Fury digs deep to win an unforgettable classic over Wilder

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One of the greatest trilogies in heavyweight history ends with one of the greatest matches in boxing history as Fury retains his WBC crown in a wild back-and-forth Saturday night in Las Vegas.

No one will forget it. Not any time soon.

Five years from now, 10 years from now, boxing fans will still be talking about the memorable third fight between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder.

Fury and Wilder walked through the fire of a combined five knockdowns, and it was Fury who came out the winner—though not unscathed—to retain the WBC heavyweight world championship by stopping Wilder at 1:10 of the eleventh round before 15,820 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday night.

“Like the great John Wayne said, Iron and steel baby!” said Fury (31-0-1, 22 KOs). “(Wilder) is a tough man. He took some big shots tonight. It was a great fight, as good as any trilogy in history. I beat him three times and I’m a sportsman and wanted to give him some love and respect. And he didn’t want to give it back. That's his problem and I pray for him.

“This was a great fight and October 9, 2021 will go down in history, I hope.

“I always said I was the best in the world and he was the second best. Don’t ever doubt me. When the chips are down, I will always deliver.”

At the time of the stoppage, Fury was up on two scorecards 95-91 and 94-92 on the other.

Wilder (42-2-1, 41 KOs) was knocked down in the third, 10th and 11th rounds. Fury was knocked down twice in the fourth.

In the opening seconds of the bout, Wilder, weighing a career-high 238, went immediately after Fury with jabs to the body. Fury closed the first with a right to the jaw, which Wilder handled well. Wilder went back to poking Fury again in the second with jabs to the body. By the middle of the second, Fury had closed the distance and began smothering Wilder, like he did in their second fight, holding, clutching and leaning on the smaller Wilder.

Wilder went back to jabbing to Fury’s jiggling midsection in the third. With 1:44 left in the third, referee Russell Mora warned Fury “not to put (Wilder) in a headlock.” In the last 90 seconds of the third, Wilder had Fury, who weighed a career-high 277, backing up. But Wilder may have punched himself out.

Fury nailed Wilder with a right to the side of the head that seriously staggered Wilder, sending him down with :39 left in the third. Wilder got up and was clearly hurt.

Though just when it seemed Wilder was done, his great equalizer appeared—his right hand in the fourth round. With :55 left, Wilder caught Fury with a short right to the right temple, causing a delayed knockdown by Fury. With :15 remaining, Fury found himself on the canvas again after Wilder landed another right to the side of Fury’s head.

“If you mess with fire you’re going to get burned,” Fury said. “I’ve had three fights with the biggest puncher in boxing history and he caught me twice in the fourth round. I was never thinking it was over. I was thinking ‘Good shot, but I will get you back in a minute.’ I was very conscious. He shook me. He put me down. Time and time again, I showed that’s it very possible to achieve anything you want as long as you believe it in here (pointing to his heart).”     

In the fifth, Fury appeared to be on stable feet. It was Wilder who appeared gassed. He was breathing heavy and his right eye was swelling. His legs were unsteady. But with :52 left in the sixth, Fury banged Wilder again with a right on the side of the head and had Wilder trapped against the ropes.

“And I want to say if it wasn’t for SugarHill (Steward, Fury’s trainer), America’s and Detroit’s own, I wouldn’t have gotten through that fight tonight,” Fury said. “He told me, he said get your jab working, big guy, and throw that right hand down the middle. That's how the big dogs do it.”

There were moments when it seemed as if Fury would cup Wilder’s head with his left hand, while landing a right uppercut.

By the seventh, Wilder was fighting on guts. Fury’s constant leaning was taking a toll. Fury crushed a short right off of Wilder’s jaw, and again, Wilder looked like he was out on his feet.

By the eighth, Wilder tried fighting back, though didn’t seem to have anything on his punches to make Fury respect his power. Fury again plowed a right off of Wilder’s head.

How Wilder was still standing was anyone’s guess. He looked like he was ready to keel over at any moment—and didn’t.

“(Wilder) really improved,” Fury said. “It was a much different fight than fight two. He came in real heavy tonight, 238, and I believe that helped him. He was hitting solid. We fought like two warriors tonight and when I came over to him tonight, and I went over to shake his hand and tell him, ‘Well done,’ and he was like, ‘No, I don’t respect you.’”

In the 10th, Fury literally lifted Wilder off the canvas with a right to the head with 1:20 left in the round, scoring his second knockdown of the fight. The two mauled at each other, with Wilder, somehow, someway, coming back again, popping Fury on the top of his head.

Finally, a Fury right to the side of Wilder’s head dropped him the last time with 1:53 left in the 11th as Mora tried to catch him on the way down. A dejected Wilder had his head bowed in his corner, when his trainer, Malik Scott, came up and kissed him on his forehead.

“I did my best, but it wasn’t good enough tonight,” Wilder said. “I’m not sure what happened. I know that in training he did certain things, and I also knew that he didn’t come in at 277 pounds to be a ballet dancer. He came to lean on me, try to rough me up and he succeeded.”

No one will forget it. Not any time soon.

Frank Sanchez impressively handles Efe Ajagba

Frank Sanchez needed a signature victory and he may have received it on the large platform of the Fury-Wilder III undercard. Sanchez remained undefeated with a 10-round unanimous decision over the previously undefeated Efe Ajagba.

Judges John McKaie (97-92), Lisa Giampa (98-91) and David Sutherland (98-91) all had Sanchez comfortably winning.

Weighing a career-high 240, Sanchez (19-0, 13 KOs) waited to counter punch Ajagba. He switched briefly to southpaw in the second, though the pair circled each other in a tactical and cautious manner in the first two rounds. Sanchez began opening up in the third, cuffing Ajagba (15-1, 12 KOs) with a right.

“The plan was to counterpunch,” Sanchez said. “I’m much faster than him, so the plan was to be defensive and counterpunch. I knew I was going to win all the rounds because I’m much better than him technically. I knew that if I connected, he would fall and he did fall. My gameplan was always to frustrate him and go in for the attack.

"I’m ready for the top-five in the division and a world title.”

Fighting Sanchez was like trying to hit a knuckleball. He moved left and right, worked angles and kept moving. He also landed the cleaner punches.

Ajagba poked Sanchez with the jab, though the 6-foot-6 Ajagba appeared tentative. In the final seconds of the sixth, Sanchez fell to the canvas after missing with a big left swing and was off balance. Ajagba tapped Sanchez with a left jab as Sanchez was falling. But referee Michael Ortega ruled it a slip—not a knockdown.

Then, suddenly, some separation occurred.

In the seventh, Sanchez knocked Ajagba down with an overhand right to the jaw. But while Ajagba was down on his right knee, Sanchez hit Ajagba again with a left. It was the second time Ajagba had been knocked down in his career. Ortega never bothered to count, nor did he penalize Sanchez for hitting Ajagba when he was on his knee. Ortega did rule that Ajagba was knocked down.

Entering the last round, Kay Koroma, Ajagba’s trainer, implored his fighter that he needed a knockout to win. It never happened as Sanchez cruised to victory.

Robert Helenius makes his point a second time against Adam Kownacki

Robert “The Nordic Nightmare” Helenius went into his rematch with Adam “Babyface” Kownacki with a simple goal: Prove his first victory over the previously undefeated Pole was not a fluke.

Filled with confidence and feeling healthy, Helenius accomplished his mission as he punished Kownacki until referee Celestino Ruiz ended matters at 2:38 of the sixth round.

“It was good,” said Helenius, who stopped Kownacki in the fourth round in March 2020. “Either way, it would have been a stoppage. I had a lot of good shots tonight and he didn’t have any.

“I expected it because, what does he have? Don’t get me wrong, he’s a good brawler, but I’ve been fighting brawlers for 20 years. I know how to deal with them, even if they are hitting me low or behind the head. That doesn’t bother me.

When asked how sparring Deontay Wilder helped him, “I had to stay away, or otherwise he would have knocked me down,” said Helenius, who will now become the WBA mandatory challenger for newly crowned champion Oleksandr Usyk.

Helenius (31-3, 19 KOs) had Kownacki in serious trouble in the first round. Within the first 25 seconds of the fight, Helenius went on the attack, with a straight right to the chin, followed by a left. In the last 20 seconds, Helenius had Kownacki (20-2, 15 KOs) pinned against the ropes and was pelting him at will. By the second round, Kownacki’s left eye was swollen and his right eye appeared to be closing, too.

Helenius used his three-inch reach advantage to step back, punch the incoming Kownacki, then step back. In the third, Helenius caused more problems for Kownacki, landing a right, followed by a right uppercut and Kownacki’s left eye looked like it was completely closed. In the waning seconds of the third, Kownacki hit Helenius low, causing a break and Kownacki to receive a warning from referee Celestino Ruiz.

With 2:19 left in the fifth, Ruiz saw enough of the low blows and took a point away from Kownacki. Helenius, very methodically, tore apart Kownacki. As the final seconds wound down in the fifth, Ruiz barked out to Kownacki “show me something.”

As the sixth began, Helenius had outlanded Kownacki 114-46. When Kownacki hit Helenius low again with around :20 left in the sixth, Ruiz stopped the action, warned Kownacki and then, after examining the fighter, waved it over.

“Right now, I want to go home to my family,” said Helenius. “I’ve been away from them for four weeks. Then we can worry about what’s next.”

As a precaution, Kownacki was taken to University Medical Center for evaluation after the fight.

Vladimir Hernandez ruins the comeback of Julian “J-Rock” Williams

This was supposed to be Julian “J-Rock” Williams’ comeback party. The former unified super welterweight world champion was coming off a 20-month hiatus from the ring, the longest layoff of his career.

Rugged Mexican southpaw Vladimir Hernandez was the unexpected guest who ruined it with a 10-round, split-decision upset. Judge Lisa Giampa (96-94) had it for Williams, while judges John McKaie (96-94) and David Sutherland (97-93) scored it for Hernandez.

Williams, 31, had cut Hernandez over his right eye early in the first round, and by the sixth, he was cut over both eyes (the second cut, over his left eye, was caused by an accidental headbutt). But Hernandez kept coming at Williams (27-3-1, 16 KOs). And Williams was wearing down. In the sixth, for example, Williams showed little resistance and Hernandez plowed him with a left to the face.

Most of the fight was fought in the proverbial phone booth. Neither fighter was more than a few inches from each other for more than a few seconds. Over the first five rounds, Williams used precise punching and a steady body attack to break down Hernandez (13-4, 6 KOs). Over the last five, Hernandez’s constant pressure was telling. He had a listless Williams pinned against the ropes numerous times and J-Rock couldn’t get out of the way.

In the last two rounds, Hernandez outlanded Williams 41-17. For the fight, Hernandez won the punch war, 137-112, in total connects

It marked the biggest victory of Hernandez’s career, while Williams has not won since his star-turning, title-unifying victory over Jarrett Hurd in May 2019. Upon hearing the result, Williams stoically turned and left the ring leaving his team in the corner.

For a closer look at Fury vs Wilder III, check out our fight night page.

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