Deontay Wilder got what he had coming.
Though a devastating right hand from Tyson Fury crashed unabated into the left side of his skull, rendered him competitively limp and careening toward the ring floor at T-Mobile Arena on Saturday, his never-say-die credo was left intact.
And as he left the ring and was quickly whisked away in an ambulance to nearby University Medical Center for a precautionary post-traumatic evaluation, precisely no one among the 15,000-plus fans, foes and nonpartisan onlookers in the building had a contrarian leg to stand on when it came to critiquing his fighting spirit.
Meaning what an Olympic bronze, a professional championship and 10 successful title defenses never completely got him, a second straight concussive beatdown from Fury – this time without a towel-waving surrender – was able to secure.
Such is the lingering residue of an instant classic.
Which Wilder's epic trilogy closer with Fury on Saturday night – even in defeat – certainly was.
"Unequivocally," ex-HBO blow-by-blow man Jim Lampley said. "Truly great fights always elevate both fighters. Some fans will struggle to recall who actually won, believe it or not. There's a very small universe of heavyweight title bouts like that, and they do live forever."
Indeed, the dramatic give-and-take of Fury-Wilder III – which included multiple knockdowns of both fighters before the final round – elevated the totality of a rivalry that had begun in 2018 with a disputed 12-round draw and continued in 2020 with Fury's savage seventh-round TKO win.
Wilder persisted through a brutal battering that swelled both his eyes and drew blood from his mouth and left ear, and he instinctively tried to rise even after referee Russell Mora correctly called a halt to the fight during Wilder's semiconscious crash-landing to the canvas in the 11th.
Although disappointed, Wilder did not protest the stoppage this time, though Fury said he was snubbed again by his rival upon approaching Wilder's corner after the fight – apparently continuing the vitriol between the parties.
That petulance will leave a mark, according to ex-lightweight champ Ray Mancini.
“He was the champ for a long time. He just ran into a guy who has his number,” Mancini said.
“Didn't take defeat well in the first one, blamed everyone and their mother for the loss. Talked about what he was gonna do this time: revenge, redemption and retribution. Got his ass whipped and then refused to shake the victor's hand. I don't know how you give him more respect.”
And as for the new-and-improved version, “Boom Boom” doesn’t see it.
“For all of the hootin’ and hollerin', he was basically the same fighter, nothing new,” he said.
“Because he dropped the other guy and went out on his shield? I'd like to think that most fighters would go out on their shield and fight until the end. And the way he fell when he went down, not good.
“Those are the type of knockouts that cause long-term damage. Look, I always had a lot of respect for Deontay but his actions and words before this fight and after last one make it hard to say that he deserves more respect because of how he got beat. I can't buy into that.”
Still, whether his legacy ends with two L’s against Fury remains to be seen.
Wilder is 42-0 against everyone other than the British behemoth, and provided he’s healthy he remains a marketable commodity thanks to vast promotional connections, compelling backstory and paralyzing one-punch power that's led to 41 stoppages.
A bout with Anthony Joshua was frequently talked-up a few years back when both fighters were unbeaten and early in their title reigns, and it could be revisited again in a last-stand context now that both are ex-champions who have been beaten twice each.
Lampley thinks it's a fight that leans favorably toward Wilder – simply because it's not Fury.
"A soft tune-up, then Joshua, who is not as punishing as Fury," he said.
"The 275 pounds are a different dimension. Weight won the fight along with Tyson's illogical countering accuracy. Lands on the sweet spot of the glove over and over. Amazing. Long arms like that shouldn't function as precisely inside as he does."
And if there's no Joshua and no repeat title run, label him a modern-day Earnie Shavers.
Shavers was a full-time operator from 1969 to 1983, fighting at least once in each of those years while going 72-13-1 with 67 knockouts. He lost two heavyweight title fights along the way, dropping a unanimous 15-round decision to Muhammad Ali at Madison Square Garden in 1977 and flooring Larry Holmes in the seventh round before losing via 11th-round TKO two years later.
He's frequently listed among the hardest punchers in boxing history, and Lampley edges Wilder ahead of him based on the latter man's championship-level success.
"Better resume than Shavers. Maybe," he said. "Similar in that there is an elite fraternity of right-hand bombers, and they are both definitely in it. Legends of the right cross. I think right now his legacy is the right hand and the grit he showed in all three fights."
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
WBO featherweight title – San Diego, California
Emanuel Navarrete (champion/No. 3 IWBR) vs. Joet Gonzalez (No. 1 WBO/No. 15 IWBR)
Navarrete (34-1, 29 KO): Second title defense; Six stoppage wins in eight career title fights
Gonzalez (24-1, 14 KO): Second title fight (0-1); Lost WBO title shot at 126 (UD 12) in 2019
Fitzbitz says: Gonzalez has got a nice record and he’s a respectable enough operator on the world level, but he was shut out by Stevenson and it won’t get any better for him here. Navarrete in 10 (99/1)
IBF cruiserweight title – Riga, Latvia
Mairis Briedis (champion/No. 1 IWBR) vs. Artur Mann (No. 6 IBF/No. 46 IWBR)
Briedis (27-1, 19 KO): First title defense; Held WBC title at 200 (2017-18, one title defense)
Mann (17-1, 9 KO): Second title fight (0-1); Lost IBO title shot at 200 (TKO 4) in 2019
Fitzbitz says: It’s gotten easier to forget that Briedis pushed Usyk to a majority decision in their 2018 meeting. This one won’t be nearly that competitive. Happy Latvian homecoming. Briedis in 6 (99/1)
WBO junior flyweight title – Fresno, California
Elwin Soto (champion/No. 5 IWBR) vs. Jonathan Gonzalez (No. 1 WBO/No. 7 IWBR)
Soto (19-1, 13 KO): Fourth title defense; Sixth fight in the United States (4-1, 2 KO)
Gonzalez (24-3-1, 14 KO): Second title fight; Lost WBO title shot at 112 (TKO 7) in 2019
Fitzbitz says: The pedigrees suggest Gonzalez won’t be able to handle the likes of Soto, but this can be a good, competitive fight at 108. Expect the champ to win, but not big. Soto by decision (70/30)
Last week's picks: 3-0 (WIN: Niyomtrong, Boesel, Fury)
2021 picks record: 34-12 (73.9 percent)
Overall picks record: 1,190-387 (75.4 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.