Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020 | 2:10 a.m.
Tyson Fury wanted to keep his news conference brief late Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena after demolishing Deontay Wilder so he could jet to his, “Gypsy King party,” across the resort at Hakkasan. Little did he know the celebration had already begun.
The arena lobby was a festive scene in the aftermath of Fury’s seventh-round TKO victory over Wilder. Hundreds of fans dressed in formal attire and draped in British flags danced, sang, spilled drinks and became awash with the thought of future possibilities for their favorite boxer who improved to 30-0-1 and won the WBC heavyweight championship.
“Fury vs. (Anthony) Joshua at Wembley (Stadium),” one man with a half-buttoned shirt said into a television camera. “Make it happen.”
The reveling in dream scenarios lasted for an about hour before Fury reemerged and issued a somewhat sobering reality check: He’s likely not going to have the opportunity to unify the major heavyweight belts. Fury expects his next opponent to be the same one he outclassed on Saturday night — Wilder.
It’s technically up to Wilder, who suffered the first loss of his career in the second fight with Fury after the two fought to a split draw in December 2018 in Los Angeles. Both Wilder and Fury agreed to a rematch clause going into Saturday night’s fight, giving the loser 30 days to notify the winner that he wanted to opt into another bout.
Fury will not pressure Wilder into passing on the opportunity. In fact, he wants him to accept it.
“I need time to enjoy this victory,” Fury said. “Deontay will need time to recover but I’m almost sure he will take the rematch because he’s a dynamite puncher…I’m almost sure we’ll do it again.”
The natural follow-up question would be, “why?” The first fight between Fury and Wilder virtually demanded a rematch given its controversial verdict but there was nothing indecisive about Saturday’s showdown.
Fury beat up Wilder from the moment he rushed forward at the opening bell, just as he promised he would. The underdog — Fury closed as high as plus-140 (risking $1 to win $1.40) in local casinos — caught the favorite with combinations early until landing a clean straight right in the third round for a knockdown.
Wilder was never the same, stumbling around the ring and becoming covered in his own blood, which Fury at one point licked off his neck in what’s sure to be a long-lasting viral memory of the fight. There was much speculation that Wilder had suffered a shattered eardrum but his head coach, Jay Deas, said the fighter only had “small cuts” in his right ear and mouth.
Fury dropped Wilder again with a body shot in the sixth round and continued teeing off in the seventh badly enough that the latter’s corner threw in the towel to surrender.
In total, Fury outlanded Wilder 82-34 including 58-18 on power punches, according to CompuBox.
“I overcame a lot to win this thing tonight,” Fury said. “I kept thinking that if he couldn’t beat me at 50 percent, there was no way he was going to beat me now.”
Wilder was transported to the hospital after the fight before speaking, but Deas addressed the media on his behalf with an interesting revelation: It was an assistant coach who threw in the towel.
Mark Breland had seen enough, much to the dismay of Wilder, who immediately protested the decision. Deas said he was on his fighter’s side.
“I don’t think (Breland) should have,” Deas said. “Deontay is a go-out-on-his-shield kind of guy and he will tell you straight up, ‘Don’t throw the towel in.’….You’ve always got to consider that Deontay is a fearsome puncher so that’s always a difficult thing because he does always have that big shot to turn things around.”
When pressed for more information, Deas said he gave his assistants more power than other trainers in boxing so it wasn’t beyond Breland’s purview to take control in the moment.
“Mark said something about throwing the towel in and I told him, ‘Don’t do that,’ I don’t think he should do that, and then the fight went a little bit longer, and I saw the towel go in,” Deas said. “I haven’t talked to Mark yet but I’ll talk to him and see what happened out there.”
Whether or not the towel dispute is enough to turn a third fight between Fury and Wilder into another blockbuster is up for debate, but it doesn’t seem to matter either way. For a sport that’s often a tangled web of governing bodies, championship belts and promoters, the future of the heavyweight division actually appears pretty simple for once.
If Wilder wants a rematch with Fury, he’s likely to get it.
“He can opt out of a third fight now and get himself together and maybe do it again next year, in which case Tyson Fury will keep himself busy with other opponents,” said Bob Arum, Top Rank CEO and Fury’s promoter. “If Deontay Wilder wants to go ahead with a third fight, that’s what the contract says, and we honor contracts.”