight Wilder or Fury in the past. However, tweets from his manager Eddie Hearn seemed to indicate after the fight that Joshua's camp is now ready. "No need for a third let’s go straight to it in the Summer! #undisputed" Hearn tweeted before retweeting an image of Fury and Joshua in a ring.
A major blockade to boxing's popularity in this century has been the lack of urgency to schedule fights that should be no-brainers (see Mayweather, Floyd). If a Fury-Joshua fight could come together by the end of 2020, that would be enormous progress for the sport.
The true lasting impact of Wilder-Fury II will be decided by what comes next. A rematch likely wouldn't be as big of a draw, and a Wilder win, while unlikely, would strip boxing of the last major undefeated heavyweight and take some juice away from either man fighting Joshua. A Fury win wouldn't change much, although the lead-up to the third fight could give Joshua's camp time to change their minds about a unification bout.
If Wilder doesn't trigger the rematch clause, he could fight Joshua in an eliminator to decide who gets the next shot at Fury. While that might be fun it and of itself, it delays a potential unification fight and could erase the only chance we get to see Fury and Joshua in the ring together.
Wilder-Joshua is still the ideal outcome, especially if it comes later this year while interest is still peaked. There are certainly still hurdles to cross but if they can dot the i's and cross the t's, this will be the most anticipated fight since 2000.
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Hate mail? Let him hear it on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at [email protected].