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Fury KO’s Wilder in 11th to retain title in thriller

LAS VEGAS — Deontay Wilder just simply wouldn’t go away. Not after a third-round knockdown. Not as Tyson Fury battered him around the ring, round after round.

But Fury wore down the challenger, scoring another knockdown in Round 10 before brutally finishing Wilder with a highlight-reel knockout in the 11th on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena to retain his WBC heavyweight title in one of the most action-packed title fights of all time.

The fight featured five combined knockdowns, with Wilder going down three times and Fury going down twice, both in Round 4.

Fury (31-0-1, 22 KOs) was ahead on all three scorecards when the fight was stopped: 95-92, 94-92 and 95-91. ESPN scored it 96-89.

“It was a great fight tonight,” said Fury, 33. “It was worthy of any trilogy in the history of the sport. Wilder’s a tough fighter. … I always said I’m the best in the world and he’s second-best.”

Regardless of where Wilder, 35, is ranked after a second consecutive loss to Fury, his heart can never be questioned. He fired assistant trainer Mark Breland for throwing in the towel in the seventh round of his February 2020 rematch with Fury, saying he can never be counted out of a fight due to his tremendous power and that he always wants “to go out on his shield.”

Indeed, Wilder (42-2-1, 41 KOs) survived a third-round knockdown on Saturday night and was on unsteady legs when he connected with that patented right hand in Round 4 to send Fury to the mat. And then Wilder knocked Fury down again moments later. This time, it was Fury on shaky ground at the end of the round.

“He caught me twice in the fourth round, but I was never thinking, ‘Oh, this is over,'” Fury said. “He shook me, put me down, but that’s boxing, and that’s life as well. It’s not how many times you get knocked down. You’ve got to keep fighting and keep moving forward.”

By the seventh round, Wilder was absorbing a beating. He seemed ready to go at any moment as Fury drilled him with haymaker after haymaker. At several moments, the ref appeared close to stepping in to halt the fight, but he never did. Wilder usually threw a punch at just the right time to show the ref he was still ready to go.

“The Gypsy King” never got reckless, surely leery of Wilder’s dangerous right hand, but he continued to dole out punishment. When Wilder threw punches, he almost fell over numerous times from the exhaustion and pain. And then Fury dropped Wilder again in the 10th. And again, Wilder rose to beat the count.

But finally — mercifully — in Round 11, Fury landed the fight-ending shot, a devastating right hand that instantly dropped Wilder in a heap. Referee Russell Mora didn’t bother to count; there was no need. The fight was finally over at 1:10 of Round 11, ending a trilogy featuring 30 total rounds.

“I haven’t seen the actual knockout tonight, but I felt it,” Fury said. “I hit him with a solid, crunching right hook to the temple, and shots like that, they end careers. He definitely took some punishment, so we’ll see what he can do in the future.”

Fury said he attempted to speak with Wilder in the ring afterward, but said Wilder declined.

“I’m a sportsman,” Fury said. “I went over to show some love and respect and he didn’t want to show it back. So I pray for him.”

Personal animus consumed Fury and Wilder in the lead-up to the third fight, a trilogy chapter that almost didn’t happen. They battled to a controversial draw in their December 2018 bout before Fury eviscerated Wilder in the February 2020 bout.

Wilder immediately exercised his rematch clause, and the third meeting was slated for July 2020 before Wilder claimed an injury, which gave him a 90-day extension. October was then eyed, but the COVID-19 pandemic proved to be a tremendous obstacle. The second Fury-Wilder fight generated a gate of nearly $17 million, shattering the record for a heavyweight title fight in Nevada, precious revenue promoters Top Rank and PBC were unwilling to forfeit.

Fury-Wilder 3 was then pegged for December, but the network schedules of ESPN and Fox presented another roadblock. Fury was adamant: He didn’t want the third fight to drag into 2021. He and Top Rank considered the rematch clause with Wilder expired and pursued a mega fight with Anthony Joshua for the undisputed heavyweight championship.

A Fury-Joshua deal was agreed to for Aug. 14 in Saudi Arabia, but days later, on May 17, an independent arbitrator ruled that Fury indeed owed Wilder a third fight and that the rematch clause hadn’t expired.

July 24 was the new date for Fury-Wilder 3 before Fury tested positive for COVID-19. The trilogy included plenty of other drama. Wilder made a number of excuses following the second bout, ranging from the bizarre (he claimed a 40-plus-pound ring walk costume drained his legs) to the baseless (he said Fury loaded his gloves despite thorough inspection from his corner and the Nevada commission).

All the acrimony led to a promotion filled with bad blood, with both boxers promising to maim the other in the lead-up.

Saturday’s fight was the first for both Fury and Wilder since they met in February 2020, a rare collaboration between Top Rank and PBC.

In their first fight in December 2018, Wilder scored two knockdowns, in Rounds 9 and 12, but Fury appeared to win virtually every other round. The final-round knockdown was devastating, a crushing right hand followed by a left hook that connected flush as Fury was already falling to the canvas. Fury somehow beat the count, etching the moment in heavyweight title history.

The rematch wasn’t remotely competitive: Fury scored knockdowns in the third and fifth rounds before finishing him off in Round 7. Breland, the assistant trainer who threw in the towel to save Wilder from further punishment, was immediately dismissed from the team.

Enter Malik Scott, who replaced Breland in the corner and Jay Deas as head trainer. The former heavyweight fringe contender was knocked out by Wilder in the first round of their 2014 bout.

The change in corner didn’t alter the result. “The Gypsy King” remains the ruler of the heavyweight division. As he prepared to depart the ring Saturday, he grabbed the microphone and delivered one more performance, a rendition of “Walking in Memphis” by Marc Cohn with Vegas inserted in the place of the Tennessee city.

And with that, Fury left the ring, still the champion of the world, still the baddest man on the planet — and presumably, with his trilogy with Wilder finished once and for all.

ESPN Boxing

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EltasZone Sportswriters, Sports Analysts, Opinion columnists, editorials and op-eds. Analysis from The Zone Team
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