by Cliff Rold
It ended as it began.
Deontay Wilder is still the WBC heavyweight champion.
Tyson Fury retains the lineal crown. He is still the man who beat the man. More people, it seems, think Fury won enough rounds to overcome two knockdowns, the latter of which has already become part of the folklore of boxing.
This scribe can be counted among them. To these eyes, Fury won at least eight and maybe even nine rounds of the fight. Live it appeared the latter; on a rewatch, the former seemed correct. In the pre-fight piece, one scenario considered if, as the road opponent, Fury’s style might appear to be winning but not be clear enough to give him all the rounds he deserved.
Maybe that’s what happened. With a couple days to think about the fight, it’s still hard to see where Wilder came up with five winning rounds, the number he needed for a draw given the knockdowns and the assumption of 10-8 frames when he dropped Fury.
In a fight where landed blows were at a premium, the other aspects of the game mattered. Who was the ring general dictating the pace of the fight? Who, defensively, was doing a better job making the other man miss? For most of the first eight rounds, that was Fury and he also appeared to win rounds 10 and 11.
This might be a fight where the idea of consensus scoring is worth debating as a tool. Boxing has tried open scoring; it’s results are mixed. In many cases, it takes drama out of the fight and can turn the late rounds into games of keep away. Consensus scoring would have produced an outcome the majority agreed with on Saturday.
If we shade each round to the man favored on two of the three judges cards, Fury wins the bouts eight rounds to four at a score of 114-112. That seems to be the most common score among those who favored Fury in general. That system would have solved for the head scratching score of Alejandro Rochin who somehow gave Wilder all of the first four rounds and seven overall.
As noted, it was hard from this view to see where Wilder won five rounds but not entirely implausible. It would be harder still to find more than that judge who saw Wilder winning seven rounds. Too often in big fights, we see single outlier scores that jump out as dramatically different from the fight the majority of the audience thinks they were watching. It happened years ago in Ray Leonard-Marvin Hagler and more recently in the first Paul Williams-Sergio Martinez fight, Floyd Mayweather-Saul Alvarez, and the first Gennady Golovkin-Saul Alvarez fight.
Maybe someone reading thinks that a draw was a fair outcome last weekend. So be it. Here’s the problem: how the verdict is rendered matters. When one score lacks credibility in a sport that relies on three judges to weigh in, it strips legitimacy from the whole of the outcome. Boxing’s paying customers and combatants deserve better.
They still got plenty in Fury-Wilder. It wasn’t a great fight in the sense of loads of action packed rounds. It was instead a great event that delivered drama and an all-time memorable finish. When Fury beat the count in the final round (and yes, he beat the count, period), and then rose to fight back, we got a round that will stand the test of time.
Now we are all left to wonder: what’s next?
Let’s get into it.
The Future for Wilder: Wilder is calling for an immediate rematch. It’s the fight he wants and, given the debate about the scores, the one he needs. Wilder isn’t ever going to be a great boxer. At 33, this is the product of years of careful development. Some fighters are who they are. Wilder is a fighter with pretty good whiskers, stamina, and the sort of one-shot freak power akin to heavyweight bombers Elmer Ray and Ernie Shavers or former Jr. middleweight and middleweight titlist Julian Jackson. They’re never out of a fight and Wilder comes out of the weekend a bigger star that at any point in his career. Wilder is also a reminder that the scale is not the most important thing in heavyweight boxing. There have always been super sized heavyweights. There have always been smaller men with pop who try to get to them. A fighter only has to be big enough, and have the right skill set, to threaten greater size. If an immediate rematch doesn’t happen, Anthony Joshua feels a little farther away for the moment. Wilder could always look at a rematch with Luis Ortiz that could potentially play out in pay-per-view dollars or take a grudge match with a Dominic Breazeale. Neither of those would be as satisfying for he or the fans as a Fury rematch.
The Future for Fury: Say it again…and still, the lineal heavyweight king. Fury’s claim to history’s crown was mitigated for many by his layoff and brief ‘retirement.’ Saturday, he feinted, jabbed, and generally outboxed Wilder enough to remind that what he did to a then-reigning Wladimir Klitschko was no one off. He is, economically, in perhaps an even stronger position off the draw verdict than he might have been off the win. Much depends on whether or not Showtime has an immediate option on his future. If they don’t, he could find himself in the middle of a bidding war. His performance last weekend, and gutsy rise from the deck, has increased his star. A fight with Anthony Joshua in the UK is probably as big as it could ever get right now and likely the richest UK scrap of all time. A rematch with Wilder might be the hottest ticket in the US in 2019. With Wilder and Joshua likely a harder deal to make, in a sense all roads lead to Tyson Fury. He didn’t get the win in the ring. He’s going to win big the next time he signs on the dotted line no matter who he fights.
There will be no extended afterthoughts about the light heavyweight title clash that saw Oleksandr Gvozdyk capture the lineal light heavyweight title from Adonis Stevenson. It doesn’t feel right to dive into the fight or future for the winner. As it stands, Stevenson remains hospitalized from head injuries suffered in the fight. While some fans are ambivalent about Stevenson because of career choices, or past trangressions, this much is true. He chose a career that in part put his health on the line for out entertainment. Congratulations to the new champion and
Rold Picks 2018: 57-21
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]