Fighter of the year. Comeback of the year. Fight of the year. Round of the year. UK vs USA. Boxer vs puncher. The Bronze Bomber vs The Gypsy King. Wilder vs Fury.
These were the titles attributed to the fight that took place in the early hours of Sunday morning, a battle of two giants, the lineal heavyweight title and WBC title on the line and two men with a point to prove. Both men unbeaten. Both men champions. Both men professionals for 10 years. Both men proclaimed in their youths to be the future of boxing. One man a knockout artist who has never had the recognition he feels he deserves and fights for a better life for his disabled daughter; and the other a man fighting for a cause greater than himself, to prove to all people suffering with mental illness that you can pick yourself up, you can fight back, and you can win.
After many well documented issues outside of the ring following his capturing of many iterations of the world heavyweight boxing title in 2015 from the then perceived indomitable Wladimir Klitschko, Tyson Fury, and the rest of the boxing world believed his life of boxing was over. And following two years of depression, obesity, alcoholism, drug addiction and near suicide, the critics were very nearly right. Late in 2017, after taking his Ferrari to speeds of 170 mph with the intentions of having it ‘crumple like a coke can with him inside’, Fury picked himself up off the canvas within the ring of his mind, and beat his own demons to take back control of his own life again.
So that’s exactly what he did, he trained once more for the first time in two years, initially with the goal of losing 60 of the 180kg that made up his 6’9” frame at the time, but with the ultimate goal of regaining his titles once more. Nothing was to be the same this time around, he was no longer that man that had fallen into despair, that man was a thing of the past. But a new man was to require a new team; leading to the addition of the British boxing legend, Ricky ‘The Hitman’ Hatton to Fury’s corner, legendary trainer Freddie Roach and the then unknown and 25 year old Ben Davison as his trainer and the mastermind behind the comeback.
Months pass and Fury is fighting fit once more. The comeback comes and goes, one more win for the Gypsy King, the ring rust is being worn away. The second fight comes, the second fight goes, one more win. Little more than glorified sparring sessions. But Fury knows something we do not, Fury knows he’s really ready, and he’s truly back. The fights hadn’t been great, but they’d been enough, they’d served their purpose, now the first real fight of the comeback was to take place.
It was marketed as the clash of the two greatest heavyweights of our era, two giant men standing at 6’7” and 6’9” for Wilder and Fury respectively. In Wilder there was a man that could knock you out with a single blow, and in Fury there was a man that could not be hit. Someone’s 0 had got to go. Only it didn’t.
December 2nd, 04:40am GMT, the fighters made their entrances to the ring. Final instructions are given, gloves are touched and the fight is underway. Round 1, it’s a battle to establish the jab, Wilder keeps pressing forward but is unable to adjust to his first experience of fighting a larger man than himself, Fury keeps him at the end of his left hand, the round goes to Fury and a precedent has been set. Rounds 2 through 8, Wilder, as his name suggests, wildly throws bombs at his adversary, constantly taking the fight to the larger man, but is unable to connect significantly. Fury, in true traveller fashion, moves around the ring, ever elusive and almost impossible to land on. Working with the jab and a slick display of masterful counterpunching ability, Fury is almost impossible to hit and punishes every mistake Wilder makes. Round 9, the first knockdown, a clipping right hand to the back of the head sends Fury to the deck. Barely fazed he is up in a fraction of a second, the obligatory count is given and the fight continues. A predatory Wilder stalks Fury and searches for a knockout for the rest of the round, yet despite the knockdown, the punches just can’t seem to land. Rounds 10 and 11 pass, the championship rounds have been entered. Fury has fully recovered and is back to the game plan, jab and move, hit and don’t get hit, punish every mistake. Round 12, the final round. Wilder is desperate, searching for the shot that will win him the fight, it takes half a round but he eventually finds it. Wilder fires a jab, cross, left hook combination; the jab is parried, the cross lands and sends Fury down, the left hook is a free shot to the jaw on the way down to seal the deal. A combination that would have killed a lesser man. Wilder starts to dance in celebration. He has won. At least, he thought he did. In a fashion only comparable to being raised from the dead, Fury, miraculously, opens his eyes and gets up to beat the count. The look on Wilder’s face is priceless in its abject shock and confusion as to what kind of being he must be in a ring with to have gotten up from that. Seemingly unfazed by his brief encounter with unconsciousness, Fury is immediately back into the fray, trading shots with Wilder and even taunting him. The round finishes. The fight is over.
The fighters congratulate each other and their opponent’s respective corners, then they meet with the referee once more in the centre of the ring. Fury believes he has done enough, the commentators believe he has done enough. Wilder looks dejected. History seems set to repeat the events of 2015 when The Gypsy King last shook up the world. A draw is announced. Wilder is elated, Fury is crestfallen. Floyd Mayweather exists the stadium in disgust.
After the fight the boxing world would proceed to descend into anarchy over the debate about the decision that was given, both men convinced they won the fight, a rematch in the UK seems inevitable.
When asked about the fight Wilder seems shaken in his confusion as to how Fury did the impossible and rose to his feet in the 12th round. It is a question Fury would later answer, “I had holy hands upon me that brought me back. I couldn’t stay down, I had to show you that you can get up and nothing is impossible. For all the people that suffer with mental health problems – I did that for you. If I can comeback from where I came from, you can too. So get back up! And let’s do this together, as a team.”
Truly profound words from a man that after all he’s been through, would not wish for anyone to experience what he has. To him it seems fighting another man has no comparison to fighting himself. As such, he has since donated his entire £8 million fight purse to building houses for the homeless. From the heavyweight division’s villain to boxing’s hero. Truly the People’s Champion.