Boxing has a brand new heavyweight champion in Tyson Fury, the brash Englishman who scored a massive upset of Wladimir Klitschko in Dusseldorf, Germany on Saturday night.
Fury—named after Mike Tyson by his boxer father, who predicted on the day he was born that his son would be crowned heavyweight champion of the world—used his 6-foot-9 inch height advantage, faster hands and superior mobility to outbox a lackluster Klitschko on his way to winning a unanimous decision, handing the Ukrainian his first loss since 2004.
Klitschko, 39, who was overly cautious and seemed hesitant to throw many punches during the 12-round battle, was simply outworked by the younger, more aggressive Fury, 27. The loss ends Klitschko’s historic nine-and-a-half-year reign as heavyweight champion, the second-longest after Joe Louis.
Fury (25-0, 18 KOs) was awarded the fight 115-112, 115-112, 116-111 on the judges' scorecards, which included a point deduction from the British brawler for repeatedly rabbit-punching Klitschko. He is now the WBA, IBF and WBO champion.
Klitschko (64-4, 54 KOs), who finished the fight with cuts around both eyes, looked every minute of his 39 years as he lost in front of a stunned crowd at Dusseldorf's Esprit Arena. "Dr. Steelhammer" had long utilized his piston-like jab, punching power and affinity for excessive clinching to win a seemingly endless succession of boring title defenses, and most observers expected yet another easy, if unexciting, Klitschko victory.
The soft-spoken Ukrainian had been the target of numerous taunts from the bombastic Fury, who calls himself the “Gypsy King” in honor of his Irish Traveller roots and his family's bareknuckle fighting bloodline. His pre-fight antics included bizarrely wearing a Batman costume to a press conference and serenading Klitschko with Bette Midler's "Wind Beneath My Wings" at a public workout last week.
"It was all fun and games in the build-up, I just wanted to be confident, young and brash,” the undefeated Fury said after his win. "This is a dream come true. We worked so hard for this. I've done it."
Fury welcomed a rematch, which Klitschko can call for per a clause in his contract.
“I’m a fighter so I will take on all challengers,” Fury said. “I came here tonight, took the world title. Whatever happens next is a blessing. The interest in the next fight will be huge.”
Fury broke down in tears after the decision was announced, then grabbed a microphone and sang Aerosmith's “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” to his pregnant wife, Paris. HBO commentator Jim Lampley aptly described Fury's heartfelt rendition of the power ballad as “if not the strangest moment in the history of heavyweight fights, certainly one of them.”
The fight itself wasn't nearly as compelling. While Fury hardly looked spectacular in the ring, his more effective potshotting, feinting and head movement stood in dramatic contrast to the Ukrainian's pitiful offensive output, leaving little doubt about who deserved the decision after 12 rounds.
"Tyson was the faster and better man tonight," Klitschko said. "I felt quite comfortable in the first six rounds, but I was astonished that Tyson was so fast in the second half as well. I couldn't throw my right hand because the advantage was the longer distance he had."
If Klitschko doesn't exercise the clause in his contract that allows for a rematch, the biggest fight for Fury would be against Alabama-born WBC champion Deontay Wilder, who holds the belt vacated in 2013 by Klitschko's older brother Vitali, the current mayor of Kiev, Ukraine. Whoever wins that clash would be the first undisputed heavyweight champion since Fury’s fellow Briton Lennox Lewis in 2000.
Klitschko was one of the most dominant heavyweights of all time, but his underwhelming performance on Saturday certainly portended a changing of the guard. He has cast a giant shadow over the heavyweight division since he won an Olympic super heavyweight gold medal in 1996, even though he didn't win a professional world title until 2006.
That's nearly 20 years in the harsh glare of boxing stardom. It may be time for the former champion--whose fiance, actress Hayden Panettiere, was recently treated for postpartum depression after giving birth to the couple's first child--to consider retiring from the division he has ruled for nearly a decade.
If boxing fans just witnessed the end of the Klitschko era, they can take comfort in the fact that a boisterous young champion could inject some much-needed excitement into the heavyweight ranks.
Fury's upset victory lets him invoke the title of "The Baddest Man on the Planet," that famous standing first claimed by his namesake, Mike Tyson. But Fury will have to beat Wilder, and probably Klitschko again, if he wants to prove beyond a doubt that he is the best big man in boxing.
Photos by Lars Baron / Bongarts / Getty