Tyson Fury produced the most destructive performance of his boxing life to end Deontay Wilder’s five-year reign as WBC heavyweight world champion in seven thrilling rounds of their Las Vegas rematch.
The Briton, 31, pummelled his rival in a way few could have imagined following their 2018 draw, flooring him in the third and fifth rounds while constantly backing up the most-feared puncher in the division in a way no-one has done before.
A jab and right hand – the combination with which Wilder has wiped men out repeatedly – sent the American down in the third, stunning the MGM Grand Arena.
Wilder, making his 11th defence, fell again before the round was out – this time a slip – and looked ragged under the pressure, before a left hand to the body sent the 34-year-old down in the fifth.
Fury delivered everything he had promised, transitioning from his hit-and-move style to overpower, outwork and bully his previously undefeated rival until the towel came in during the seventh round.
This was more than a world title win, it was a statement – and as Fury was held aloft by his corner after victory was sealed, the days of depression, weight gain and despair that cost him the belts he claimed in 2015 seemed a lifetime away.
Thousands of British fans who had descended on Vegas saw their hero take an age to arrive at the ring on a throne, sporting a golden crown. It was the only time Fury moved slowly all night.
He hit pads in the ring as Wilder made his ring walk – just as he did 15 months earlier in Los Angeles – and his start was rapid, a flurry of hooks prompting chants of “there’s only one Tyson Fury” from the crowd.
Actors Michael J Fox and Jason Statham, as well as Super Bowl winner Patrick Mahomes, watched as Fury raised his hand at the end of the opening three-minute round and things began to feel markedly different to their first meeting.
He simply did not take a backward step, forcing Wilder to the ropes and ensuring the champion had no say in the pace of proceedings. And in the third round, those who had paid the kind of ticket prices that made this the highest gate ever for a heavyweight bout in Nevada, rose to their feet at the sight of Wilder floored for only the second time in his career.
A right hand behind Wilder’s ear – the same shot with which the American had floored Fury nine rounds into their first fight – did the damage. Wilder then fell again as Fury bulldozed him. At the bell, the pair glared at one another and Wilder knew he was in a place no fighter wants to be. The Britons sitting ringside did not want to be anywhere else.
Was the weight Fury had gained making the difference? Was it the new training set-up? Whatever it was worked to perfection. He was putting on a boxing clinic and a body shot dropped the stunned Wilder once more in the fifth.
Fury was docked a point for punching on the break but he did not seem to care or blink at the punishment, instead continuing to feint and twitch to set shots up before unloading on a man who had started a slight favourite. He led 59-52 59-52 and 58-53 on the cards when the towel came in.
Fight week had seen repeated debate over where this meeting ranked in the pecking order of the greatest nights of heavyweight action, but little consensus. What we can say with certainty is that this was a masterclass.