Bob Arum didn’t think the Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury fight was remotely close.
Back then, Arum didn’t have a vested interest in their 12-round fight for Wilder’s WBC heavyweight title. Arum’s company, Top Rank Inc., didn’t become Fury’s co-promoter until a couple months after their December 2018 bout resulted in a widely disputed split draw.
But Arum – surrounded by boxers, managers and trainers as they watched Wilder-Fury on a television in Quebec City, Canada – figured Fury would win comfortably on the scorecards once the resilient lineal champion survived that unforgettable 12th-round knockdown and made it to the final bell at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
“Other than the two knockdowns [in the ninth and 12th rounds], I couldn’t really find a round to give to Wilder,” Arum told BoxingScene.com while discussing their upcoming rematch. “I had it very, very wide. But again, we were watching on television. The people I was with were stunned when the decision was announced. And these are boxing people, guys who really know.”
Only one judge, Canada’s Robert Tapper, agreed with what Arum, Teddy Atlas, Vasiliy Lomachenko, Oleksandr Usyk and Egis Klimas were convinced they had witnessed. Tapper scored eight of the 12 rounds for Fury, who won 114-112 on his scorecard.
California’s Alejandro Rochin scored seven rounds for Wilder, whom Rochin credited with a 115-111 victory. England’s Phil Edwards scored seven rounds for Fury, but he scored the fight a draw, 113-113, because Wilder scored two knockdowns.
Showtime’s unofficial punch statistics credited Fury for landing 13 more overall punches than Wilder (84-of-327 to 71-of-430). Fury, according to those figures, connected with more power punches (38-of-104 to 31-of-182) and more jabs (46-of-223 to 40-of-248).
Before Fury fought Wilder the first time, Frank Warren, Fury’s primary promoter before making a deal with Arum, was adamant about securing neutral judges because England’s Fury (29-0-1, 20 KOs) had agreed to fight Alabama’s Wilder (42-0-1, 41 KOs) in the United States. Warren wanted at least one judge from England to score that fight and no more than one American judge to work it.
The judges and referee for their rematch February 22 won’t be assigned until Wednesday, when the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s monthly meeting will take place in Las Vegas. Bob Bennett, the NSAC’s executive director, will recommend three judges to the commission for approval from a larger pool approved by representatives for Fury and Wilder.
Arum couldn’t care less about neutral judges as they move toward their second showdown at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
“I would like to get the best possible judges, and if they’re all American, that’s OK,” Arum said. “In other words, we have an English guy in Fury and an American guy in Wilder. And nobody’s asking for neutral judges. We just want good judges. The other side doesn’t give a sh*t who the judges are because they’re looking for a knockout. I’m kidding, but we have great confidence from both entities [Top Rank & Premier Boxing Champions] in the Nevada Commission. We assume that they will appoint the three best judges, a world-class referee, which shouldn’t be hard because Nevada has more than its share of world-class referees, and that’s it. We’re very, very happy with the way it’s going and the way the commission has handled this match.”
Arum assumes all professional judges are neutral, regardless of where they reside.
“We’re not idiots,” Arum explained. “This is a big country and the idea that an American judge would go out of his way to favor an American fighter, if he’s a top judge that’s not possible.”
Therefore, Arum isn’t concerned about ensuring England is represented on the panel of judges for this ESPN/FOX Sports pay-per-view main event.
“Who needs a British judge?,” Arum asked. “That’s what we’ve told Bennett. If he wants to appoint a British judge, that’s fine, but I don’t think he’s going to. There’s plenty of good judges. As long as he’s not limiting it to Nevada, that’s fine. There’s [Connecticut’s Glenn] Feldman, who’s a good judge. [New Jersey’s Steve] Weisfeld is a good judge. [New York’s] Julie Lederman is a good judge. Any of those judges would be fine. [Dave] Moretti, from Nevada, is a good judge. You just want really good judges. There are a number of them, and I’m sure Bennett will present that to the commission.”
The NSAC usually uses judges from the United States for fights in Las Vegas.
Six American judges have worked Fury’s past two fights, both in Las Vegas. In his last bout, Fury defeated Sweden’s Otto Wallin convincingly on all three scorecards to win a 12-round unanimous decision September 14 at T-Mobile Arena (118-110, 117-111, 116-112).
Only American judges have scored each of the past four high-profile fights in Las Vegas as well. Those bouts were Wilder’s rematch with Luis Ortiz, which Wilder won by seventh-round knockout, Canelo Alvarez’s 11th-round knockout of Sergey Kovalev, Manny Pacquiao’s split-decision defeat of Keith Thurman and Alvarez’s unanimous-decision victory over Daniel Jacobs.
Only one of Wilder’s 43 professional fights besides his draw with Fury has gone the distance. He beat Bermane Stiverne by unanimous decision in that January 2015 bout at MGM Grand Garden Arena to win the WBC title.
Whomever judges their rematch, Fury stressed during a conference call Thursday that after the result of their first fight, he’ll be more aggressive in their rematch because he doesn’t want it to go the cards again.
“One judge had it 114-112,” Fury said, referring to Tapper scoring their first fight for him. “And then one judge [Rochin] had it [115-111 for Wilder], so I’m not sure what that judge was watching. But I’m not a judge. And these guys see what they see. That’s that person’s opinion. That’s what they get paid to do. But in order to guarantee a victory, I think you’ve gotta take it out of everybody’s hands. My own destiny lies within my own two fists.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.