BY Denis Nadduli
After three fights featuring nine combined knockdowns and a wealth of unforgettable moments, Tyson Fury finally ended his epic heavyweight rivalry with Deontay Wilder with one last valedictory punch.
Fury got up from the canvas twice in the fourth round and eventually stopped Wilder with a devastating right hand in the 11th round, retaining his WBC title Saturday night in the thrilling conclusion to a superlative boxing trilogy.
Fury (31-0-1, 22 KOs) finished Wilder for the second straight time in their three bouts, but only after a back-and-forth event featuring five combined knockdowns and several apparent moments of imminent defeat for both men. Wilder ultimately ended up facedown on the canvas at 1:10 of the 11th round after a chopping right hook fired from high in the air by the 6-foot-9 Fury.
“It was a great fight,” said Fury, the sport’s lineal heavyweight champion and a former unified world champ. “It was worthy of any trilogy in the history of the sport. He’s a top fighter, and he gave me a real (test) tonight.”
Wilder (42-2-1) was knocked down in the third round and appeared to be on his way out, but he improbably rallied to knock down Fury twice in the final minutes of the fourth. The British champion was profoundly shaken, but he also gathered himself and fought on.
“He caught me twice in the fourth round, but I was never thinking, ‘Oh, this is over,'” Fury said. “He shook me, put me down, but that’s boxing, and that’s life as well. It’s not how many times you get knocked down. You’ve got to keep fighting and keep moving forward.”
Fury knocked down Wilder again with a concussive right hand midway through the 10th, but Wilder recovered and even stunned Fury in the final seconds of the round.
Fury persevered — and after the referee jumped in to wave it off in the 11th, Fury climbed onto the ropes in weary celebration before a frenzied crowd of 15,820 at T-Mobile Arena on the south end of the Las Vegas Strip.
Fury then broke into a rendition of “Walking in Memphis,” in keeping with his post-fight tradition of serenading his crowds.
“I haven’t seen the actual knockout tonight, but I felt it,” Fury said. “I hit him with a solid, crunching right hook to the temple, and shots like that, they end careers. He definitely took some punishment, so we’ll see what he can do in the future.”
Wilder absorbed enormous punishment and appeared to be physically drained for much of the bout, but the veteran American champ showed his toughness while still throwing power shots on weary legs. Fury landed 150 total punches to Wilder’s 72, with Fury connecting 52 times in the final three rounds alone.
The fight likely concluded one of the most memorable rivalries in recent boxing history — a trilogy defined by two remarkable displays of pugilistic tenacity. Fury said the rivalry is “done now, done for good.”
Any three-fight series is a rarity in the fractured modern sport, but Fury and Wilder brought out the best in each other through a rivalry spanning nearly three calendar years.