When Deontay Wilder went down during the third round of his third fight against Tyson Fury, it looked like the former WBC heavyweight champion’s nemesis would dominate him again.
Wilder already appeared tired by then, an ominous sign for a fading fighter who had lost the vast majority of the 22 rounds he had boxed against Fury over the course of their three fights. Little did anyone know that one of the most memorable heavyweight title fights in boxing history was about to unfold – a five-knockdown spectacle in which Wilder went down three times and Fury hit the canvas twice.
In the fourth round, Wilder reminded everyone exactly why no matter how flawed or fatigued he might be, his pulverizing power makes him dangerous at all times.
The Tuscaloosa, Alabama, native nailed Fury with a right hand to the middle of his face, and then a right to the top of Fury’s head that caused him to lose his balance and fall to the canvas with 53 seconds to go in the fourth round. Fury slowly reached his feet, yet in time to beat referee Russell Mora’s count.
Wilder swung wildly and missed with several punches before landing another right hand on the inside that sent Fury to the canvas again with 17 seconds remaining in the fourth round.
Fury again took his time, but he made it to his feet a second time and the round ended before Wilder could attack him again.
Suddenly, the final installment of their trilogy had evolved into a dramatic battle that BoxingScene.com voted its “Fight of the Year” for 2021. A fatigued Wilder didn’t enjoy many more successful stretches following the fourth round October 9 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, but he showed a huge heart by lasting six-plus rounds with the 6-feet-9, 277-pound Fury.
Fury floored Wilder again in the 10th round, with a right hand to the side of Wilder’s head that sent him to his gloves and knees with about 1:20 to go in it.
Wilder valiantly reached his feet again and tried to fight out of that trouble. Wilder landed a couple of punches just before the 10th round concluded, but Fury tapped his face and urged Wilder to hit him again.
In the following round, Fury (31-0-1, 22 KOs) emphatically ended their rivalry with a right hand that sent Wilder (42-2-1, 41 KOs) crashing to the canvas, undoubtedly unfit to continue at 1:10 of the 11th round.
RUNNERS-UP (in chronological order)
Juan Francisco Estrada-Roman Gonzalez: Even Estrada seemed surprised to hear Michael Buffer announce that he had won their rematch March 13 at American Airlines Center in Dallas. Nicaragua’s Gonzalez seemed to out-work Estrada in their terrific fight, but two judges scored their thrilling 12-round, 115-pound championship match for Estrada. Judge Jesse Reyes credited Gonzalez with a 115-113 win, but he was overruled by judges Carlos Sucre (117-111) and David Sutherland (115-113). Sucre ridiculously scored nine rounds for Mexico’s Estrada (42-3, 28 KOs), despite that CompuBox counted 74 more punches overall for Gonzalez (50-3, 41 KOs), whom they credited for out-landing Estrada, 391-317. They’ll fight for the third time March 5 at Pechanga Arena in San Diego.
Brandon Glanton-Efetobor Apochi: The knockdown Glanton recorded at the end of the sixth round, when the ropes held up Apochi after taking a left hook and a right hand, was the difference on the scorecards for Glanton, who won this 10-round cruiserweight battle by split decision June 27 at The Armory in Minneapolis. Nigeria’s Apochi (11-1, 11 KOs) won their thrilling slugfest 96-93 on one scorecard, but the knockdown accounted for Glanton’s win by the same score, 95-94, on the two other cards. Glanton (14-0, 11 KOs), an Atlanta native, overcame serious trouble in the fourth round to have a strong fifth round, which enabled him to get back into what was immediately viewed as a “Fight of the Year” candidate.
Mikaela Mayer-Maiva Hamadouche: Mayer won their 130-pound title unification bout by wide margins on all three scorecards (100-90, 99-91, 98-92), yet those scores don’t really reflect what transpired during an action-packed dogfight November 5 at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. A calm Mayer needed several rounds to adjust to Hamadouche’s relentlessness and got into a rhythm during the second half of a bout she won by unanimous decision. Hamadouche’s persistent pressure made it interesting through the end of the 10th round, though, in what was heralded as one of the best action fights in the history of women’s boxing. Mayer, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, remained undefeated (16-0, 5 KOs) and ended the 13-fight winning streak of France’s Hamadouche (22-2, 18 KOs).
George Kambosos Jr.-Teofimo Lopez: After more postponements than anyone cares to remember, they delivered a fan-friendly, back-and-forth battle when they finally fought for Lopez’s IBF, WBA, WBC “franchise” and WBO lightweight titles November 27 at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York. Brooklyn’s Lopez (16-1, 12 KOs) was a 10-1 favorite in the days preceding their bout, but Australia’s Kambosos (20-0, 10 KOs) set the tone almost immediately by dropping Lopez with a right hand in the first round. Lopez recovered quickly, rallied during the second half of their action-packed bout and sent Kambosos to the canvas in the 10th round. Kambosos displayed real resolve, though, by fending off Lopez during the second half of the 10th round. He then fought well during the 11th and 12th rounds and won a split decision (115-111, 115-112, 113-114).
Stephen Fulton-Brandon Figueroa: Fulton-Figueroa began mere minutes after Kambosos upset Lopez, which gave boxing fans a chance to witness a completely competitive 122-pound title unification fight that seemingly could’ve gone either way. Philadelphia’s Fulton (20-0, 8 KOs) is considered a boxer, but he mostly stood his ground and fought to combat Figueroa’s non-stop pressure. The previously undefeated Figueroa (22-1-1, 17 KOs) was the aggressor throughout their bout, went after Fulton’s body consistently and buzzed the unbeaten WBC/WBO champion with a left hook that landed with just under a minute remaining in the 10th round. A resilient Fulton overcame that trouble, battled back and won a majority decision (116-112, 116-112, 114-114) on November 27 at Park MGM’s Dolby Live in Las Vegas. Though Fulton consistently countered a ferocious Figueroa, CompBox unofficially credited Figueroa for landing 45 more punches overall than Fulton (314-of-1,060 to 269-of-726). Figueroa called his first defeat “the robbery of the year.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.