By Kieran Mulvaney
Tyson Fury insisted confidently beforehand that he would take the heavyweight championship of the world from Wladimir Klitschko, and few outside of the United Kingdom (and not too many there, either) believed him. He promised that when he won, he would sing a song in the ring, and it’s doubtful many paid attention to him when he said that because, well, Fury said and did a lot of things—including, but not limited to, showing up to a press conference dressed as Batman—and why would anyone focus on what he said he would do after something no one thought he could achieve?
And yet, incredibly, in front of a packed house in Dusseldorf, Germany on Saturday night, Fury did defeat Klitschko to become the heavyweight champion of the world; and, thereafter, he took the microphone from former-heavyweight-champ-turned-postfight-interviewer Lennox Lewis and he did indeed sing a song (Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing”). He didn’t do it well or in tune, but the mere act of his singing may have been the single most interesting aspect of an otherwise deeply underwhelming and unsatisfying evening.
There is no sugar coating this one basic fact: This was a dire excuse for a fight, and—the improbability of the result aside—likely the least memorable transfer of the heavyweight lineage in the modern history of boxing’s flagship division. The post-mortem questions will be asked at some length for some time and may not be answered definitively until the inevitable rematch: Did Klitschko, closing in on 40 years old, finally fall victim to Father Time, and was his ordinary outing against Bryant Jennings in late April a portent of what befell him on Saturday? Was he, as has frequently been alleged, a giant in an era of pygmies, metaphorically and relative to his considerable size: was his lengthy reign the consequence of his only having to face a poor crop of heavyweights who were, with very few exceptions, far from his equal in stature let alone skill? Or did Fury simply execute an excellent game plan to perfection, and back up his boasts the way he said he would? Should praise be visited on the brash Mancunian, rather than excuses sought for the defeated Ukrainian? Or perhaps all of the above holds true.
What ultimately matters is that at the end of 12 largely execrable rounds, Klitschko—cut and bloodied on both cheeks—had suffered his first defeat in 11 years. And Tyson Fury—and this cannot be repeated often enough, because repetition is surely the fastest way to reach acceptance—was the heavyweight champion of the world.
Round-by-round updates are unnecessary. Frame by frame, the story was largely the same: Fury (25-0, 18 KOs), an allegedly 6’9” bundle of nervous energy, danced around the ring, perpetually feinting, taunting Klitschko, daring the Ukrainian to show some offense of note, flicking out a busy left jab and an occasional southpaw one, brimming with confidence and from time to time mixing in overhand punches. So great was Fury’s sense of control from the opening bell that, more than once, he held his hands behind his back and invited Klitschko to crack his unprotected chin, an invitation the now-former champion didn’t accept once.
Klitschko (64-4, 53 KOs) was tentative throughout. He appeared confused by Fury’s constant motion, unwilling to commit himself to an attack that might have brought him success until the very end and even then with insufficient vigor. His jabs rarely scored, his vaunted right hand was hesitant and rarely on target and his left hook was nowhere to be seen. Unused to having to dig deep in search of victory—throughout his career, with the possible exception of a 2005 outing against Samuel Peter, he has only ever cruised to victory or been knocked out—he simply could not, or was not willing to, find another gear that might enable him to hold on to his crown.
If there was one round of note, it was the twelfth and final one, when Klitschko did briefly emerge from his slumber, landed a short right and a hook, but then—as he did all fight and indeed has done throughout his career—tied up Fury in a clinch, even as precious seconds ticked away. To his immense credit, Fury—who must have known, despite an eleventh-round point deduction for rabbit punching, that he was far ahead on the scorecards—came right back at him, looking to finish off his foe, just as he had sought to do at the end of that previous frame when he wobbled Klitschko with a right hand and a hook.
Otherwise, the story of the bout is told by the CompuBox punch stats.
Fury’s output at least was, if you squint hard enough, borderline acceptable: 371 punches thrown in total with 86 landing. But Klitschko’s was pitiful: 52 of 231 in total, and just 69 power punches thrown and a dreadful 18 landing.
“I came here to Germany, to the lion’s den, to take on a great champ,” said an emotional Fury afterward. “This is a dream come true. We’ve worked so hard for this. We’ve put everything into this and I can’t believe I’ve got it.”
He turned to the fallen champion and explained his prefight chest-thumping by saying that, “I just wanted to be confident, young and brash.”
Then he took a deep breath. And he sang.