I was at ringside when Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward had three welterweight title fights in their storied careers of a boxing trilogy. They were toe-to-toe slugfests that became a part of boxing history.
Two fighters, then, settled a score and became best friends out of the ring. Scars, forever etched above their eyes from numerous cuts sustained and memories of a trilogy. Fighters, they were, and respecting their roles in this great sport known as “The Sweet Science.” They gave more meaning as to why boxing is different from other sports.
The mind games of two adversaries in the ring, and many times it can be more brutal prior to the first bell. The insults, verbal attacks, they will often add to hype. It often sells a fight.
Saturday night in Las Vegas, Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder added to the chapter of a boxing trilogy, except, this 12-round WBC heavyweight title fight will go down in boxing history as one of the all-time greats. They will be talking about this in years to come.
The back-and-forth insults between Wilder and Fury, two adversaries and that hurt more than a punch to the chin, temple, or body. They provided more drama for a fight that needed no hype.
Just like we still discuss the trilogy of Joe Frazier vs. Muhammad Ali, recently remembered, October 1, 1975. “The Thrilla in Manila.” Then one promoter, (Don King) closed circuit TV, and one heavyweight title for all the marbles.
Then it was 15-round championship fights. Ali would say that fight was “The closest thing to death.”
Though, adversaries Saturday night that settled their score will never become best of friends like Gatti and Ward, as with so many others, Wilder left the ring a defeated and run down former champion. He would not acknowledge his adversary as the top heavyweight .
“I did my best, but it wasn’t good enough,” Wilder said. “I’m not sure what happened. I know that (Fury), didn’t come in at 277 pounds to be a ballet dancer. He came to lean on me, try to rough me up, and he succeeded.”
Fury, indeed, did the punching with a right. He sent Wilder down in the third round. It was supposed to be Wilder’s right that was his repertoire. Wilder, though, dropped Fury twice in round four. Round seven, Fury put a hurt on his adversary and knocked down Wilder again in round ten. Then the eleventh round and a finish that saw Wilder hurt and on the canvas.
A third fight with five knockdowns, now known as epic in boxing annals and we may never see another one like this. We expected a slugfest and got more.
“He’s a tough man, took some big shots,” Fury said about a final right that etched this trilogy in boxing annals, Fury said “I haven’t seen it. But I felt it. Those shots ends careers.”
We will see those images and footage in years to come that could have ended the career of Deontay Wilder. In boxing circles, one has never forgotten the images from that third Ali-Frazier fight. We always relive those punches of three Gatti-Ward fights
This is what makes boxing the sport it is, a third fight that was built with drama. A fight that had a decisive ending and no controversy of going to the scorecards of “Three Blind Mice” judges at ringside.
Fury, he marches on and looks to unify the heavyweight titles at some point, possibly renewing a mega fight with former champion Anthony Joshua that would put the two in a ring with some 70,000 or more rabid fans beyond the pond in London.
But, Wilder and Fury will never be good friends. The fight always ends with compassion and comradery, two embracing and showing concern for each other after the insults, pushing and showing.
Wilder left the ring. He was hurt. Give him the benefit of the doubt for not embracing Fury. Then again, these two are not friends and Deontay Wilder was out of excuses.
We heard no excuse this time after relinquishing the WBC title to Fury in the seventh round of their second fight.
No excuses about his Hall of Fame and Olympian medalist trainer, Brooklyn’s Mark Breland, who threw in the towel to spar his fighter from receiving more brutality of Fury punches. Wilder fired Breland, while he blamed his overweight ring attire, tainted water, and the gloves.
Wilder, at that time blamed anything or anyone but himself and went the legal route to obtain this third fight, which halted a planned Fury-Joshua encounter. And in this third fight, except for some good punches and knockdowns, Wilder can look at himself and admit who the better fighter is after three fights.
“I wanted to show some love and respect,” Fury said. “But he didn’t show it back. That’s his problem. I’ll pray for him so God will soften his heart,”
Fury said he is the top heavyweight and Wilder is second. There will be no debate who the better fighter is. After this third and decisive outcome, we all know who is number one.
Yes, the trilogy is boxing and this one will live forever.
Rich Mancuso: Twitter @Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso