Los Angeles, United States | AFP | Deontay Wilder still hopes to face Anthony Joshua in a heavyweight unification bout but is happy to hand rival Tyson Fury a rematch following their epic draw.
Wilder retained his WBC heavyweight title belt on Saturday after a thrilling 12-round battle ended in a split decision draw at the Staples Center.
The result means Wilder is still in a position to achieve his dream of unifying the heavyweight division against Fury’s fellow Briton, Joshua, who holds the WBA, IBF and WBO versions of the title.
But Saturday’s thriller in Los Angeles, and the inconclusive result, means that Wilder may have to wait before climbing into a ring with Joshua. The clamour for a rematch with Fury may well prove to be irresistible.
Asked which fight Wilder would prefer — Joshua or Fury — the 33-year-old replied: “I would love to go for the other titles.”
“I’ve always spoken that there should be one champion, one face, one name. I always wanted to unify the division,” Wilder said.
“I’ll be satisfied with (either Fury or Joshua), to be honest. Me and Fury put on a hell of a performance. I’d love to go back to a rematch or I’d love to fight Joshua. I’m in a win-win situation.”
Wilder’s handlers however are adamant that they believe a return with Fury, who came back from a devastating 12th round knockdown to hold on for a draw, is the more attractive fight.
“I believe the fight with Tyson Fury is the stronger fight,” said co-manager Shelly Finkel. “Probably more logical to have that. He dropped the guy twice.
“Deontay will fight anyone. Deontay knows he would be better in the next fight. I don’t think Fury can be better.”
Wilder’s promoter Lou DiBella agreed that the Fury rematch should take priority, making the case that Wilder and Fury are the two best heavyweights in the division.
“This fight has energised the division,” DiBella said. “We’ve got an American heavyweight champion that Americans can be proud of. And there’s two guys in Great Britain that are great champions.
— Deontay Wilder (@BronzeBomber) December 2, 2018
“I’m not denigrating anybody but I think the two guys tonight would beat the third guy (Joshua).”
– ‘We want the fight’ –
Fury’s veteran promoter Frank Warren is also keen for a rematch, calling for an open-air duel in Britain sometime in 2019.
“It has to be down to Tyson, but from my perspective, I’d love the rematch,” Warren said. “Let’s go and fill up a football stadium. We want the fight.
“Irrespective of who won, it’s one of those fights you want to see it again.”
– Lucrative fight –
Fury, who many observers thought was unlucky not to be handed the decision despite two knockdowns, said he was ready to face Wilder again.
“I’m happy for the fight,” Fury said. “We didn’t get the result we wanted. I’m going to go home and enjoy Christmas and sit down with my team and recalculate.”
Any rematch between Wilder and Fury is guaranteed to be the most lucrative fight of their career to date.
After years in the doldrums, boxing’s heavyweight division has a box-office appeal that it has lacked since era of Lennox Lewis, Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield in the late 1990s.
“As the old saying goes: As the heavyweight division goes, so goes boxing,” said DiBella.
“Well the future of boxing is brighter because the heavyweight division right now is so vibrant.”
Fury’s astonishing recovery in the 12th round, when he somehow managed to recover his senses after being sent crashing to the canvas by a vicious Wilder combination, explain the division’s appeal.
How Fury was able to recover drew an awed response from anyone who witnessed.
Wilder believed he had knocked Fury out. DiBella and Finkel admitted they had already started climbing towards the ring in expectation the fight was over.
“Very few men in the history of boxing can pop up like that,” DiBella said.
“Tyson’s eyes rolled in his head. (When he got up) I was sitting there going ‘Oh my god. Holy shit’.”
Fury, who returned from boxing this year after a more than two-year absence as his life spiralled out of control with depression, a suicide attempt and problems with alcohol and drugs, said he had got to his feet in the 12th to inspire others.
“When I was down, I wasn’t just down on that canvas for me and my family,” Fury said. “I was representing everyone who suffers around the world.
“I couldn’t stay down. I had to get up and show that you can continue, that anything is possible.”