When a Deontay Wilder combination left Tyson Fury horizontal in the final round of their get-together 13 months ago in Los Angeles, the exultations were immediate.
The Staples Center crowd went berserk.
The WBC champ strutted to a neutral corner.
And the Showtime broadcast crew revved its hyperbolic engines.
“Mamma Mia,” shouted blow-by-blow man Mauro Ranallo. “Deontay Wilder has done it.”
But just as referee Jack Reiss’s perfunctory tolling over the ashen-faced Englishman reached six, something unexpected happened.
Fury not only picked up the count. He beat it.
“He’s up,” Ranallo’s colleague, Paulie Malignaggi, said. “Wow. He got up.”
The rest, as they say, is competitive history.
Fury shucked and jived his way out of danger, landed enough return blows to stymie Wilder’s charge, and both men left unsatisfied with a split draw.
In 409 days since, Wilder has regained his KO mojo with stops of Dominic Breazeale and Luis Ortiz, while Fury has worked the Tom Schwarz/Otto Wallin side of the street in the downtime from a part-time freelance gig with Vince McMahon’s scripted male soap opera.
They’ll meet again on Feb. 22 in Las Vegas.
And Wilder, ever the showman, suggests a little Randy Savage might be in store for the encore.
“I knocked him out the first time we fought. I told him two years ago I was going to baptize him,” he said. “Rising up is part of the baptism. But this is a different story. This is unfinished business. Because he's in WWE I'm going to make sure he gets knocked out of the ring, I might even come down with a flying elbow from the top rope.”
To hear Fury tell it, though, that’d be the Alabama slugger’s only chance.
But that doesn’t mean a knockout isn’t in the cards, he insists.
Just not the one everyone might be expecting.
"The consensus is either he knocks me out, or I win on points. Usually when people have that opinion, it goes the opposite way around,” Fury said. “Expect him to box and me to be looking for the knockout.
“He thinks I'm going to come out herky-jerky with my famous style, but I want him to meet me in the center of the ring and have a slugfest, best man wins.
“I didn't have the gas to finish him in the last fight, but this time I can turn that screwdriver until he's gone. Let's make it a Marvin Hagler vs. Tommy Hearns type of fight. I'll meet you in the middle of the ring on Feb. 22. Just watch out for the right hand, because you're going to sleep in two rounds.”
Wilder will be making the 11th defense of the belt he captured in 2015 and risking the No. 2 position he holds among the heavyweights in both the Independent World Boxing Rankings and the listings compiled by Ring Magazine.
He’s one place ahead of Fury in the former – where they both trail IBF/IBO/WBA/WBO champ Anthony Joshua – and a place behind him in the latter, where the championship slot remains vacant and Joshua resides at No. 3.
Fury, too, was a king in the big man castle after dethroning longtime division stalwart Wladimir Klitschko later in 2015, but he was rendered inactive soon after by a combination of physical and personal maladies. He still claims a hold on the so-called lineal title, however, citing a 4-0-1 record since the Klitschko victory – though the wins have come over fighters ranked 50th, 69th, 48th and 26th.
Bermane Stiverne was ranked sixth by the IWBR when Wilder dethroned him, and the subsequent 10 defenses have included a pair against single-digit challengers, both in the form of Ortiz – who was ranked fifth when they fought the first time in 2018 and eighth when they met again in November.
Fury’s other single-digit win came against No. 6 Dereck Chisora in 2014.
“What's going to happen in this fight is that I'm going to get what I rightfully won last time. I'm going to get the green belt and keep my lineal title,” he said. “And if (Wilder) wants to rematch me after, I'll beat him again. I've already beat him once, and I know I can beat him three times in a row.
“I'm the best of my era and I took that title from Wladimir Klitschko. Nobody disputed he was the best and I took that from him, until someone beats me, that's my title.”
This week’s title-fight schedule:
IBF/IBO/WBA junior middleweight/super welterweight titles – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Julian Williams (champion/No. 2 IWBR) vs. Jeison Rosario (No. 5 IBF/No. 18 IWBR)
Williams (27-1-1, 16 KO): First title defense; Third career fight in Philadelphia (2-0, 1 KO)
Rosario (19-1-1, 13 KO): First title fight; Eighth fight in the United States (5-1-1, 2 KO)
Fitzbitz says: It’s homecoming for Williams, who’s not fought in Philadelphia since 2011. Rosario, who’s fought as low as lightweight and as high as middleweight, won’t spoil it. Williams in 10 (95/5)
IBO welterweight title – Hamburg, Germany
Sebastian Formella (champion/No. 26 IWBR) vs. Roberto Arriaza (No. 42 IBO/No. 58 IWBR)
Formella (21-0, 10 KO): First title fight; One of 10 career KO/TKO wins at welterweight limit
Arriaza (18-1, 14 KO): First title fight; First fight scheduled beyond 10 rounds
Fitzbitz says: Let’s face it, Formella’s not typically considered among the top 147-pounders. And there’s a reason for it. But he’s the better man here and he’ll prove it decisively. Formella by decision (75/25)
Last week's picks: None
Final 2019 picks record: 105-22 (82.6 percent)
Overall picks record: 1,116-365 (75.3 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 protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.