After Tyson Fury had broken down Wladimir Klitschko’s resistance, he broke down in tears, and then broke into song. All week the 27-year-old from Morecambe had promised he would show the world that Klitschko was too old and too slow for him. And now here he was, the WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight champion of the world, relishing every second of his triumph by singing Aerosmith’s “Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” at the top of his voice.
In truth it was a messy mauling fight, with too much clinching and not enough clean work. Many of the rounds were close. But the crisper, cleaner work was done by Fury, who deservedly took a unanimous decision 115-112, 115-112, 116‑111.
Some had suspected that the 39-year-old Klitschko was slowing down. But few gave Fury a hope of so conclusively proving it. After all, Klitschko was unbeaten in 22 fights over 11 years and was making the 19th consecutive defence of the title. This was also his 28th world title fight, eclipsing Joe Louis’s old record of 27. Fury had only had 24 fights in his entire career.
But, from the first seconds of the first round, Fury was in Klitschko’s head. Inviting him on while feinting and flicking out the jab. At one point Fury put his hands behind his back and smiled, and asked him provocatively, “Is that it?”
However his mind games had started earlier in the day. After visiting the Esprit Arena in the morning, he had threatened to pull out of the fight because he deemed the ring canvas too soft. Fury’s agent, Asif Vali, called it a “massive health and safety issue,” – somewhat ironic given the nature of the boxing business – while his dad, John, reckoned the canvas was like a trampoline.
The dispute was resolved after two hours of talks when Klitschko’s camp agreed to remove one of the three layers of foam beneath the canvas. But the pre-fight threats and low-level mind games were not finished yet.
With just 30 minutes to go before the ring walk Fury’s entourage kicked off again, this time because Klitschko had done his wraps with no one from their camp watching. Peter Fury – Tyson’s trainer – again threatened to call the fight off until Klitschko rewrapped his hands. Earlier in the week Fury’s camp had also threatened to pull out over a row about gloves, which was only resolved in Friday’s rules meeting.
There was a definite strategy here. Klitschko is a self-confessed control freak; so Fury was trying to rattle him out of his rhythm. And it was clearly working. The second round followed a similar pattern as the first, with Klitschko stalking but rarely connecting. Fury, while hardly throwing leather, connected with a chopping right before catching Klitschko coming off the ropes with another straight.
In the third, Fury briefly switched from orthodox to southpaw, again trying to present a different look to the champion, inviting him in. Again Klitschko stalked him but appeared reluctant to pull the trigger. After three rounds the lack of action was illustrated by the stats: Fury had landed 17 punches to Klitschko’s 11.