Tyson Fury said he was coming for a war, he said he was going to release his inner Raging Bull. And while Fury has a reputation for telling tall stories, he was hiding no secrets this time, as he battered Deontay Wilder from pillar to post to claim the WBC heavyweight title in Las Vegas.
It has been quite a journey for Fury, with plenty of highs and lows. He reached his destination at the southern end of the Las Vegas Strip. His old gym in Bolton, on the outskirts of Manchester, featured paintings on the wall of Fury and all the heavyweight greats. Now no one can argue he has earned his place alongside them.
Victory was total. He didn’t make Wilder go looking for him, he stood in front of the American and backed himself. He landed first, he landed best. Thousands of fans who travelled across the Atlantic celebrated.
It was not that no one believed Fury could fight like that, it was more that he had never tried it at this level before. If a boxer has the ability to disarm an opponent, why not do it? Yet by the manner of his victory, there is no room for dissent. Fury felt he should have got the decision the first time they met, in Los Angeles in 2018, when he twice climbed off the floor. Now there is nothing for Wilder to cling to.
According to the terms of the contract, Wilder can demand a rematch. Whether he will do so is another matter. From the moment Fury landed a roundhouse right to the side of Wilder’s head in the third round that sent him tumbling to the floor, the American was on the end of a one-sided beating.
To demand a third fight would imply there is some clear idea of how Wilder could change things around. This defeat was so comprehensive, it is difficult to know where to start.
In reality there is only one boxer left for Fury – Anthony Joshua. The WBA, WBO and IBF champion is due to face Kubrat Pulev in June, but Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s promoter, looks keen to ditch those plans. “No need for a third let’s go straight to it in the summer,” he said on Twitter. He added a hashtag: “undisputed”.
Egos on both sides are likely to make that complicated, while Fury will have to hang around for Wilder to make his decision. But two years ago, Joshua held all the cards, now Fury is No 1 and every conversation is likely to centre on demands from the Fury side that they deserve the bigger slice of the pie.
If Wilder says no to a rematch and no deal can be done with Joshua, next in line would be Dillian Whyte, a South London heavyweight who has spent two years at the top of the WBC rankings. Not a bad fight in itself, but not the one people will clamour for.
What Fury did was remarkable, even though he boxed in exactly the way he said he would. Having built his career as someone who used his size to slip and slide, to move away and minimise risk, this was eye-opening.
While Wladimir Klitschko will be remembered as a better champion than Wilder, the victory in Las Vegas will be remembered more fondly than Fury’s win over the Ukrainian in Dusseldorf in 2015. That night he put Klitschko in a tactical straitjacket, here he showed himself to be a completely rounded fighter.
“Complications happened,” Wilder said, hinting at things that had been wrong in his camp. He sounded like he was suffering from a cold early in the week, but he was quickly reduced to a disorganised wreck once Fury lowered his defences. His strength and energy simply drained away.
They set a big stage for Fury. Before the fight, Lennox Lewis, Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield were in the ring – the MGM Grand was where Tyson had bitten off part of Holyfield’s ear – and Fury showed he was up to that level.
Maybe the biggest risk for Fury is himself. He has gone off the rails before, trapped by his depression. Boxing keeps him functioning, but those close to him say he doesn’t want to remain in the sport much longer.
If it can hold his interest, he could be an attraction in Las Vegas for years, and there will be no shortage of challengers. But for now there will be minimal partying. He is booked to fly back home to England on Sunday night, where he will do his best to escape the ever-increasing demand for media appearances.
Fury is a contrast. He loves the spotlight, thrives in it, yet resents it. Whether he sees beating Wilder as the end of the adventure, or it sparks his ambition for more, will be the deciding factor in how much more we will see of him.