200223 tyson fury
Tyson Fury knocks down Deontay Wilder in the fifth during their heavyweight bout Image Credit: AFP

Las Vegas: After Tyson Fury’s seven-round thrashing of Deontay Wilder in their championship rematch on Saturday night, the statistics suggested that a third showdown between these two massive heavyweights might not be necessary.

Fury, the 6ft, 9in challenger from Manchester landed 82 total punches, compared with just 34 for Wilder, according to CompuBox. And Wilder, who entered the bout with the World Boxing Council title and a 95.3 per cent knockout rate, connected on just 18 power punches, compared with Fury’s 58. Fury landed 13 body punches, one of which dropped Wilder in Round 5, and all of which helped drain the energy and punching power of Wilder.

By nearly any metric, Fury’s win was about as definitive a victory as you are likely to see among evenly matched elites. Unlike the pair’s first fight, in December 2018, which ended in a draw, it left few of the unanswered questions that lead to a high-stakes rematch.

Copy of 2020-02-23T053547Z_1181506715_HP1EG2N0FJNMQ_RTRMADP_3_BOXING-HEAVYWEIGHT-WILDER-FURY-1582437545604
Fury dominated the entire fight on Saturday

But another set of numbers foreshadows a Wilder-Fury trilogy.

Saturday night’s rematch attracted a capacity crowd of 15,816 to the MGM Grand Garden Arena, and the $16.9 million in ticket revenue was the most for a heavyweight bout in Nevada. Pay-per-view sales figures might not be public until midweek, but ESPN and Fox combined to promote the fight, and organisers on both sides expected a commercial success.

Factor in the fight contract’s rematch clause — which gives the loser 30 days to force a return bout — and we might see Wilder and Fury again.

“I can’t wait for the next fight,” said Fury, now 30-0-1. “The rematch, hopefully. If he wants it.”

Wilder, managed by Al Haymon, and Fury, who is signed to Bob Arum’s Top Rank Boxing, were guaranteed a reported $25 million each for Saturday’s fight, plus a portion of pay-per-view revenue. Those figures illustrate the windfalls possible when rival promoters collaborate, and that message resonated immediately with other deep-pocketed boxing businessmen.

“No need for a third,” Eddie Hearn, head of UK-based Matchroom Sport, wrote on Twitter. “Let’s go straight to it in the summer! #Undisputed.”

Hearn’s tweet referred to a potential fight between Fury and Anthony Joshua, who holds the other major heavyweight titles and is signed to Hearn’s company.

Given that a Fury-Joshua showdown could result in a single, universally recognised heavyweight champion, the matchup makes sense. And from the standpoint that two wildly popular English heavyweights could threaten revenue records, a Fury-Joshua pairing seems even more appealing.

Joshua lost in his United States debut, stopped in seven rounds by Andy Ruiz Jr at Madison Square Garden in New York last June. But he regained his titles in December, which helped him restore his marketability overall and in England, where all the heavyweight titles now reside and boxing remains a major mainstream sport.

Copy of 2020-02-23T054611Z_1074160012_HP1EG2N0G0ZN1_RTRMADP_3_BOXING-HEAVYWEIGHT-WILDER-FURY-1582437536255
Fury was celebrating his big win in Vegas

Judging by the cheers Fury received during his ring entrance, and the boos that washed over Wilder when he entered the arena, more than half of Saturday’s crowd supported Fury. Joshua, meanwhile, drew nearly 80,000 spectators to a rugby stadium in Wales for a 2017 title defence against Carlos Takam.

As boxing audiences migrate online — both ESPN and Fox offered Saturday’s card on those platforms — a Fury-Joshua pairing could help the upstart streaming service DAZN monetise its own heavy investment in boxing. The company has committed $365 million to middleweight Canelo Alvarez and another $1 billion over eight years to Hearn’s Matchroom Sport.

But with his emphatic win Saturday, Fury and his team earned leverage over nearly every potential future opponent, and it might not be Joshua.

Arum said Saturday night that the question was not for his camp to answer: “The question is directed to Deontay Wilder.”

Copy of 528877-01-09-1582437531540
Wilder struggled against Fury

Wilder could exercise his rematch clause and return immediately to face a fighter he couldn’t solve Saturday.

“I think the public will want it,” said Wilder’s trainer, Jay Deas. “I think he’ll want it.” Fury’s camp, he added, “will want it.”

In the week preceding the bout, Fury, 31, promised a bigger, more aggressive version of the tactical boxer who had unified the heavyweight title before retiring in 2016, and who had won 27 straight bouts before his 2018 draw against Wilder.

On Friday afternoon, he weighed in at 273 pounds, 16.5 more than in the first Wilder bout and 42 more than Wilder, who scaled a sculpted 231 pounds. On Saturday night, Fury paired his new strength and assertiveness with the impeccable timing that has long made him so difficult to defeat. He controlled distance with a stiff jab, and used it to set up power punches, like the right hand to the ear that dropped Wilder in Round 3 and the left hook to the body that floored him in Round 5.

He also used his new weight to lean on Wilder and to grapple with him in clinches. By Round 4, Kenny Bayless, the referee, looked as tired as either fighter, and in Round 5 he deducted a point from Fury for his constant roughhousing.

Copy of 528896-01-09-1582437539627
Wilder's energy was spent by the end

But all those tactics succeeded in sapping Wilder’s strength and blunting the punching power that helped him salvage a draw in the first bout. Early in the seventh round, a tired, bruised and bleeding Wilder retreated to a corner and tried to shield himself from another Fury salvo. When a right cross from Fury crashed into the left side of Wilder’s swollen face, an assistant trainer, Mark Breland, tossed a white towel into the ring, prompting Bayless to stop the fight.

“Everybody knows I’m a master slick boxer, but that didn’t work last time,” Fury told reporters Saturday night. “We worked our game plan in the ring, and put it into practice in the ring.”

Afterward, Wilder and Deas said they disagreed with Breland’s decision.

“I just wish my corner would have let me go out on my shield,” Wilder said immediately after the fight. “I’m a warrior. He had a great performance and we will be back stronger.”

Copy of 2020-02-23T054540Z_1865325416_HP1EG2N0G04N0_RTRMADP_3_BOXING-HEAVYWEIGHT-WILDER-FURY-1582437534066
The Wilder corner threw in the towel in the seventh round

By the time Breland conceded the fight, Wilder trailed, 59-52, on two scorecards and 58-53 on a third. He also struggled to defend himself, and bled from a cut inside his left ear. After the fight, he received stitches in the locker room, and headed to a hospital instead of the postfight news conference.

Fury arrived to the news conference with trainer Javan Hill, the head of Detroit’s famed Kronk Gym and architect of Fury’s relentlessly effective game plan. He held a ceremonial title belt signifying Fury’s status as the lineal heavyweight champion. An assistant trainer, Andy Lee, who is Fury’s cousin, carried the WBC belt that Fury had just won from Wilder. And Fury commandeered the microphone and strutted across the makeshift stage like a standup comedian.

He later settled into his seat and praised Wilder’s toughness. When asked about future matchups, he said he was open to a third fight with Wilder, as well as a long list of other options.

“Whoever’s next will get the same treatment,” he said.