Forget it Jake, it's Chinatown.
Those immortal words spoken at the end of Roman Polanski's 1974 noir classic adequately sums up the state of boxing. Fans of the Sweet Science are either gluttons for punishment or in the middle of a decades-long Stockholm Syndrome. No other sport " barring professional wrestling, whose disdain for its fanbase remains unparalleled " takes as much delight in fleecing its fans.
I came into the fight rooting for the Brit Tyson Fury. His is a Rocky Balboa story. He's battled adversity and discrimination all his life, from growing up poor and fighting for scraps to being denied service in restaurants on account of his Gypsy roots (they prefer to call themselves Travellers). Fury seemed to self-destruct after dethroning Wladimir Klitschko in 2015. The scale of his achievement is often overlooked: The Ukranian had not lost for a decade before being bamboozled out of his belts in 2015. Not only did Fury toy with his mind ahead of the bout " dressing up as Batman to the pre-fight press conference " between the ropes he made a great champion look like an old man. Fury is far from the most exciting fighter to watch, nor the most technically proficient, but he certainly looked like a world beater.
Deontay Wilder came into the fight with the reputation as a murderous puncher, but not much else. He'd been fed 'soft' opponents until recently, allowing him to polish up his undefeated record and score several ESPN highlight reel knockouts. His biggest win came against Luis Ortiz, a much-avoided and power-punching cagey Cuban fighting out of a southpaw style. Wilder was losing that fight until he uncorked his famous right hand and sent Ortiz to the mat. Ortiz mounted a comeback and hurt Wilder, but the American showed heart and grit, hanging on until he could gather his bearings and later, knocking Ortiz out.
In the absence of Anthony Joshua, the other top British heavyweight, this was the match to make. Undefeated American versus undefeated Brit. Someone's O has got to go. Before the fight, the pundits were unanimous in their outlook: If Fury lasted 12 rounds, he'd outclass Wilder. Conversely, if the American dubbed 'The Bronze Bomber' managed to catch the self-proclaimed 'Gypsy King' clean then that would be all. Fury had been previously hurt and dropped by Steve Cunningham, a blown-up cruiserweight and Wilder's hands are lethal weapons. The pundits were, for the most part, correct. It's past time to acknowledge two facts: Fury is the most talented heavyweight boxer on the planet and Wilder is the most devastating puncher around.
Fury's 'herky-jerky' style gave Wilder fits. The American never looked comfortable in the ring, and at certain points, looked utterly bewildered. Fury, coming off a couple of years' inactivity, took two tune-up fights before this one. Fury looked in top shape, dominating vast stretches of the fight, giving Wilder boxing lessons and dancing lessons.
Unfortunately, Wilder gave Fury falling down lessons. Wilder didn't land many of his sledgehammer-like right hands, but when he did, he absolutely nailed Fury. The first knockdown came in the ninth round, just as it looked that Wilder needed a knockout to win the fight. Fury came back strong, rocking Wilder but he couldn't put him on the canvas to allow the judges to score the round even.
The second knockdown, which came in the final round, saw Wilder unleash a spectacular combination. Most people thought the fight was over. Fury looked to be unconscious. Wilder was in the corner, doing a jig and mugging it up for the crowd. But the referee had barely counted five when Fury, improbably, rose to his feet. Wilder's smile faded quickly. He waded in ferociously, trying to land the killing blow, but Fury managed to hold on as the final bell sounded. Wilder seemed to deflate. I suspect Wilder, in his heart, knew at that moment that he'd lost the fight and his belt. I scored the bout overwhelmingly in Tyson fury's favour: 115-111.
The judges' decision " a draw " was sickening to watch. Fury's historic comeback was derailed by incompetent judging. While one can argue for a 115-113 decision for Fury, a 115-111 for Wilder is outside the realm of this universe. I'm not sure what the judge who came up with that scorecard was watching, but it sure wasn't the fight. Wilder looked relieved and Fury looked crestfallen. Fans later took to social media, pouring scorn on the verdict and excoriating that particular judge. Fighter Pauli Maggiani said that judge should be drummed out of the sport. Teddy Atlas, in what is becoming his usual post-fight rant, exclaimed: "I'm sick of it!". So are most boxing fans. But will they tune into the inevitable rematch? Of course. And what about this latest questionable decision in a long line of questionable decisions? (Canelo-GGG, Canelo GGG-2 just in the past few years).
Forget it. It's boxing.