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.

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. 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, 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 after a trilogy featuring 30 total rounds.

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

When they met in December 2018, Fury and Wilder battled to a controversial split draw. Wilder scored two knockdowns in the first fight, 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 that night, etching the moment in heavyweight title history.

The February 2020 rematch wasn’t remotely competitive: Fury scored knockdowns in the third and fifth rounds before finishing him off in Round 7. Mark 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.

Saturday’s fight was the first for both Fury and Wilder since they met in February 2020. Wilder immediately exercised his rematch clause after the bout (he received 40% of the revenue in the third bout after an even split in the first two fights).

The rematch was slated for July 2020 before Wilder claimed an injury, which gave the rematch clause a 90-day extension. The fight was then eyed for October but the pandemic proved to be a tremendous obstacle. The rematch 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.

The bout was then pegged for December but the network schedules of ESPN and Fox was another road block. Fury was adamant: he didn’t want the rematch to drag into 2021. He and Top Rank considered the rematch clause expired and pursued a mega fight with Anthony Joshua for the undisputed heavyweight championship.

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

The fight was then set for July 24 before Fury tested positive for COVID. 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 animus led to a promotion filled with bad blood, with both boxers promising to maim the other in the lead-up.

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