Boxing’s glamour division, plagued for years by the dominant and largely humdrum title reign of Wladmir Klistchko, has produced several thrilling bouts in the past two years.

And it delivered another Saturday night at Staples Center in Los Angeles, where Deontay Wilder rallied late to earn a split-decision draw against Tyson Fury and retain his World Boxing Council heavyweight championship.

It was a classic style matchup of boxer versus puncher. And over the first eight rounds, Fury, the boxer, controlled much of the action. The 30-year-old from Great Britain kept Wilder at distance, and ducked most of his lunging shots while simultaneously sneaking in sharp counterpunches on occasion.

But Wilder (40-0-1, 39 knockouts), the 33-year-old champion from Tuscaloosa, Ala., eventually connected in the ninth round with a thunderous right hand to the side of Fury’s head. The blow sent Fury (27-0-1, 19 KOs) to the canvas, and turned the momentum of the contest in Wilder’s favor.

Fury, though, survived and regained his form in the 10th and 11th rounds, continuing to frustrate Wilder as he had early on. It seemed as though Fury might be on his way to victory.

But Wilder opened a scintillating 12th round with a massive combination punctuated by a looping left hand that nearly finished the Brit. Fury, somehow, beat the count from referee Jack Reiss and managed to survive an onslaught from Wilder. The American appeared to tire in the final minute, giving Fury some offensive chances to close out a bout which had plodded along early, but ended with fireworks.

Deontay Wilder, left, and Tyson Fury, of England, trade punches
Deontay Wilder, left, and Tyson Fury, of England, trade punches
Wilder thought the late knockdowns should have been enough to get the judges’ nod.

“I think with the two knockdowns I definitely won the fight,” Wilder said. “We poured our hearts out tonight. We’re both warriors, but with those two drops I think I won the fight.”

Fury, unsurprisingly, felt differently and suggested Wilder benefited from friendly judging in his home country.

“We’re on away soil,” Fury said. “I got knocked down twice, but I still believe I won that fight.”

The decision drew predictable jeers from the crowd. But a draw appeared logical in a bout which was extremely difficult to score.

Also logical? A rematch. During their postfight remarks, neither fighter fully embraced the idea, but they did not reject it, either. When they see what are likely to be sizable guaranteed contracts put in front of them, both figure to be open to a return engagement. So too, most likely, are the fans.

Source: Joe DePaolo