Monday, December 24, 2018

SNB Stock Report 12-24-18

After a jam-packed weekend of fights, it's time for another edition of the SNB Stock Report. Whose stock has gone up (+), whose has gone down (-) and whose has remained unchanged (NC)? 

Jermall Charlo (NC) Charlo had a difficult time with late replacement Matvey Korobov. Jermall escaped with a unanimous decision victory, but there were large stretches of the fight where he was second best. Head-hunting, Charlo was trying to knock Korobov out with seemingly every punch he threw. This provided Korobov with ample opportunity to counter or step out of range. Charlo did land his fair share of power punches, but overall his performance didn't answer many questions, just raised more. Charlo needs to remember that he once had a solid boxing foundation; abandoning his fundamentals to sell out for a knockout, he has become more one-dimensional in the ring.

Jermell Charlo evades a jab from Tony Harrison
Photo Courtesy of Stephanie Trapp

Jermell Charlo (-) Jermell lost a controversial unanimous decision to Tony Harrison. Most ringside media had Charlo winning, as did the Fox broadcast team, but many on social media thought that the fight was close, that no robbery occurred (sometimes a bout plays differently in the arena than it does on TV). Charlo was certainly the aggressor in the match but it's up for debate as to how effective that aggression was round by round. Like his brother in the main event, Jermell spent too much time loading up on big shots trying to get a knockout. He did have moments where he landed effective hard punches, but Harrison also befuddled him at points with sharp counterpunching and movement. Although this loss won't be devastating to Charlo's career, it did derail a title unification fight with Jarrett Hurd, and the career-high payday that would have accompanied it. 

Dereck Chisora (NC) Through 10 rounds Chisora was running neck-and-neck with Dillian Whyte in their rematch. Chisora landed his fair share of hard left hooks to the body and sneaky right hands to the head. But in the 11th, Whyte unleashed a pulverizing left hook. And that was that. When in shape and focused, Chisora remains a threat to top heavyweights and a great action fighter. At 34, it's too early to give up on him. He may yet spring another surprise or two before his career is finished. 

Michael Conlan (NC) After 10 professional fights, it's not clear if Conlan has an elite skill. He certainly doesn't have punching power. His hand speed is good not great. His defense can be penetrated. He's an athlete, but not an exceptional one. On Saturday he won a wide decision over Jason Cunningham, a C-fighter, but didn't dazzle. Right now Conlan appears to be going through the motions somewhat. He's getting in his rounds, working on things, but not necessarily looking like a future champion. To win a title he will have to rely on ring generalship, guile and intelligence more than an overwhelming skill set. It's a good thing that Conlan is now aligned with trainer Adam Booth. Guile is Booth's calling card. 

Warrington (right) digs a right hand into Frampton's body
Photo Courtesy of Elliot Foster

Carl Frampton (-) Josh Warrington attacked Frampton with such gusto during the first two rounds that Frampton looked like he was in danger of being knocked out. But Frampton bore down, regained his composure and worked his way into the fight. He fought his ass off in the trenches and tried his best to thwart Warrington's aggression. However, Warrington would not be denied on Saturday. His work rate and relentlessness earned him a unanimous decision victory. Frampton was supposed to have had the superior power and boxing skills in the matchup, but he couldn't match Warrington's physical output or will to win. On the technical side, Frampton lacked accuracy with his left hook and at times had trouble pulling the trigger. It's clear that Frampton is no longer a fighter in his physical prime. 

Tony Harrison (+) In his notable fights earlier in his career, Harrison demonstrated that he possessed the boxing skills to be a champion, but he lacked endurance, which led to knockout defeats against Willie Nelson and Jarrett Hurd. Leading up to Saturday's fight, Harrison claimed that his stamina issues were now resolved. He attributed his past problems to over-training. Well, it looks like there was something to that. Not only did he last the full 12 rounds on Saturday, but he won a unanimous decision over Jermell Charlo, claiming his first championship belt. Charlo-Harrison was a difficult fight to score. Charlo came forward and landed his share of shots, but he also missed a lot. Harrison did some very clever countering throughout the contest. Often, boxers on the back foot don't necessarily get the nod in close fights, but there's no rule that says judges have to pick the fighter coming forward. Irrespective of what the scores could have or should have been, Harrison performed with aplomb.

The Larry Hazzards (-) Larry Hazzard Sr. was Fox's unofficial judge during the Charlo card while his son was an official judge for the Charlo-Korobov main event. Both stunk. Senior failed to credit Tony Harrison for his solid boxing throughout the fight. But that was nothing compared to Junior's abominable 119-108 card for Jermall Charlo. Let's not sugarcoat it: Hazzard Jr. should be suspended for that card. Korobov did some great work during the fight; it's a shame that Hazzard Jr. finished his before the bout even started. He embarrassed the sport on Saturday. 

Matvey Korobov (+) With it being four years since his last fight of note and receiving only a week's notice to face Jermall Charlo, not much was expected of Korobov. Yes, he had been in training camp, but he was preparing for an eight-rounder above the middleweight limit, not a fight against one of the best talents in the division. But surprisingly Korobov troubled Charlo throughout their fight. Although he lost by unanimous decision, more than a few observers thought that Korobov had done enough to win. He consistently punished Charlo with an array of counters. Whenever Charlo would reach with a right hand or overcommit with a shot, Korobov was there with something in return. Korobov could have been busier, but his performance exceeded all realistic expectations. He will get another meaningful fight based on how competitive he was on Saturday. 

Martin Murray (-) Murray's fight against Hassan N'Dam was essentially a last chance for two perennial middleweight contenders. Murray started brightly, attacking N'Dam from the jump and landing a number of solid right hands. But as the fight progressed, Murray's work rate dropped and he couldn't figure out N'Dam's unconventional combinations and tricky rhythms. Ultimately, Murray dropped a majority decision and announced after the fight that he would be retiring. Murray had a solid career and with different judges he could have (and perhaps should have) been a world champion. 

Hassan N'Dam (+) In his previous bout against Ryota Murata, N'Dam's corner stopped the fight after he had taken numerous hard right hands. That had been 14 months ago and it was unknown how N'Dam would look in his return against Martin Murray. After a few rounds of shaking off ring rust, N'Dam used his legs, angles and unique combinations to get the best of Murray. He won via a majority decision, but the fight wasn't all that close. N'Dam remains a tricky opponent; however, he is only truly threatening against those who lack power. 

Josh Warrington (+) Nobody told Josh Warrington that he was supposed to lose to Lee Selby and Carl Frampton this year. But Warrington believed that he had far more to offer than just being a scrappy "opponent." He would go on to attack Selby and Frampton ferociously and neither was able to match his intensity level. Although not considered a big puncher, Warrington had Frampton hurt several times during Saturday's fight. Featuring a whirlwind of movement, body punches galore and a rock solid chin, Warrington slugged his way to a unanimous decision victory in his first title defense. It's safe to say that Warrington will no longer be underrated. He's a real force at featherweight and no fighter is going to enjoy getting in the ring with him. 

Dillian Whyte standing over a fallen Dereck Chisora
Photo Courtesy of Dave Thompson

Dillian Whyte (+) It's easy to pick apart Whyte's flaws in the ring: His footwork is ponderous, his focus can drift in and out, his defense can be inconsistent. However, he can certainly fight. On Saturday he knocked out Dereck Chisora in the 11th round with an absolutely beautiful short left hook. Whyte's money punch is the hook, but he's not a one-trick fighter. He used his physicality to beat former champion Joseph Parker earlier this year. In addition, he possesses a fairly large offensive arsenal and can really dig to the body. Whyte has continued to improve since his loss to Anthony Joshua in 2015. An afterthought in the division three years ago, he's now among the top five heavyweights in the world. 

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.comHe's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.

Monday, December 17, 2018

The Middleweight Sweepstakes

There needed to be a flow chart, or at least a dry-erase board. 

"If Golovkin signs with DAZN, then he needs to have a dance partner and we all know that he won't be fighting Canelo next. So Sergiy Derevyanchenko could be available for that fight."

"But if GGG goes with ESPN, who is there for him to fight right now? Rob Brant?"

"But GGG could also sign with the PBC, so that could mean he fights Jermall Charlo next, or maybe Charlo fights Daniel Jacobs instead."

On one hand, it's an exciting time to be involved in the middleweight division. But it's also possible for one's eyes to glaze over when considering the myriad permutations and combinations that could occur at 160 lbs. The answers are few right now but the possibilities, endless.   

I'm sitting in a Manhattan restaurant with middleweight contender Sergiy Derevyanchenko, Keith Connolly, who manages Derevyanchenko and Jacobs, and Lou DiBella, who promotes Derevyanchenko. A number of writers have assembled for the meet-and-greet, which quickly shifts into parlor games: Which fighter would sign where? And who does each one fight next? 

Derevyanchenko and Jacobs before their October fight.
Photo Courtesy of HBO Boxing

All we know for certain right now is that Canelo and Andrade are tied to DAZN, although with different promoters. Jermall Charlo is with PBC. Brant and his recently vanquished foe, Ryota Murata, sit with ESPN, as could Billy Joe Saunders, with his promoter's existing relationship with Top Rank. (Top Rank has a deal to broadcast Frank Warren's promotional cards on ESPN. However, it's doubtful that Saunders would be kept from a Canelo fight if that was to materialize.) That leaves a number of other notable names, such as Golovkin, Jacobs and Derevyanchenko, without a permanent network home for the time being.

Connolly stated, "There has never been a better time to be in the middleweight division, and that includes the fighters, the managers and the promoters." The three big promotional platforms in the U.S. (PBC, ESPN and DAZN) have all made overtures to Golovkin, Jacobs and Derevyanchenko. Golovkin is clearly the next domino to fall, and there will be big money thrown at him by whichever party is successful in landing him. But the rising tide has lifted all boats.

"There is now a market for Sergiy's services," said Connolly, "where there wasn't before. He is now going to be paid what he's worth." 

And it's clear that no one really knows yet (or did know as of last week) where Golovkin is going to wind up. Connolly asked the assembled media to predict GGG's next move and each network was selected at least once as his possible next destination. When thinking about it more, any of the three platforms could conceivably make sense for Golovkin. 

Once that move is made, the other shoes will drop in the division. Connolly is looking for a multi-fight home for Jacobs. DiBella is more flexible for Derevyanchenko. "It could be a single-fight deal, a two-fight deal or a multi-fight deal. I tell my fighters that one of the advantages I have right now is that I'm not tied to a network and I can make the best deal for them. I have Tevin Farmer on DAZN. I've put Regis Prograis on ESPN. Obviously Sergiy has fought on both HBO and in the PBC universe. I'm looking for the best deal."

Derevyanchenko lost a split decision to Jacobs in October in an excellent fight. The bout was for the vacant IBF title. Having sparred hundreds of rounds against Jacobs in the past and fighting out of the same gym, Derevyanchenko faced an awkward situation: One of his co-trainers, Andre Rozier, cornered Jacobs in the fight while his other co-trainer, Gary Stark Sr. coached him. 

In talking to Sergiy, he believes that the Jacobs fight was very close and he felt like he did enough to win. However, he also hasn't watched the replay of the fight and doesn't plan to. Asked multiple times to elaborate on why he wouldn't watch the fight, he declined to answer. He noted that there were areas where he could improve, but in case of a possible rematch with Jacobs (more on that below), he wasn't necessarily keen on sharing what those may be. 

DiBella and Connolly both stated that Derevyanchenko is a network free agent (as is Jacobs). Even though he is advised by Al Haymon, who heads the PBC, Derevyanchenko isn't tied to the PBC networks, but he also isn't shunned by them. He (and Jacobs) has the ability to pick the best option and Connolly made it quite clear that Haymon has never stood in the way of Sergiy exploring the best deal in the marketplace. 

And those deals are out there. "I don't think that Sergiy felt wanted until recently," said Connolly. "He was from Ukraine and wasn't well known. No one had to fight him. He didn't have a natural fan base. But now he's wanted by three major platforms."

Derevyanchenko would love to fight GGG, but he also said that in order to become a superstar in the sport, he would need to beat either Golovkin, Canelo or Charlo; he would welcome any of those matchups. His immediate next step might be a title eliminator against Jack Culcay, a German-based fighter who gave Demetrius Andrade all he could handle in 2017. If Sergiy wins that, he would have another shot at the IBF belt, which, as it stands now, would mean a rematch with Jacobs.

The only thing Sergiy would commit to is that he was non-committal about staying with Stark and Rozier as his trainers. He still would like to talk that over with his team and if he decides to separate, that would constitute a significant change in his training and preparation. 

At 33, Derevyanchenko understands how important his next move is. At his age it's likely that he'll get one more shot at a title, but there are no guarantees other than that. To get to where he wants to go in the sport, he acknowledges that he will need to beat an excellent fighter. 

It seems as if each boxer in the middleweight division has multiple, attractive options at the moment and Derevyanchenko is right in the think of it. He might not be the prom king, but everyone knows the value of a good dance partner, and in the current climate where fighters have significant leverage, that value continues to rise. 

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.comHe's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Jack Reiss on Wilder-Fury

Although he has been a referee for over 20 years, and a damn good one at that, Jack Reiss finally had his signature moment in boxing as the third man in the ring for the Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury fight. In the final round of a dramatic and tense affair, Wilder sent Fury crashing down to the canvas with a pulverizing right hand/left hook combination. Because of the ferocity of the combination and the way that Fury fell, most watching assumed that the fight was over. Many (perhaps most) referees would have stopped the fight at that very moment, without even issuing a ten-count. Yet there Jack was, standing over Fury, patiently administering the count, giving Fury the chance to continue.

In an unforgettable scene, Fury somehow rose to his feet. Reiss looked at the fighter and gave him a series of commands. This was another juncture where many referees could have and perhaps would have stopped the fight. But Reiss, with a background in dealing with trauma from his decades of work with the Los Angeles Fire Department, determined that Fury was able to continue. And in an almost unfathomable series of events, Fury would go on to get the best of the Wilder throughout the rest of the round.

At the end of the fight Fury raised his arms believing that he had won. Although Wilder scored two knockdowns in the match, leading to two 10-8 rounds, most ringside observers thought that Fury had done enough to win. Unfortunately for Fury, a poor 115-111 scorecard for Wilder led to the fight being declared a draw. And while that judge (Alejandro Rochin) has been criticized for his performance, the official result has not lessened the quality of the fight, Fury’s resilience or Reiss’s performance.

I spoke with Reiss a few days ago and what follows are his own words, as he recounts the unforgettable 12th round from his perspective, his preparations leading up to the fight, and the detailed and specific warnings that he gave to each fighter in the dressing room. Here’s Jack:

The following has been edited and condensed:

Reiss giving the count for Fury in the 12th round.
Photo Courtesy of Esther Lin/Showtime

THIS FIGHT WAS SO BIG and I did my research. I addressed many issues 10, 15 days out. I wrote the commission and I told my boss: There are some issues we need to address on the front end to save us from controversy. Number one: The inspector who is checking the ropes that day has to make it tight enough that 500 pounds of hard charging guys can fall against it and not go over – that the ropes will support them.

Number two: They both had a history of wearing their trunks well above their wastes, almost up to their nipples. I sent pictures of everything and I sent them the rules from the book, from the California Athletic Commission and the ABC [The Association of Boxing Commissions]. I sent pictures that were unacceptable and pictures that were acceptable.

The last thing I addressed was their beards. I said we don’t want any stupid controversies from a beard. I’m not asking them to shave it off, but they have to be neat and trim. And when we asked Tyson Fury, he shaved his whole beard off. When we asked Wilder, he trimmed it down to nothing. Their trunks weren’t an issue. The ropes weren’t an issue. And their beards weren’t an issue.

IN THE DRESSING ROOM I specifically addressed a few issues. It was give-and-take with each fighter and very respectful. I told each guy what my expectations were for the fight. I said “Look Tyson, I’m not picking on you but I’ve watched your fights before. And there are three things I don’t want you to do in that ring.” Number one, when you switch to lefty, you paw with that right jab. You end up throwing a backhand. You don’t throw a jab. You got to straighten it out and the front of your fist has to hit him. You cannot hit him with the back of your hand.

Number two, when you fought Cunningham, you pushed him and as he was falling off balance you covered the distance and took advantage of him being off balance. You spread his chin up with your forearm and then you hit him. You hit him and knocked him out. I will not allow that. You can’t do that.

Number three, with Klitschko, you hit him 25 times with rabbit punches behind the head. It is not acceptable. You’re not going to do it. I wound up going over a number of things and again, it was very respectful. He actually apologized, like I caught a kid with his hand in the cookie jar. He said that’s not going to happen. He wanted it to be clean. 

And I told Deontay things too. I said Deontay, you can’t leave your arm out and use it as a spear. You can’t steer his head, turn his face to the right and drop a right hand on it. You can’t do it. That arm has to be used as a punch or not. I went over a bunch of things with them and they didn’t do any of it. And this was all done before the fight.

I DON’T WANT TO TAKE all the credit for it, but I got to explain something...I made it very clear to both of them what I expected of them and what they could expect of me. I implored them. I told them that this is the top of the food chain in heavyweight boxing. You guys are well respected. Let’s not make it messy. Let’s not make it unfair with fouls.

First of all Deontay Wilder is a clean fighter. Four fights, I’ve never had a problem with him. Tyson said to me, “Jack, if I knock him out it’s not going to be because he’s on the ground and I hit him. I don’t want people saying I won this fight unfairly. I want this to go down on the record as fair.” 

And they fought extremely clean. Tyson only hit him behind the head once. Deontay only hit him low once. It was great. They fought clean. They did everything I asked them to do. If I said stop, they stopped.

IT WAS A CLOSE FIGHT. They were both very wary of each other, worried about overcommitting. Deontay was trying to jump in and knock him out at times, but they both respected each other’s power. Neither one of them took an exorbitant amount of damage.

In the ninth round leading up to the first knockdown, Tyson was trying to get out of the way and he was dipping at the waist. And he put his body in a place where he got hit with shots – not too clean – but he got knocked off balance. Arguably, the last one might have hit him a little bit south of the ear, but it was his fault; he put himself in that position. It wasn’t like Deontay was targeting the back of his head. So I got to call it a knockdown. It was not a devastating blow at all. It was more of an off-balance thing.

I SAID TO MYSELF GOING into the 12th round “No harm no foul.” I’m not taking any points unless it’s flagrant. It’s too good of a fight. And we’re going to let this fight go. This is great. 

I don’t want to be right. I want to do what’s right. I want to do what’s best for boxing. I’ve always been taught to count a champion out. And I always want to do what’s best. I did a baseline on the fighters and I’m watching the progressive damage and fatigue throughout the fight. They both went into the 12th round with a lot of energy. Neither one of them had taken a lot of damage throughout the fight. The first knockdown in the ninth round was more of a balance type thing for Tyson.

So when he went down in the 12th…first of all, his face was away from me. So when he went down and his head hit the ground, I got Deontay moving away. I picked up the count and I said to myself, “Let me see what I got.” So I went down on one knee, scooted in to get right over his face, figuring in my mind I was counting him out because of the way he went down. But when I got over his face, I noticed he was grimacing. So I knew there was somebody in there if you know what I mean. He wasn’t out cold. He was grimacing. And as soon as I counted “five,” he popped up like when you startle a drunk. His eyes came open very far and wide. He looked at me. He made a weird sound and then he rolled over and got up.

Then I had to assess if he was able to intelligently defend himself because that was a hard knockdown. And he was immediately telling me that he was OK. I said do you want to continue and he said “Yes, yes.” He put his arms over my shoulder but I didn’t want anyone to perceive that he was leaning on me. So I knocked his arms off and I said walk to the left and come back to me. And he showed me and everybody else that he was in full control of his body. And he was ready to go, so I let him go.

IT WAS NOT HARD FOR me at all to let Tyson continue because I had the history of the fight and I saw the way he got up. He followed every one of my commands. He was asking me to continue.

In the dressing room I told him that if you get knocked down, I want you to answer my questions and shake your head up and down. Show me you can continue. And hid did. So I felt comfortable.

On a side note, because of the power of Wilder and because they are heavyweights, I let Tyson go, but I stayed close to see what he was going to do. If he was going to stand there and fight back right away, it would have made me nervous. He tried to hold a little bit. He threw some punches and then walked away. He got back his total wherewithal and then he started fighting.

If he would have gotten in trouble, I would have been able to pull him out because I stayed close. But he didn’t so I backed the hell off and he hurt Wilder.

I TEACH FOR THE ABC, the Association of Boxing Commissions. I go around the world teaching. And I get people who disagree with me and they’re pretty vocal about it – you know, referees. The other night I practiced what I preached. I believe that I’m not there to do the easy thing. I’m there to do the right thing.

I’ve been fortunate enough to get some really good fights but this fight being that it was two heavyweights, 6’9” and 6’7”, pay per view, unscripted. It was a way for me to prove to myself that I belong. I know that sounds stupid after all these years. But it was just personally satisfying to me to get out there, do my best, practice what I preach and back up what I’ve always preached. It was really gratifying.

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.comHe's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Punch 2 the Face Podcast

In this week's Punch 2 the Face Podcast, Brandon and I covered Wilder-Fury from all the angles. What should the scores have been and what's next for both fighters? We praised Oleksandr Gvozdyk's performance against Adonis Stevenson. We also previewed this week's Lomachenko-Pedraza fight card, which also features the exciting Isaac Dogboe back in action.   
Click on the links below to listen.

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.comHe's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Opinions and Observations: Wilder-Fury

Like all of you, I thought that the fight was over in the 12th. Deontay Wilder unfurls a pulverizing right hand/left hook combination. Tyson Fury crashes to the canvas. Referee Jack Reiss starts the count, but it's just a formality, right? Fighters don't get up from that type of heavyweight thunder, especially from Wilder, the boogieman: He who hath knocked out every single opponent. Fury rolls around on the canvas, his dream of reclaiming a heavyweight championship title is mere seconds away from going up in smoke. 

What kind of man gets up from such devastation? 

Photo Courtesy of Esther Lin/Showtime

After becoming heavyweight championship in 2015, Fury entered a personal abyss of depression, hard living and drugs. By his estimation he had ballooned to 400 lbs., and he wanted no part of boxing. He would lose all his titles without appearing in the ring. Furthermore, he was suspended by the British Boxing Board of Control for failing a drug test. He announced his retirement from boxing multiple times and quickly was becoming the type of cautionary tale that is seen too often in sports, and one that rarely involves a happy ending.

But something clicked earlier this year for Fury and he decided to give it another go, not just regarding boxing, but for life in general. Overcoming the crippling effects of depression, Fury rededicated himself to the sport. He made some changes with his team, replacing his uncle and longtime trainer Peter Fury with little known 26-year-old Ben Davison. In addition, he also aligned himself with promoter Frank Warren. He was aiming dead set for the top of the division. 

Prior to Saturday Fury had fought twice this year; both were against lesser opponents. His performances weren't anything special, but there were signs in his most recent bout against Francesco Pianeta that Fury the cagey boxer was resurfacing. However, there was still hard work to be done. In total, Fury lost more than 100 lbs. and perhaps even more importantly, he had to get himself into the right physical and mental shape to go 12 rounds against the hardest heavyweight puncher of his era.  

Fury's dominant performance in 2015 against Wladimir Klitschko suggested that he had the technical capability and mental fortitude to win at the highest level of the heavyweight division. But it was anyone's guess, after his years in the wilderness, as to whether he could recover his best form in the ring. 

And yet there Fury was on Saturday night, boxing beautifully, flummoxing Wilder with an array of feints, movement, jabs and solid right hands. It was as if the intervening three years had never happened. Through most of the fight Fury's defense was terrific, repeatedly slipping under Wilder's right hands and either countering with sharp shots or tying up to limit follow up punches. 

In some ways Fury was even better on Saturday than he had been against Klitschko. I thought that he was far more offensively-minded against Wilder, not merely trying to neutralize. And unlike Klitschko, Wilder winged bad-intentioned bombs all 12 rounds of the fight. Fury needed to be switched on to avoid danger throughout the match. 

Overall it was an improbable tale and an almost unbelievable site to witness. A man returns from the pits of hell to get the better of one of the best. 


Through eight rounds of the fight, things weren't going well for Wilder. Yes, it's possible that he could have nicked a round or two but he was well behind. Wilder would unload with wild haymakers, most of which missed, while Fury would control the action with expert boxing and ring generalship. 

From moment one of the fight, Fury imposed himself physically. Using his height, reach and movement, Fury gave Wilder little to hit and dictated the flow of the fight. Fury's reflexes and footwork were so superior that there was no range where Wilder had an advantage. 

Photo Courtesy of Esther Lin/Showtime

In addition to Fury's physical and technical superiority, Wilder also had to deal with Fury's constant mockery in the ring. Fury demonstrated a tour de force of psychological gamesmanship throughout the fight. Just in the first round, Fury put his hands behind his back daring Wilder to hit him, he raised his arms up like he had already been declared the winner, he stuck his tongue out, danced, feinted with every part of his body except his ass, and this pattern continued round after round. 

It's easy to understand why fighters would want to give up against Fury. He's extremely difficult to hit and he consistently tries to embarrass his opponents. And in my experience in following boxing, a fighter would rather get knocked out than be embarrassed in the ring. Almost everything Wilder tried didn't work. Although he landed here and there with a stray jab or a right hand, there was little sustained success. He was being beaten, consistently, and he knew it. 

But it takes a rare breed of fighter to keep going for the win after being rendered ineffective time after time. It almost runs counter to human nature. We're not trained to deal with failure well. Yes, Wilder has been blessed with uncommon God-given power in his right hand. But it's more than that; it's his faith that his moment will materialize and his self-belief that he can land his best, whatever the circumstances and in whatever setting.  

In the ninth round Wilder made a subtle adjustment that heralded the first significant change in the fight. Instead of (over)shooting the right hand with maximum force, he followed up the right with a sweeping left hook. This punch had been available for Wilder all fight, and in truth finishing a combination with a left hook is fairly common in the sport, but for Wilder, one shot has more often been enough throughout his career. He punches in combination sparingly. 

Wilder exploded with a four-punch combination in the ninth that featured two right hands and two left hooks, and Fury fell to the canvas. It wasn't Wilder's cleanest knockdown, but it was an equilibrium shot. More importantly, it was a sign that Fury could be dented. 

But Fury rallied. He not only survived the ninth round, he was getting the best of the action as it ended. In the 10th and 11th the previous pattern of the fight was restored: Wilder mostly failed to connect with haymakers while Fury continued to pick up points with superior boxing and movement. 

In the final round, however, it happened, or so we all thought – that one moment where Wilder would forever change the fight. He threw a perfect two-punch combination: a blistering right hand and a whipping left hook, and Fury was out (or so we all thought).


Many referees would have waved off the fight immediately. We see this every weekend in boxing where the ref doesn't even bother to go through the motions of a count and calls an end to the fight, but Jack Reiss isn't such a ref.  

Here's a quote from Reiss in an interview I did with him last year: "Everything I’m about to do I’m always asking the question, 'What’s the best thing for me to do for boxing in this situation?' Whether it’s stopping it or letting it go, whether it’s taking points or not, in every single fight my goal is the bigger picture…any time I don’t insert myself and bring controversy to boxing, to the commission or myself, that’s the goal."

Photo Courtesy of Esther Lin/Showtime

On Saturday, Reiss followed his philosophy to a T. He did what was best for boxing, which was providing the opportunity for a compelling fight to continue. But that was only one level of his exemplary work on Saturday. Not only did he administer a count that many refs wouldn't have even bothered with, but after careful examination he determined that Fury had enough of his faculties to remain competitive. Refs are human beings. Most don't like to make mistakes. The easy (and safer) way out would have been for Reiss to wave off the fight or to take a look at Fury and determine that the fight should be over. In a "cover-your-ass" world, Reiss was unafraid to put his reputation and career on the line. 

And almost immediately Fury confirmed Reiss's judgment by cracking Wilder with right hands and thwarting his aggression. By the end of the round, somehow, shockingly, it was Fury who was winning the final moments, a literal resurrection in the ring as well as a perfect metaphor for his last three years. 


With boxing preternaturally blessed with an inability to get out of its own way, of course the fight was ruled a split draw, with one judge scoring it even, one for Wilder and one for Fury. Alejandro Rochin's 115-111 tally for Wilder was indefensible. Rochin somehow had Wilder sweeping the first four rounds, a feat that would be beyond the ability of the world's best contortionist. Rochin was not watching the action at hand, and his scorecard sullied an otherwise remarkable fight. I have less of a problem with Phil Edwards's draw verdict. I scored the fight 114-112 for Fury, or eight rounds to four, with Tyson losing two additional points because of the knockdowns. I could envision a scenario where Fury won seven rounds, but it's inconceivable to me that he only took five.  

Rochin has been a professional boxing judge since 1992. He's been awarded scores of international judging assignments. Examining his record prior to Saturday's fight, I wouldn't have necessarily considered him among the best or worst of American judges, but he turned in a career-defining doozy. Yes, bad scorecards do happen, and it's not always easy, but this wasn't a fight that had half a dozen swing rounds. At the very least, Rochin demonstrated that he's no longer competent to work as a professional judge. 

But the poor scorecard doesn't diminish the fight for me. Ultimately I will remember Wilder-Fury as a thrilling encounter between two heavyweights fighting to the best of their abilities. Featuring wonderful displays of self-belief, heart, faith, boxing skills and power, Wilder-Fury was a glorious reminder that big fights can deliver the goods, and that the heavyweight division, the weight class that truly makes the world take notice, is healthy and exciting. Boxing and controversy often go together like a hand in glove, but the fans understood what they witnessed: A proper heavyweight rumble, an unforgettable event, Wilder unleashing a combination from hell and Fury miraculously rising. 

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.comHe's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.