Tyson Fury commended Kenny Bayless for the job that the veteran referee did during his rematch with Deontay Wilder on Saturday night. (photo by Ryan Hafey)
Wilder wasn’t nearly as complimentary.
The former WBC heavyweight champion criticized Bayless during an extensive interview with BoxingScene.com on Monday for allowing Fury to “fight dirty.” Wilder believes Bayless should’ve done much more to prevent Fury from hitting him on the back of his head and neck, and from holding his head while leaning on him during a rematch Fury won by seventh-round technical knockout.
“Credit to Tyson Fury,” Wilder said to BoxingScene.com. “I’m very happy for him and his accomplishment, and I wish him many congratulations. And it was a perfect game plan [for Fury]. But he didn’t come to box. He came to really, really, really make the fight as dirty as possible.”
Bayless deducted a point from Fury for hitting Wilder when he called for a break late in the fifth round. By then, Wilder feels Fury had gotten away with too many outcome-altering fouls for it to make a difference.
Wilder also contends that the 6-feet-9, 273-pound Fury hit him on the back of his head to cause a knockdown during the third round.
That was the first of two knockdowns Wilder suffered in his first professional defeat. The second knockdown was the result of Fury’s left to the body during the fifth round.
“When I woke up the next morning, I felt so many knots and bruises on the back of my head and neck,” Wilder said. “[After the first knockdown], I turned over immediately to look at Kenny Bayless because he just made this speech about how he’s gonna take points from me and disqualify me if I hit in the back of the head and hit after the break. But I guess those rules just applied to me, and not my opponent, because he did it all night long and didn’t get penalized until it was too late.”
The 34-year-old Wilder doesn’t fault Fury for trying to get away with as much as he can to win a fight. The Tuscaloosa, Alabama, native just can’t understand why Bayless wasn’t more assertive about enforcing the rules.
“I immediately turned around and opened my arms,” Wilder said, referring to what he said to Bayless following the first knockdown. “I was like, ‘What’s going on, bro? Are you serious? Did you see that?’ [After] that speech that you gave me, you’re supposed to protect the fighter. Fury was putting me in headlocks and still hitting me in the body, leaning over on me and still hitting me in the body. And due respect to him. He’s only doing what a fighter is supposed to do, fight and win. If you’re getting away with dirty tactics, then why not keep doing it? So, I understand that.
“It’s up to the referee to be a man of his word. You come back here [to Wilder’s locker room] and you’re doing all this fancy talk, [saying] you’ve gotta abide by your rules. It just seems like I can’t get the right referee in the ring to save my life. One took too long to count and one allowed dirty tactics, and then took a point when it was too late, when it didn’t even matter no more. And Fury knew it. He knew it. He didn’t come to box. He came to fight dirty and the referee let him get away with it. But I congratulate him on his win and the accomplishment that he’s done. I’m very excited for him and moving on.”
Wilder (42-1-1, 41 KOs) previously criticized California referee Jack Reiss after his controversial split draw with Fury (30-0-1, 21 KOs) in December 2018 for what Wilder perceived as affording Fury extra time to get up from a 12th-round knockdown. Fury incredibly got up from Wilder’s vicious right-left combination in the final round, fought back hard and made it to the final bell at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.