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Wilder vs Fury first fight: Explaining the verdict

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Lee Cleveland Updated
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In less than three weeks, undefeated WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder will face unbeaten foe Tyson Fury in a rematch of their controversial split decision draw in December 2018.

Although WBA/WBO/IBF Champion Anthony is the arguably the biggest draw in the division, the winner of Wilder vs Fury 2 will be crowned RING Magazine Champion, assuming the lineage of previous greats such as Jack Dempsey, Gene Tunney, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko.

He will be THE heavyweight champion. Even more significant than their first fight, the Wilder vs Fury rematch will be for the proverbial Big Enchilada....

But, will it be remembered more for a controversial decision? And why did the first fight end in a draw when most thought Fury outboxed the WBC Champ?

Wider vs Fury... The first fight

The draw rendered in December 2018 left a bitter taste in mouths of many. Most thought Fury deserved the nod while some strongly insist Wilder should have been the clear winner. In the end, the scores were 115-111 for Wilder, 114-112 for Fury and 113-113.

According to CompuBox statistics, Wilder landed 71 punches of 430 thrown (17%), and Fury landed 84 of his 327 thrown (26%). Fury also out-landed Wilder in 9 out of the 12 rounds and appeared to be the superior ring general. He didn't land pulverizing blows but connected more frequently than Wilder and appeared to visibly frustrate the champion with his herky, jerky movement.

In fact, it's rare to see a fighter on that level miss as cleanly and as often as Wilder. 

Of course, Deontay was the aggressor during most of the fight, scored a knockdown in Rounds 7 and 12 and was awarded a 10-8 score in both rounds. 


It wasn't just the knockdowns that saved Wilder

While a two knockdown advantage can dramatically change the outcome of a 4 or 6 round fight, it's not enough to dramatically change the result of a 12 round fight.

Let's cycle back to 2005. Wladimir Klitschko, in a heavyweight eliminator, was floored three times by Sam Peter yet won a clear unanimous decision as all three judges scored it 114-111. Klitschko was not awarded a knockdown nor a 10-8 score in any round of the fight.

And Peter, despite registering three knockdowns, had no problem with the decision.

"I took his best punch and knocked him down three times," Peter said. "I came to win but he did his best and he beat me. He beat me today, but maybe on my best day I can beat him. I learned from the experience of being in with a top opponent for the first time."

So, what happened? If they judges weren't totally influenced by the knockdowns, what else impacted their scoring?

Style points

Again, let's go back to Klitschko vs Peter (2005) in the aforementioned example. When Wlad wasn't on the canvas, he clearly dominated Peter who landed in single digits in total punches in six of the last seven rounds. Klitschko, that evening, landed in double digits in jabs alone in eight of twelve rounds. In all, Wlad, according to Compubox, landed twice as many shots overall and even one-upped Peter on power punches connected.

But unlike Wladimir Klitschko against Peter, Fury, despite landing more punches and frustrating Deontay, failed to beat up Wilder or generate any 'oohs and ahhs,' offensively, that evening.

That's not to say Fury didn't deserve to win. He shut down Wilder's offense. However, he didn't open a 'can of whoop a** nor did he box rings around Deontay.

And that's usually how Fury fights.

Fury fights - and wins- ugly; And his style against Wilder didn't win over the judges. Even the judge who favored Fury did no narrowly (114-112), suggesting he, too, saw a close fight.

Sure, Fury looked like the Incredible Hulk against the overmatched Tom Schwarz last June but how often does Fury's style leave fans in awe?

He often fights to the level of his competition, frustrates them and eventually wears them down.Brilliant or not, he seldom looks brilliant in the ring.

Tyson Fury - Last 6 fights

Won UD 12 Otto Wallin
Sep 14, 2019

Won TKO 2 Tom Schwarz
Jun 15, 2019

Draw 12 Deontay Wilder
Dec 1, 2018

Won UD 10 Francesco Pianeta
Aug 18, 2018

Won TKO 4 Sefer Seferi
Jun 9, 2018

Won UD 12 Wladimir Klitschko
Nov 28, 2015

Aside from the Schwarz showcase, when was the last time we've seen Fury give a crowd-pleasing, virtuso performance worthy of mainstream highlight films? Was it against Seferi, Pianeta or Wallin?

Tyson showed great courage and determination in overcoming a nasty cut against Wallin but, that aside, didn't endear any fans with a memorable performance. And even his title-taking tilt over Klitschko was snoozefest. Fury did little, Wlad did less.

Many, if not most, of Fury's wins could be described as "workmanlike performances."

Tyson talks macho but seldom fights in that aggressive, 'alpha man' style nor does he box masterpieces that wow audiences a la Muhammad Ali or Vasyl Lomachenko. As a result, it's easy to downplay his performances because, for all of his awesome talent, Fury is seldom dominant or overwhelming nor pretty or poetic in the ring.

Wilder, unlike Fury, possesses a style that's more amenable to the masses and, perhaps, judges. He's hard-hitting, aggressive and explosive, and throws a lot of powershots. Even his blocked shots appear to cause more damage than they really do because he loads up so often and has earned a reputation as a violent puncher.

Even watching him miss creates a certain level of excitement because everything his does is so eye catching.

And when an exciting fighter like Wilder faces an opponent whose style is more workmanlike, it often behooves the latter to do a little more than usual to win rounds.

Judges are human and susceptible to enthralling styles, crowd noise and the pre-existing reputations fighters carry into the ring with him.

Gennady Golovkin's fights with Canelo Alvarez are indicative of that. Alvarez's style is very showy so it's easy to get caught up in the overall aesthetics of his fights..

Judging is supposed to be based on 1) Clean and effective punching 2) defense 3) ring generalship and 4) effective aggression. However, that's all subjective. 

Most seemed to have thought Golovkin had done enough to comfortably win his first fight with Canelo (which was ruled a draw) just as many seem to believe Fury was robbed against Wilder.

However, in both cases, even the judges who were favorable to Golovkin and Fury didn't have them winning "comfortably." They rendered scores (115-113 and 114-112) close enough to suggest verdicts for those bouts, both draws, weren't so far-fetched.

Style points shouldn't be a factor but it often can be.

Fallacy in scoring

Secondly, judges seem to automatically award a fighter a 10-8 round for orchestrating a knockdown without taking into consideration what happened during the rest of the stanza. In doing so, they sometimes award a fighter "three points" for a knockdown instead of "one extra point." Hence, a fighter who would have won the round 10-9 if not for being floored subsequently losses it 10-8. That's a 3 point swing and it's a fallacy in scoring no one is addressing.

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Wilder vs Fury 2 (Fight Page)
WBC/RING Magazine Heavyweight Titles
February 22, 2020
MGM Grand Las Vegas
Las Vegas, NV, USA
Showtime PPV / FOX PPV
----------

Wilder scored an electrifying knockdown of Fury in Round 12 but Tyson went on to win the final minute of stanza, even jolting his foe.

By awarding Wilder a 10-8 score, the judges failed to give Fury full credit for winning the second half of the round.

10-9 in favor of Wilder would have been more accurate and would have resulted in two of the three scorecards being in Tyson's favor.

A-Side influence

In most bouts, one fighter is the A-side and the other the B-side. The A-side is usually the bigger draw, has more leverage in dictating the circumstances of the fight and almost always earns the higher purse. He is not always the champion or the favorite nor is he necessarily the more skilled or accomplished of the two fighters.

However, boxing history has shown he is far more likely to get the benefit of the doubt in close rounds.

Although a case could be made there will be no A-side for the Wilder vs Fury rematch (due to Tyson's surging stock after the first fight), Wilder was, at the very least, the weak A-side in December 2018. The bout took place in his native America, his purse was greater than Fury's and he entered the fight as a red hot WBC champion who'd knocked out every fighter he'd faced as a pro.

In life, perception often trumps reality so star power means a lot in boxing. Being the A-side, even a weak one, has its advantages.

Examples:

  • Sugar Ray Leonard vs Marvin Hagler
  • Oscar De La Hoya vs Felix Sturm
  • Andre Ward vs Sergey Kovalev I
  • Evander Holyfield vs Lennox Lewis I
  • Canelo Alvarez vs Daniel Jacobs
  • Joe Louis vs Jersey Joe Walcott I
  • Muhammad Ali vs Ken Norton III
  • Oscar De La Hoya vs Pernell Whitaker
  • Rocky Marciano vs Roland LaStarza

And while A-side fighters have been victimized by controversial decisions, they are far more likely than not to be the benefactor in distance bouts when they've fought well enough to create a seed of doubt about who the winner should be.

And boxing has always been that way.

Due to Fury's performance against Wilder and Tyson's newfound rockstar status since, the tables may have turned for the rematch. Fury, not Wilder, is likely to enter the bout as the bigger star.

Nevertheless, in Wilder vs Fury 1, Deontay's style points, boxing's scoring fallacy of unconditionally rewarding 10-8 rounds for knockdowns, and Wilder's reputation and A-side influence played a significant role in the scoring process.

And it's nothing new in boxing... Or in life!

In the office world, how often is a stronger employee overlooked for a promotion because someone else presents a little better?

That stated, the fight wasn't a "robbery" and Wilder certainly wasn't embarrassed by Fury. However, the circumstances detailed in this article suggest the cards were heavily stacked in Deontay's favor.

Given Fury's surprising performance against Wilder 14 months ago, the ensuing scrutiny over the verdict and Tyson's subsequent surge in stock, the onus may now be on Wilder to leave no doubt should the rematch go the distance.

 
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