A fun-filled showman turned into a bloodied, angry and possessed fighter in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
Even in this city where the sober turn drunk by day and gamblers see hope turn to despair, Tyson Fury’s transformation was dramatic.
As he returned to his corner, blood pouring down the right side of his face from the cuts inflicted by Otto Wallin, he looked at trainer Ben Davison and simply yelled: “I live for this.”
When the cuts have healed, there will be some critics of how he only managed a points win but the fact Fury is again ‘living for this’ can be seen as joyous for the sport.
In a fight-week during which he excelled as salesman, showman and, ultimately, dogged fighter, the parties left with most to ponder will be his heavyweight rivals who again saw a man with seemingly endless resolve.
- Fury – I had 40 stitches, won £5,000 and am ready for war with Wilder
- Bloodied Fury beats Wallin on points in dramatic Las Vegas bout
- Fury cuts may ‘push back’ Wilder rematch – Warren
- Listen: 5 Live Boxing – Fury battles through cut to beat Wallin
Selling hard and digging in
On Monday, Fury knocked out interviews at home and recorded promos in one take. On Tuesday he served tacos at a restaurant and on Wednesday he sang for the media. This was the salesman.
On Saturday, sombrero and all, he danced in his dressing room before smiles turned to grimaces, resilience, know-how and a sheer refusal to lose. This was the fighter.
He is some mix.
“I’m grinding like an amateur who hasn’t had a fight in their life,” he said on Tuesday. By Saturday night this felt like an understatement.
“The cut happens and Tyson had to fight outside of his plan, fight ugly and show more aspects of his game,” said former world middleweight champion Andy Lee on BBC Radio 5 Live.
“The fighters that cross over are blood-and-guts fighters. Tyson showed he can do that.
“You are hugely affected by a cut like that. It is so draining but when you overcome a fight like that, it kind of builds your resolve. You think ‘nothing can be as bad as this so what have I got to worry about?'”
Bring out the fighter sooner
Those close to Fury speak of his iron will. This is a man who says he once sat in a sauna long enough for Wladimir Klitschko to leave, just so that when they eventually fought, he knew he had already outlasted him.
One question after Saturday is whether the salesman needs to be packed away away sooner in a fight week.
Fury was hitting pads in the ring while he waited for Deontay Wilder to ring walk in Los Angeles in December. In Vegas, how focused could he have been after being carried to the ring on a parade float, while dancing and wearing a sombrero?
The sight of blood unquestionably flicked a switch at the T-Mobile Arena. If, as is hoped, he faces Wilder or any other of the elite names next, the entertainer may need to tune out and the fighter kick in a bit sooner on fight day.
“I thought he looked a little bit lazy in the opening two rounds, the cut coming in the third,” said 5 Live’s Steve Bunce.
“Opinion will fall into two camps. One will question the fact he was facing an unknown Swede so how has he gone 12 rounds; the other will say he gutted it out and also, what preparation for Wilder next.”
Fury favourite against Deontay
Fury now has a wealth of experience. He has worked with the likes of legendary trainer Emanuel Steward, Anthony Joshua’s coach Rob McCracken, his uncle Peter Fury, Freddie Roach and Ricky Hatton.
Throw in the sparring sessions with Klitschko and his work with Davison and you can see how he has accumulated know-how that is invaluable at times of crisis.
His father’s post-fight comments that the team around him could damage his career seem harsh. Watching the team eat together, roll into fight-week events together and their general interactions, you do feel they have Fury’s best interests – physical and mental – at heart.
Other critics will point to the fact that only 40% of the seats were sold for Saturday’s fight as reflecting an uninspiring choice of opponent and Fury’s failure to make a splash in the US.
Being around Fury, you do get a sense he is relaxed with the way things are going. And perhaps, in facing the destructive Wilder just six months into his comeback, he earned the right to have a couple of lesser names on his record before going big once more.
Ultimately a showdown with Wilder in February – should his cuts heal and the American beat Luis Ortiz when they eventually agree to fight – will offer a route back to a world title and thrill the paying public.
“We are told that fight is done and I think we will be back in Las Vegas in February,” said Bunce, but of the cuts that required 47 stitches he added: “A fight in February means you are in training camp in early December. There are tight lines in recovering the eye.”
Lee added: “You have to assume he is the favourite against Wilder now. He went into the first fight with no real competition for over three years and was overweight, getting into shape.
“He’s had two fights since, had the training camps and gained all the instincts you get for fighting regularly. You’d have to make him favourite now.”
Fury will no doubt find an eye-catching way to market his latest battle scars.
He is a salesman but when he returns to the ring, it will be a brave man who bets against this never-say-die fighter.