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Saturday, February 4, 2023

Five fights that have defined the heavyweight king

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Editor’s note: This is an updated version of an article that was originally published in 2020.

Tyson Fury has proved again and again over the past several years that he’s the No. 1 heavyweight of his era.

“The Gyspy King’s” dominating run began with his shockingly easy decision over long-reigning champion Wladimir Klitschko in 2015, was interrupted while Fury spent 2½ years battling his demons and then culminated with a series of dominating performances that left no doubt about the two-time titleholder’s preeminence.

And Fury isn’t finished. He is scheduled to defend his title in a third fight with Derek Chisora on Saturday at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London (ESPN+), a precursor to more big fights next year.

Here are five fights that helped define the 34-year-old Fury so far:

 

WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO

Date / site: Nov. 28, 2015 / Espirit Arena, Dusseldorf, Germany
Records: Fury 24-0; Klitschko 64-3
At stake: Klitschko’s three world titles
Result: UD (115-112, 116-111, 115-112)
Background: Klitschko was in the midst of one of the great championship runs in history when he met Fury. The Ukrainian made 18 successful defenses in the second of his two heavyweight reigns, second only to Joe Louis’ 23. And he was champion for more than nine years, again second only to Louis’ 11-plus. He hadn’t lost since Lamon Brewster stopped him in 2004. And Klitschko was around a 4-1 favorite, which are wide odds in boxing. All of that is why it was difficult to imagine Klitschko losing, even at 39 years old. And it’s why it was stunning to watch as the fight unfolded. The skillful, fleet and long Fury outboxed the champion from the beginning, using feints and movement to baffle the smaller man and consistently beat him to the punch. It wasn’t exciting to watch but it was brilliant. Fury, 27, was heavyweight champion. “This is a dream come true.  We worked so hard for this. I’ve done it.” The joy wouldn’t last long.

 

DEONTAY WILDER I

Date / site: Dec. 1, 2018 / Staples Center, Los Angeles
Records: Fury 27-0; Wilder 40-0
At stake: Wilder’s world title
Result: SD Draw (113-113, 115-111, 112-114)
Background: Fury didn’t fight for 2½ years after his victory over Klitschko as he battled his formidable personal demons, including depression. He twice pulled out of a rematch with Klitschko, tested positive for a banned substance, was later suspended and gave up his belts as he worked to get his life together. Plus, he had ballooned to more than 350 pounds. It wasn’t clear whether he’d ever fight again. Then, in one of the sport’s more remarkable comebacks, he learned to cope with his problems, got back into the gym, shed most of the excess weight and got back to fighting. He won two tune-up fights in 2018 and then agreed to meet Wilder, who had 39 KOs in his 40 fights. Did Fury still have it? Indeed he did. He outboxed a limited boxer and would’ve won had he not gone down in Rounds 9 and 12. He proved two things, though. He was back. And he was more resilient than anyone realized. The fact he got up from the second knockdown was remarkable. And he was just getting started.

 

DEONTAY WILDER II

Date / site: Feb. 22, 2020 / MGM Grand, Las Vegas
Division: Heavyweight
Records: Fury 29-0-1; Wilder 42-0-1
At stake: Wilder’s world title
Result: TKO 7
Background: Fury, disgusted with what he believed was a robbery in the first fight, was determined to prove something of which he was certain: He was the better man. He parted ways with trainer Ben Davison and hired SugarHill Steward, a disciple of uncle Emanuel Steward who Fury believed would help him fight effectively in a more aggression fashion. Fury gained weight (273 pounds at the weigh-in) and a puncher’s mentality. He even suggested he’d stop Wilder. And then he did it. Fury was in his nemesis’ face from the opening bell, never allowing Wilder the time or distance to unload his vaunted right hand. Wilder went down from a right in Round 3. He hit the canvas again from a body shot in Round 5. And, badly beaten, a barrage of unanswered punches with Wilder’s back against the ropes prompted the referee to stop the fight at 1:39 of Round 7. Fury had made it all the way back. He was the heavyweight king.

 

DEONTAY WILDER III

Date / site: Oct. 9, 2021 / T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas
Records: Fury 30-0-1; Wilder 42-1-1
At stake: Fury’s world title
Result: KO 11
Background: Any notion that Fury would dominate Wilder as he did in their second fight went by the wayside in the fourth round of the 2021 Fight of the Year. That’s when a determined Wilder, one of the hardest punchers in history, put Fury down two times in a hair-raising stanza to raise the possibility of a significant upset. Instead, Fury used the harrowing moment to underscore the fact that he’s as resilient as he is talented. He survived the round and then went back to work, methodically breaking Wilder down over the next six-plus rounds. The ending was brutal. Fury put Wilder down in Round 10 but that was only a prelude for what was to come. In Round 11, the champion landed a series of heavy blows to the head of his weakened foe and then connected on the coup de grace, a right to the head that put a beaten Wilder flat on his face. The referee didn’t bother to count. Wilder was done. Fury once again demonstrated that he was better than his arch rival.

 

DILLIAN WHYTE

Date / site: April 23, 2022 / Wembley Stadium, London
Records: Fury 31-0-1; Whyte 28-2
At stake: Fury’s world title
Result: TKO 6
Background: Fury’s most-recent victory was more of a coronation than a significant challenge. He hadn’t fought in the U.K. since August 2018, when he outpointed Francesco Pianeta in Belfast, Northern Ireland. And his countrymen obviously were excited about his return. A European-record 94,000 packed Wembley Stadium to watch their bigger-than-life champion take on the well-known Whyte, a Londoner. And Fury certainly didn’t disappoint anyone, putting on an unforgettable show. He dominated Whyte for five-plus rounds and then delivered arguably the most-emphatic stoppage of his remarkable career, ending the fight in an instant with a mammoth right uppercut in Round 6. It wasn’t Fury’s most important victory given Whyte’s limitations but it would be difficult to surpass the drama of a brutal knockout before a record crowd in a long-awaited homecoming fight. It was a hell of a night for Fury and boxing.

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