IT’S rare that all three men in a boxing ring come away from a fight with credit but this was certainly the case on Saturday night (December 1), when Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury produced a memorable heavyweight encounter and Jack Reiss, the referee, expertly facilitated the drama.
We know the reasons why Wilder and Fury deserve credit: Wilder deserves credit for somehow turning the tables late, when dropping Fury in rounds nine and 12, to salvage a draw, while Fury deserves credit for winning the majority of the rounds, making Wilder look one-dimensional and cumbersome, and for somehow going the distance despite the heaviest of knockdowns in the final round.
But what about Jack Reiss, the referee? Well, in the end, his performance, so calm and clear-headed, was as responsible for the fight turning out the way it did as the right hands of Wilder and the recuperative powers of Fury.
He refused to panic when a six-foot-nine heavyweight collapsed to the deck in round 12 and ignored the temptation to immediately wave the fight off when it seemed Fury, flat on his back, might not rise.
“If there was earlier, heavier damage and (Fury) had been hurt, and then he fell like that and hit his head, I would have waved it off,” Reiss told Sirius XM Boxing Radio. “But the fight was so close. The magnitude of the fight, I’ve always been taught to count a champion out.”
It was absolutely the right decision, as evidenced by Fury’s final round rally and the fact he ended the fight in the ascendancy. Yet, where there is controversy, there will always be a split of opinion, and Reiss hasn’t been without criticism of his own, most of it concerning a supposed long count issued to Fury following that all-important knockdown.
“I wanted to give him every opportunity, so I took my time,” said Reiss. “Not that I stalled the count like these knuckleheads are saying.
“I was patient and I went down to make sure what I was doing was correct. I want to do what’s best for boxing and I always want to do what’s best for boxing.”
Make no mistake: just as Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury did what was best for boxing, in simply agreeing to fight, Jack Reiss, the third man, played his part, too.
Former world super-lightweight champion Amir Khan says the reason Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder have yet to unify the heavyweight division could have something to do with his fellow Briton being “scared” of the hard-hitting American.
Speaking to Express Sport, Khan said: “The fight would have happened if [Joshua] wasn’t scared of him.
“Maybe he has a little bit of fear in him – that’s why the fight never happened.
“It’s hard to say sometimes – maybe [Joshua] was getting paid more money to fight someone easy and he thought: ‘Why should I take that risk?’ Because it is a risk, at the end of the day.”
Admittedly, for as long as Amir Khan and Kell Brook keep skirting around the issue (and avoiding a natural fight), one finds it difficult to take the comments of either man seriously. However, Khan, a veteran of 10 world title fights, has never been averse to a challenge and, what’s more, knows the business side of boxing – the tough fights mixed in with the softer fights – as well as any fighter in the UK. His opinion, therefore, is one worth hearing.
“I think maybe they’ll both take an easier fight in between,” Khan said when asked what’s next for Wilder and Fury. “Because sometimes what we see is two hard fights on the trot can take a lot out of a fighter.
“Get the confidence back, take an easy fight, little work, go back to the hard fight again. As I’ve been told by many experienced trainers: ‘Never jump into a hard fight again.’”
Kell Brook, Khan’s rival, fights the unheralded Australian Michael Zerafa this Saturday (December 8) in Sheffield and has probably taken this theory a little too seriously. We can only hope a Brook victory in an “easy fight” against Zerafa, which is all but guaranteed, then leads to a “hard fight” against Khan in 2019.
Liverpool heavyweight David Price is a man in need of a win, following back-to-back defeats in 2018, and hopes to get one against Tom Little on December 22.
Should he return to winning ways, Price would then like a rematch against unbeaten Russian Sergey Kuzmin, the unbeaten Russian who stopped him in four rounds in September (due to Price tearing his bicep).
“I’ve had intensive physio on the bicep and I’m fortunate in that it wasn’t a complete tear,” said Price, 22-6 (18). “It was something we were working on so I’m lucky that I’m able to start using it properly in time to fight again this year.
“The Kuzmin fight came in at late notice and things weren’t ideal but that’s gone now and I’m enjoying training. I’m looking forward to getting back into the ring and back into winning ways.
“It’s all well and good fighting on big shows but we’re in this sport to win and succeed. I’ve lost three of my last four and I want that winning feeling back.
“I’d love to fight Kuzmin again one day because I believe with proper preparation I could stand him on his head.”
First, though, Price must get past Little, 10-6 (3), a game and aggressive type who will no doubt fancy his chances of becoming the seventh man to defeat the former Olympic bronze medallist.
“As much as Tom and I are genuinely friends as far as boxing is concerned and get along well, we’ll put it all on the line on the night,” said Price. “It’s going to be an exciting fight.”
If there’s one thing you can be certain of when it comes to the unpredictable David Price, it is that: excitement.