Amidst a litany of title belts, sanctioning bodies, and the constant justification of why a ‘must-see’ fight in any weight division can’t happen immediately, I’ve at times found myself wondering why I enjoy boxing.
Last Saturday night, heavyweight champions Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury provided the answer. At it’s best, few, if any sports top boxing.
Their clash, the first meaningful pay-per-view involving an American heavyweight in over a decade, provided drama, excitement, sportsmanship, and yes, perhaps a little controversy.
All four elements blended together to provide not just an exciting fight but the fuel needed to spark mainstream interest in a long dormant division.
Tyson Fury boxed effectively, kept Wilder’s timing off almost all night, and connected with enough solid punches to win many rounds and in the opinions of many, won the fight.
Wilder, unjustifiably criticized for not taking on the division’s best, showed tremendous heart throughout the fight and kept coming forward behind a jab. Although he was unable to time the right hand the way he wanted to, he didn’t give up or lose focus. In both the 9th and 12th rounds he reminded the boxing world of his terrific power-punching ability.
Fury didn’t succumb to the power, however. He rose each time and kept fighting. Wilder also was relentless in his attack constantly pushing the action.
Can there be anything better?’ I asked myself in the waning seconds of the 12th. That question was answered by how each man handled himself after a split-draw was rendered from the judges. Neither man got the result he wanted, so there was surely going to be anger in the post-fight interviews, right?
But rather than each man hurling insults at one another, they each showed tremendous grace and sportsmanship. By doing so, they elevated themselves and the sport.
The humbleness of both men didn’t fade away overnight.
“People should wake up,” Fury said at a press conference the morning after the fight posted on YouTube. “Deontay’s done everything asked of him. He’s 40-0, and he fought a great man last night. I was fit and prepared . . .
America should get behind Deontay Wilder. He’s your man. Support him! The man deserves credit and respect for what he’s done in his life and career.”
Sports is often defined by one set of statistics; winning and losing. Given the odds that each man overcame to share the ring that night, it’s understandable why winning and losing was just as important as another goal: to bring glory and excitement back to the heavyweights.
“I wanted this event to be something special and to be big for America, Wilder said on the Dec. 3 edition of At the Fights on SiriusXM. “To see that amazing atmosphere, I felt like we were bringing boxing back to America, especially the heavyweight division.”
On Dec. 1, Both Wilder and Fury achieved that goal thanks to special ability inside the ring and their tremendous character outside of it.
Boxing should be proud.