Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder delivered a present to boxing fans on Saturday night, battling in a wild back-and-forth brawl for Fury's WBC and lineal heavyweight championship. While Fury managed to survive two knockdowns to score a knockout in Round 11 and retain his titles, Wilder did more than enough to prove he is among the world's elite at heavyweight.
Both men tasted the canvas and rose to fight on and neither man was truly out of the contest until a crushing right hand by Fury sent Wilder crashing to the canvas in the 11th round. The win allowed Fury to claim ultimate superiority in a bitter rivalry that spanned three fights.
Elsewhere on the card, Frank Sanchez may have solidified his case as the top rising heavyweight prospect with a definitive decision win over Efe Ajagba. Sanchez controlled the entirety of the fight, but it didn't come without a bit of controversy as Sanchez dropped Ajgaba late, but followed up with an uppercut while Ajgaba had a knee on the ground. Plus, Robert Helenius once again spoiled any hopes for Adam Kownacki to get a title shot with a sixth-round TKO of the Polish heavyweight. The rugged veteran controlled the action and batter Kownacki's eyes badly to pick up a second straight stoppage victory. And top American prospect Jared Anderson continued his dominant run with a second-round TKO of veteran Vladimir Tereshkin.
In the wake of this great fight, let's take a look at the biggest takeaways from a fantastic night.
A true all-time great heavyweight championship fight
Before getting into what this fight means for either man, it needs to truly be said how great of a fight this was. Modern heavyweight boxing doesn't often deliver truly great fights. It may deliver great moments, such as Andy Ruiz's shocking knockout of Anthony Joshua in June 2019, but far less often do we see great fights the likes of which happened so regularly at the championship level in past eras. Fury and Wilder delivered just that on Saturday night, a true all-time great heavyweight championship clash. Their first meeting was an extremely good fight with dramatic moments, the second was dramatic in Fury's dominance, but the third was really and truly great.
Both men deserve credit for this fight's greatness. Fury, as an iron-tough masterful boxer with heart to spare, and Wilder serving as a dangerous knockout artist who did not break no matter how likely it looked after the first knockdown. Some pairings in boxing can't help but make magic and the familiarity and seemingly true hatred between Fury and Wilder created something special in Las Vegas and a fight that belongs in boxing's library of classic championship clashes.
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Wilder proved something important in defeat
We heard constant talk of how Wilder would show up as a new and improved -- but still highly dangerous -- fighter in the trilogy matchup. Given Wilder's parade of excuses after the loss in the rematch, it was easy to brush that off as just more talk from a fighter who appeared to have been mentally broken by a better opponent. Instead, Wilder did show up as a changed fighter. He did work the body early, as promised. And despite seeming broken after Fury scored the first knockdown of the fight in Round 3, Wilder stormed back with two huge knockdowns in the fourth.
An exhausted Wilder never stopped trying and it made him a more dangerous, more complete fighter than he was in February 2020. Trainer Malik Scott told Wilder that he would wake up in the morning and be proud of himself. That should absolutely be the case. Wilder lost the fight, but he proved that he's made of some seriously strong stuff in the process. Now, we sit back and wait to see if Wilder is able to mentally handle a second loss to Fury and the removal of all doubt that he is not the better man in the rivalry. His ability to do that dictates what his future in the sport looks like.
Fury is the greatest heavyweight on the planet
There was little debate over where Fury stood in the heavyweight ranks after the 2020 win over Wilder. While he only held one of the four recognized heavyweight world championships -- and the mostly-meaningless lineal crown -- Fury was king of boxing's premier division. That distinction was made even more clear after Oleksandr Usyk defeated Anthony Joshua in September. Fury now has an iron grasp on that status after beating the best version of Deontay Wilder yet on Saturday night.
Fury possesses so many tools that set him apart from the rest of the heavyweight crowd. He's a naturally large man who still has tremendous endurance. He has great skills as a pure boxer that extend to both offense and defense and allow him to deliver shots with true power. And, most importantly, his heart is unmatched. Fury has picked himself up off the canvas four times after being dropped by Wilder, one of the hardest one-shot punchers in heavyweight history. Not only has he gotten to his feet after those four knockdowns but deserved the win after two knockdowns in the first fight and came back to knock out Wilder after suffering two knockdowns in the third bout. Fury is a future hall of famer and someone who will be discussed as one of the heavyweight division's best fighters ever.
Heavyweight unification will have to wait
It's worth noting in the aftermath of this fight that we're still a long way off of seeing Fury fight for the unified heavyweight championship. Joshua has activated his rematch clause with Usyk, which means the IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight titles are tied up for a while. A Joshua win may even command a third fight between the two, though that result is unlikely if the same two fighters show up for the rematch that stepped into the ring when Usyk took the belts.
What does this all mean for Fury? It means a fight with the winner of Dillian Whyte vs. Otto Wallin, which goes down on Oct. 30. Whyte has spent most of the past few years as the WBC's mandatory challenger while never getting his shot. Wallin has already faced Fury once and nearly got the win after opening a huge cut on the champion's eyebrow. The WBC demanded the winner of Fury vs. Wilder defend the title against either Usyk or the winner of Whyte vs. Wallin. With Usyk busy with Joshua, we know the stakes of Whyte vs. Wallin, especially with the timelines lining up so perfectly. It's not a four-belt heavyweight unification. But at least there's something resembling a clear plan for the heavyweight division.