By Michael Rosenthal
LOS ANGELES – Neither Deontay Wilder nor Tyson Fury had his hand raised after their fight but, in effect, Fury was the winner.
A year ago The Gypsy King weighed God knows how much -- 350 pounds? 375? – and was out of boxing because of substance abuse and mental health issues. There were no guarantees he’d ever return to the sport.
And he was only two fights into a comeback after a 2½-year layoff when he stepped into the ring to fight Wilder on Saturday at Staples Center. Some thought it was suicide.
The result? Fury fought the fearsome WBC titleholder to a well-earned draw. It wasn’t the result he anticipated – he fully expected to emerge as champion – but he can legitimately claim he’s back.
Fury (27-0-1, 19 knockouts) seemed to recognize that fact after the fight, patting himself on the back by proclaiming “the Gypsy King has returned” and insisting that he did enough to earn the decision and claim Wilder’s WBC heavyweight title.
And he came very close to doing it. For eight-plus rounds Fury’s performance was reminiscent of his stunning victory over Wladimir Klitschko, in which he feinted and moved and jabbed and threw occasional rights on his way to the heavyweight championship in 2015.
Wilder (40-0-1, 39 KOs) looked to land his big right but, going into the ninth, simply couldn’t find his target as Fury seemed to build a lead on the cards.
Then, finally, a right to the side of Fury’s head put him on the canvas. He survived and seemed to be on his way to victory in 12th and final round when the two best punches of the fight – a right-left combination – put him flat on his back.
This time he was hurt but, finding something within himself, he got up and managed to remain on his feet until the final bell.
The damage was done, though. The official scoring was as follows: 115-111 for Wilder; 114-110 for Fury and 113-113. That means that had Fury avoided either knockdown he would’ve had an edge on the third card and won the fight.
That’s how close he came to completing one of the most impressive comebacks in recent years. As it was, considering the depths to which he had sunk, he deserves immense credit.
He seemed to validate the notion that he is a weak boxer, as he struggled to land any meaningful punches and seemed to grow more and more frustrated as Fury did his thing. Wilder stuck with it, though. And just as many predicted, his mighty right hand played a key role in the fight. He didn’t get his knockout but he saved his belt and set up a possible rematch.
Of course, Wilder, the titleholder, has no obligation to face Fury in an immediate rematch or ever again. But he talked immediately after the final bell as if that’s the fight that makes most sense to him.
“I would love for [the rematch] to be my next fight,” he said. “Why not? Let’s give the fans what they want to see. It was a a great fight and let’s do it again. It doesn’t matter to me where we do it.
“We’re the two best in the world and we proved it tonight. When you get two warriors you get a great fight. That’s what we proved tonight and I’m ready to do it again.”
The best two heavyweights in the world? Great fight?
I’m not sure I agree with either of those statements. Anthony Joshua, who owns the remainder of the heavyweight titles, was somewhere licking his chops as he watched the fight on Saturday. I would pick Joshua to beat both Wilder and Fury after what I saw at ringside.
And it wasn’t a great fight. It was dull until Fury hit the canvas, which sucked the energy from a packed crowd that pulsated before the opening bell. The knockdowns saved the fight, creating enough drama to wake up the spectators and make it a memorable night.
I do like the idea of a rematch. I think both fighters earned it. And even though I almost nodded off a few times before the ninth round, I think they’re story together is incomplete. I want to see how it ends.
Michael Rosenthal is the most recent winner of the Boxing Writers Association of America’s Nat Fleischer Award for excellence in boxing journalism. He has covered boxing in Los Angeles and beyond for almost three decades.