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Tyson Fury v Deontay Wilder: A knockdown, a fightback, a heated corner and a rematch


“I literally saw his eyes roll into the back of his head,” said Wilder in the aftermath of flooring Fury

Tyson Fury is motionless on the canvas as his wife shakes with fear, and a few feet away there is a fight about to break out in a ringside corner.

Commentators are screaming, pundits have forgotten how to sit down and 18,000 boxing fans are losing themselves in the seconds that separate glory and disaster.

Deontay Wilder is on the brink of a 12th-round stoppage win. It has been a step too far for Fury – or so it seemed.

Welcome to the chaos of the knockdown that stunned us all.

  • Agreement for third Wilder-Fury fight in contract – Warren
  • Watch: Wilder’s punching power

‘I will kick you out’

In his changing room, moments after the December 2018 draw that led to Saturday’s Las Vegas rematch, Fury simply asks: “What round did I go down in, 12?”

That he cannot recall points to the parallel universe a fighter inhabits when in survival mode.

He had been down in the ninth too. But the way he was truly hammered to the canvas three rounds later more likely explains the horrified look on his wife’s face as he begins to strip for a shower. In the coming hours, she will ask him to retire. The night was too much to take.

In just 12 months, Fury had lost the 10st in weight he packed on during a debilitating mental health battle. In six months from his return to boxing he had moved to challenge WBC world heavyweight champion Wilder. In just three minutes he saw a shock points win turn to certain defeat – and then to a draw.

“Don’t let him take you for the biggest comeback in boxing history,” said Fury’s trainer Ben Davison moments before round 12.

Across the ring, Wilder is asked by his corner: “Can you give me a big finish?”

Less than 30 seconds later he lands the kind of shots honed over thousands of lonely hours punching a bag. Right hand, left hook: powerful, accurate, show-stopping.

Fury’s brother Hughie stands at ringside, his mouth open and arms wide like a frozen goalkeeper.

“I genuinely thought it was over,” says Fury’s promoter Frank Warren. “Wilder’s people around me were going crazy.”

“It was the scariest time ever,” recalls Fury’s wife Paris, who pushed one of his brothers towards the ring to be with him.

“You’ve got to sit down, right now,” a steward in a suit screams at Fury’s trainer Davison. “I will kick you out of the corner.”

But Davison can’t sit. No-one can. He is warned again, this time more physically. “Get your hands off me,” he says, as things get heated.

As Fury begins to stir on the canvas, Ricky Hatton – part of the team in the corner – shouts in Davison’s ear: “If he gets through this round he’s still won.”

Davison simply puts his hands together, closes his eyes and mouths a prayer.

Over two minutes remain and the most vicious puncher in heavyweight history stands over Fury, posturing and blowing kisses while he waits.

“Anybody else you might have half a chance but not when you’re hit like that by Wilder,” Hatton tells BBC Sport.

BBC Radio 5 Live commentator Mike Costello adds: “I was staring directly at the soles of Fury’s boots and there was no movement. I’m in good company when I say I still don’t know how he got up.”

‘One of the most miraculous things I’ve seen in boxing’

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Fury v Wilder: ‘The division is alive again’ – how the dramatic final round unfolded

Fury blinks, stands, and is instructed by referee Jack Reiss to jog to his left.

Footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic and actress Hayden Panettiere stand ringside at Los Angeles’ Staples Center and look around in bemusement.

“You see disappointment, despair, elation, concern, a trainer praying, a trainer nearly thrown out – all these things are happening in 10 seconds so it is a truly amazing thing,” adds promoter Warren.

It is hard to fathom how a fighter finds clarity of thought in such moments.

David Haye, a former world heavyweight champion, once prepared for a knockdown by rolling around on the canvas in training before getting up – dizzied – to face an onslaught from sparring partners.

“Change your height,” screams Davison from the corner, urging his man to at least vary Wilder’s target.

Fury has other ideas and stands, hands behind his back, brazenly provoking the man trying to turn out the lights.

A reporter in the seat next to mine takes issue with the goading: “No Tyson, not now, don’t be stupid Tyson, no.”

And then, as Fury recalls: “I hit him with the best right hand and left hook anybody’s ever thrown.”

The American is shaken.

“As Fury began to rally, I can’t say I believed he could stop Wilder but I was aware we were watching something that would be remembered forever,” Costello adds.

The BBC commentator told his listeners: “The division is alive again.”

And so was Fury, as he bulldozed his way closer to reclaiming the world title.

“Anyone who wants to be punched in the face for a living, you have to be a bit weird,” says former world champion Hatton. “You have to have a heart of a lion but fighting back the way he did at that time was the wrong tactic, there’s no doubt. I wanted him to just hold on.

“It was one of the most miraculous things I’ve seen in boxing.”

A dressing room of shaking heads

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Witness Deontay Wilder’s punching power

Fury laps the ring at the bell, arms aloft, before screaming “that’s pay-per-view”. The fighters – each visibly bruised – embrace.

The ringside consensus is for Fury but the cards say a draw.

Three seats from my own a reporter punches the air. They have bet on the draw.

Fury is keen not to spark a riot. “His brothers after the decision were going crazy in the ring,” says Warren.

Wilder’s manager Lou DiBella is the first at ringside to point to the world of WWE, stating: “The guy is The Undertaker to get up from that.”

Backstage, Fury embraces his wife. The concern on her face is obvious. She has seen enough.

Expletives fill the dressing room. Everyone has a view, yet none of them can change anything.

“Listen, we know the truth, I won that fight,” says Fury.

His brother Hughie interjects: “Ten stone lost in a year. How you got up from that second knockdown…” He fails to end the sentence and instead shakes his head.

Hatton is shaking his head too. “When I went and fought Floyd Mayweather in America, even though I was losing, the size of the margin was diabolical,” he recalls.

“We always seem to get the bad end of the stick in the US.”

Wilder tells the media he saw Fury’s “eyes roll into the back of his head” as he hit the deck. Fury arrives for a news conference dressed like a Miami Vice character – blazer, floral shirt, gold watch, red trousers, baseball cap.

He orchestrates a rendition of Don McLean’s American Pie and calls on reporters to join in.

Costello concludes: “It was one of those special moments in sport when family and friends, fully aware that you were there, ask: ‘Did you see that?'”

“There was a similar reaction when Usain Bolt danced across the line to win the Olympic 100m final in 2008. Those nights don’t come in bunches.”

There will be a sequel. Las Vegas has much to live up to after the three minutes that stunned us all.

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Wilder v Fury: Tyson Fury sings ‘American Pie’ in news conference

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