Opening bell: Fury a winner in life
LOS ANGELES -- Forget about the fight results for a second. Tyson Fury is a winner.
Fury may have gotten a draw in his first lineal heavyweight world title defense against titleholder Deontay Wilder in very entertaining and dramatic showdown that lived up to the hype on Saturday night at the Staples Center, but that was only a boxing match.
Though Mexican judge Alejandro Rochin scored the fight 115-111 for Wilder, Canadian judge Robert Tapper 114-112 for Fury, and British judge Phil Edwards 113-113, Fury walked out of the arena with his head held high, and for good reason.
In fact, he ended his postfight news conference in surreal fashion: Leading trainer Ben Davison, assistant Freddie Roach, promoter Frank Warren and even some in the crowd by singing "American Pie" before saying goodnight, dropping the mic and leaving with a smile -- and a few scrapes and bruises -- on his face.
Fury's performance in the fight, including getting off the deck from two knockdowns, was a metaphor for his life and one that he appreciated.
After Fury won three major belts and the lineal title from Wladimir Klitschko in huge upset fashion almost three years to the day of his fight with Wilder, his life quickly went into free fall. He did drugs. Lots of drugs. He drank. A lot. He had mental health issues that saw him on the brink of suicide. He ballooned from about 260 pounds to more than 400.
That he could come back from all of that to not only continue his boxing career but do so at the absolute highest level must be applauded and respected.
"There wasn't many people who thought I could come here and box like that after 2½ years out of the ring," an almost jovial Fury said at his postfight news conference. "It's not any secret what I've been doing out of the ring. I've been living like a rock star. But that ain't a great thing, by the way.
"I fought back from [thoughts of] suicide, mental health and depression and anxiety, and I wanted more than anything tonight to show the world that it can be done. Anything is possible with the right mindset. If you believe in yourself and you sacrifice and dedicate with the right help, you can come back because when I sit here and say I was on the brink of suicide, I mean suicide and I came back. With the help of [trainer] Ben Davison and a great team around me, [we] were able to achieve what we achieved tonight."
Fury ended his 31-month layoff in June and fought two low-level opponents before taking the Wilder fight. Many thought he needed at least another tuneup fight to properly prepare for Wilder, but Fury proved them wrong.
He fought his rear end off against Wilder. He showed his skills, hand speed, ring IQ and enormous heart to get off the mat from a knockdown in the ninth round and a massive knockdown on a clean right-left combination in the 12th round.
Wilder is the most devastating puncher in boxing, so when Fury went down for the second time -- really hard this time -- most thought it was game over. He didn't so much as twitch for the first few seconds. Huge credit to referee Jack Reiss, a future Hall of Famer for my money, for not panicking and immediately waving off the fight. Reiss gave Fury his 10 seconds to rise, and rise he did, seemingly from the dead. When he literally popped up to his rear end, it was like a real-life imitation of WWE's The Undertaker before he got to his feet.
Fury had risen from the mat in the fight just as he has in his life.
"How did I get up from the knockdowns? I don't know," he admitted. "I had a holy hand upon me tonight, and it brought me back. And I got a good fighting spirit and I never say die. I get back up. Even in the 12th round, when I got knocked down heavy, I got back up and probably won the round -- fought back, wobbled him a little bit."
The 12th round mirrored Fury's survival of the past three years.
"If you look back a year ago today, I was about 400 pounds, I was in terrible shape," Fury said. "No secret what I've been through. But this is proof anyone can come back from anything with the right mindset and the right help. Anyone can do it. I ain't a special human being. I'm just a normal man. But with the right help, the right guidance, anyone can turn their life around.
"I wasn't fighting for myself. And when I was down I wasn't just down on that canvas in Round 12 for me and my family. I was representing everyone who suffers around the world. I had to get up. I couldn't stay down. I had to get up and show you can continue. You can carry on, and anything is possible."
Besides his will to overcome all odds in the ring and out, Fury showed uncommon grace about a decision many thought he deserved to win.
"I'm not gonna take anything from Deontay Wilder, the Bronze Bomber, the unbeaten WBC champion of the world. Great fighter," Fury said. "Listen, we can only do our best in that ring, and no matter what anybody says, Deontay Wilder is a hell of a champion. He showed great heart. He persevered and kept coming on. Just want to say thank you to Deontay Wilder and his team. It was a great fight and it was a pleasure.
"It was what it was. I enjoyed every second of it. I'm not gonna sit and complain all night or scream robbery, this, that and the other. I thought I won the fight. I leave it to the audience to decide what they thought. Two men tried their hardest and tried our guts out. We trained for 10 weeks away from our families, put the sacrifices in. Both came in in great shape, very fit, and it showed. I hope everybody enjoyed it as much as we did and I'm sure we'll put on a great show in the second fight."
Even when England's Fury (27-0-1, 19 KOs), 30, was asked again about the decision, he refused to discredit Wilder (40-0-1, 39 KOs), 33, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
"I ain't gonna complain and call Wilder a million names because he's a great champion, and that's what champions do," he said. "Listen, I'm the lineal heavyweight champion of the world. I ain't gonna just lay down because I got punched in the face and knocked down. We get back up and fight. I'm not the lineal champion for nothing. I'm not gonna cry like a baby over spilled milk.
"The fans were the winners. I felt like I should have won the fight, but I ain't gonna complain. I ain't gonna call Deontay Wilder names. I'm not gonna run him down. He's a great fighter and I respect him. God bless him as well."
Fights you might have missed
Saturday at Los Angeles
Strawweight Carlos Licona (14-0, 2 KOs) W12 Mark Barriga (9-1, 1 KO), wins a vacant world title, scores: 115-113 (twice) Licona, 115-113 Barriga.
In one of the walkout bouts that took place after the Wilder-Fury main event, the Westminster, California-based Licona, 23, edged Barriga, 25, of the Philippines, to win the 105-pound world title that Japan's Hiroto Kyoguchi vacated this past summer. Neither fighter packs a punch, and they fought a close, technical fight that was competitive throughout.
Heavyweight Chris Arreola (37-5-1, 32 KOs) TKO6 Maurenzo Smith (20-11-4, 13 KOs).
In the final fight of the Fury-Wilder card, former three-time heavyweight world title challenger Arreola, 37, of Riverside, California, and Smith, 41, of Houston, fought in front of few hundred people, and those who stayed got the expected result -- a one-sided Arreola victory that came about after Smith retired on his stool after the sixth round, tired of taking a beating. The fight was Arreola's first since an eighth-round knockout loss challenging Wilder for his world title in July 2016.
Saturday at Saltillo, Mexico
Junior featherweight Luis Nery (28-0, 22 KOs) TKO7 Renson Robles (13-6, 7 KOs).
Former bantamweight world titlist Nery, 23, of Mexico, won his second fight in a row since missing weight for a world title rematch with Shinsuke Yamanaka in March, getting stripped and later suspended. Nery has had two soft-touch opponents in those fights, including last-minute foe Robles, 29, of Venezuela, who suffered his fourth loss in five fights. As expected, Nery, who was staying busy awaiting another bantamweight title shot, dominated. In the seventh round, as he laid a beating on Robles, the referee finally stopped the one-sided destruction at 1 minute, 16 seconds.
Friday at Brisbane, Australia
Middleweight Jeff Horn (19-1-1, 13 KOs) KO1 Anthony Mundine (48-8, 28 KOs).
In an all-Australian grudge match, Horn fought in front of his home crowd -- in the same stadium where he got his controversial decision win against Manny Pacquiao to claim a welterweight world title in 2017 -- and destroyed Mundine in their catchweight fight at 156.5 pounds. Horn, 30, who was coming off a one-sided ninth-round knockout loss to Terence Crawford that cost him his belt in June, needed only 96 seconds to send Mundine, 43, a former super middleweight world titlist, into a likely retirement. Horn destroyed him with a left hook to the chin. Mundine tried to get up but could not beat the count from referee Phil Austin.
Friday at Huntington, New York
Welterweight Chris Algieri (22-3, 8 KOs) W10 Angel Hernandez (14-12-2, 9 KOs), scores: 100-90 (twice), 99-91.
Former junior welterweight world titlist Algieri, 34, of Huntington, New York, ended a 2½-year layoff by returning to The Paramount in his Long Island hometown, where he made his name on Star Boxing Promoter Joe DeGuardia's club show before hitting it big. Algieri looked in tremendous condition and was sharp, working with trainer Andre Rozier for the first time. Algieri, whose previous fight was a fifth-round knockout loss to Errol Spence Jr. in April 2016, easily outboxed Hernandez, threw many combinations and outclassed his foe. Hernandez, 27, of McAllen, Texas, dropped to 1-5-1 in his past seven fights but still has never been knocked out.