World champion waited for the right time to deploy the fearsome uppercut – a tactic that his opponent had struggled with before
Tyson Fury displayed all the mastery of the complete heavyweight in retaining his World Boxing Council title against Dillian Whyte, but it was the drama of his right uppercut finish that felled his opponent which will be replayed again and again as a highlight reel stoppage.
If it is to be the last punch of the prizefighter’s unbeaten career, it was a without doubt a timeless piece of brutal artistry. In an utterly dominant performance, the precision uppercut to the challenger’s chin – set-up off Fury’s jab as he measured the distance to his opponent – scrambled the challenger’s senses, and had been practised time and again in camp in the champion’s home town of Morecambe, Lancashire.
Under SugarHill Steward, his trainer from the famed Kronk Gym in Detroit, and John Fury, Tyson’s father, they had planned to unleash the punch on Whyte as he fatigued, and began to move his head less. Whyte regained his feet from the punch, but the referee Mark Lyson called the fight off with the Brixton battler clearly in no position to carry on.
“We knew Dillian had been stopped twice in his career by the uppercut [by Anthony Joshua and Alexander Povetkin]. We had seen that punch as a weapon and once Tyson had the clear measure of Dillian, it was goodnight,” John Fury told Telegraph Sport from inside the ring in the immediate aftermath.
Indeed, Steward had been hinting in fight week that Fury would deliver a special finish to the fight. Fury, whose boxing IQ marks the 6ft 9ins fighter out as markedly elite – created the finish seemingly from nowhere, but it was not the case: the uppercut – a punch which leaves the exponent more open to counters, yet highly effective – was not to be used by Fury until there was a clear opening. That dramatic denouement came in the sixth round, with Fury by then commanding against a tiring, frustrated Whyte, having won all of the five previous rounds on my card.
It was a scrappy fight in parts, with Whyte unable to close the gap easily on Fury. Whyte began the opening round cleverly, switching stance to southpaw, in an effort to nullify Fury finding a rhythm early with his typically effective jab. Yet still Fury claimed the first round as they danced in space in a phoney war as they felt each other out. The second round was scant in punches landed, but Fury landed effectively with a left hand, as Whyte, already frustrated, threw wild punches as they tied up on the ropes – to little effect.
For three more rounds, Fury controlled the pace, always wary of Whyte’s dangerous counter left hook, moving smartly off after no more than two punches, and more often using single shots. In the fourth, Fury remonstrated with Whyte after the heads clashed, with referee Lyson warning Whyte. Whyte’s right eye that was cut and beginning to swell, but as the two came together, the south Londoner landed his famed left hook for the first time. Lyson warned Fury about using his head. It was a disjointed, bad-tempered round.
Fury did not open up with combinations until the fifth, throwing a series of jabs, as he felt Whyte’s physical resilience wane. But then the pattern was set – as Fury controlled the distance from the outside with Whyte battling, unsuccessfully, to close the space between them to get his shots off.
That fifth stanza was a particularly strong round for Fury, boxing in a tight circle, as the champion pressed home against a rival he was mastering. Indeed, Fury picked Whyte apart with the jab, right hands, and body shots, staying ahead at all times in the contest.
It was in round six, however, that Fury displayed why he must be seen as the world No 1 towering over his rivals. He used his height and reach advantages, and moved fluidly and effectively, beating his foe to the punch before delivering the blow that Whyte did not see coming, to bring the curtain down on the night, if not his career. Time will tell on the latter.
Fury and Whyte embraced post-fight, both men mutually respectful of each other, and indeed of the occasion on a momentous night for the champion on the grandest of stages at Wembley.
Whyte admitted after the fight to the difficulties of combating Fury’s awkward style: “He’s a big awkward guy – I was expecting that. It was always going to be an awkward fight, but I was trying to set up and be patient and land what I could early and from round three onwards start to press. It was a good learning experience.”
Whyte was undaunted, too. “There wasn’t a lot in it – it was a close fight and I didn’t feel like I was outclassed in there. My game plan was to press him and start moving forward. I was trying to attack but one slip and I got caught with the shot.”
Fury had praise for the challenger. “Dillian Whyte is a warrior and I believe he will be world champion but tonight he met a great in the sport, one of the greatest heavyweights of all time.
“There is no disgrace. He is a tough, game man. He is as strong as a bull and has the heart of a lion. But he was not messing with a mediocre heavyweight. He was messing with the best man on the planet.”
Maybe not the baddest, but certainly the best.