PUNTERS here in Las Vegas, the city where nothing is quite as it seems, would be forgiven for thinking that the all-singing, all-dancing 6ft 9ins figure of Tyson Fury was little more than another novelty act who had pitched up on the Strip to make a quick buck.
Giant graphics of his face spent the whole of the week in a perennial cross-dissolve with people like Bruno Mars and David Copperfield on the jumbotrons hoisted high above Las Vegas Boulevard as the line between his particular brand of entertainment and outright violence continued to blur.
Mexican Independence weekend appeared to give Fury a new lease of life when it came to his usual hubris. He wore two different Lucha Libre masks at various points in the week, had one of his team members wave a giant Mexican flag wherever he deemed it remotely appropriate and made reference to Donald Trump’s infamous wall. He even upgraded his Gypsy King moniker to “El Rey Gitanos”.
Not everyone liked it. Mexico’s first ever world heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz Jr, for example, told Fury to “stay in his lane” and not use his nation like a costume. Others absolutely loved it. Wherever people fell on the issue, however, they were watching.
And that was the whole point of this fight, the second of his mega-money deal with ESPN and Top Rank, which came exactly 13 weeks after the destruction of Tom Schwarz just across the road at the MGM Grand. The idea this time was to supply Fury with a better-known foe at the bigger, better T-Mobile Arena in a bid to further introduce him to the American public ahead of the big sell for his rematch with Deontay Wilder next year.
Instead, unassuming and little-known Otto Wallin, the New York-based Swede, made the trip from coast to coast, pocketed a career-high payday and was expected to fall about as easily as Schwarz had. There were rumours circulating late on Friday that he was so nervous after the weigh-in that his hands were shaking too much for him to try on his fight gloves. His trainer Joey Gamache, the former two-weight world champion, laughed off the suggestion.
Whether it was true or not, Wallin did not seem too upset about being another cast member in the Fury show and he smiled and laughed at the bearded former WBO, WBA and IBF champion as he cranked up the showmanship throughout fight week.
But everything changed once The Show was over and the business really began. Over the course of the last decade, Fury has been telling anyone who will listen that he’s a true “fighting man”, born and bred for unarmed combat – but in a place like this, the real facts can get lost among the smoke and mirrors.
In the centre of the T-Mobile ring, however, after Wallin had hit his right eye with a pinpoint left cross from his southpaw stance midway through the third round, everything changed and suddenly it was the violence that mattered again. Never mind the masks, flags or the giant sombrero which he wore on his way to the ring, Fury dug deep to serve up a genuine blood-soaked Mexican-style battle, the like of which he has not needed to engage in for years.
“It was a great fight,” he said afterwards. “I got cut early on the eyelid and that changed the fight completely. I couldn’t see out of the left eye and there was a lot of clashes. But it is all down to heart and determination. If I can keep going, I will keep going.”
Once his slow-moving milk float, flanked by a mariachi band, had finished transporting Fury to the ring, he had actually made a tentative start against the undefeated 6ft 6ins Wallin.
Fury had weighed in at 254.4lbs, his lightest since the glorious 2015 Wladimir Klitschko fight, and had spoken in the week of how he expected Wallin to “run away”. Instead it was Fury who boxed on the back foot early on, working out his shorter opponent and occasionally whipping out a jab to keep him honest.
After the five minutes and 54 seconds of front-foot action against Schwarz, this was far more like the Fury of old, moving, slipping, sliding but not in any rush to hurt his opponent. But he was forced to make a change in that third when the cut opened.
You could tell from his reaction that it was a bad one and he spent most of round four either pawing at the eye or attempting to shake the blood. Wallin, meanwhile, used the gruesome double-cut as a target and did his very best to make contact with it wherever possible.
In the sixth round, just after Tony Weeks had asked for the doctor’s opinion for the first time, Wallin even brazenly raked his glove across the wound after a break, much to Fury’s anger. He responded by bounding out at the start of the seventh and turning up the heat on Wallin.
Cut man Jorge Capetillo, bang up against it in every round break, did a superb job on the wound but even his handiwork was unable to prevent it from opening almost completely within about a minute of every round. He will have blown half the annual budget for Vaseline in one night, too.
“I’ve been doing cuts for 10 years,” he told Boxing News after what was his first fight doing Fury’s cuts. “That’s the worst one I’ve ever seen.
“I was surprised that the doctor didn’t stop it because it got really bad. But I was just doing my best to keep it clean and try to prevent the blood from pouring into his eyes. Thank God I did that and the doctor gave us the green light so he could perform. We knew that round by round he was going to chop him up.”
With the eye ever worsening, Fury decided to make it a close up fight, resting his head on Wallin’s shoulder to avoid his eye getting anywhere near the Swede’s gloves. It also allowed him to rip heavy hooks into his opponent’s body and sap the strength by leaning on him during every clinch.
It worked too, as Wallin wilted rapidly. He was also unable to do much about a series of sharp one-two combinations which looked likely to force an early finish. At one point, a stiff right hand sent the former prison officer from Sundsvall stumbling four feet backwards into the ropes and a stoppage looked likely.
But in the 12th round, clearly aware of Fury’s huge advantage on the scorecards, back roared Wallin and landed another hard left directly on Fury’s cut. It appeared to daze the Englishman and for a few anxious moments for anyone in the Fury business, an improbable, dramatic late loomed. The one-eyed 31-year-old, however, used every ounce of his knowhow to tie Wallin up and make it to the bell.
Tim Cheatham (118-110) and Eric Cheek (117-111) returned cards which seemed harsh on Wallin but Don Trella’s 116-112 was a testament to the part the valiant Swede, fighting in memory of his father Carl who died in May, played in a surprisingly entertaining showdown.
After what was his fifth fight as Fury’s trainer, Ben Davison said: “The cut affected Tyson a lot. He couldn’t see out of the eye but he had to make out like he could see out of it. That’s why he made it a dog fight. Close the gap so he didn’t have to be able to see the shots coming.
worked in training camp for it to potentially be a dogfight because we knew
that we might have to go there. Otto had heart and tried to close the gap up.
Luckily, we had prepared Tyson in case it
went that way because that’s what he needed.
“He got the job done.”
As Fury was taken straight to the University Medical Center of South Nevada where he had 47 stitches on the affected area, back in the bowels of the T-Mobile, attention swiftly turned to what the wound might mean for Fury’s scheduled rematch with Deontay Wilder, slated for February 22.
Promoter Frank Warren revealed that a doctor had described it as a ‘clean cut’ which should be easy enough to address – which left him confident the aforementioned date won’t come too soon. At the Las Vegas McCarran airport on Sunday afternoon, in a baseball cap and dark sunglasses, Fury described himself as “ready for war”. After the encounter with Wallin there will be few in Sin City prepared to argue with that.
Another bona fide war merchant on show at the T-Mobile was Mexico City’s Emanuel Navarrete, who ripped through Juan Miguel Elorde in a little over three rounds to retain his WBO super-bantamweight title.
In what was his second fight in only 28 days and third in four months, the all-action 24-year-old forced referee Russell Mora to step in after 26 seconds of the fourth with Elorde shipping heavy punishment.
There was also a very useful victory for Jose Zepeda, who boxed beautifully against slick Jose Pedraza to earn a 97-93 victory on the cards of Max DeLuca, Glenn Feldman and Glenn Trowbridge in a light-welterweight contest refereed by Kenny Bayless.
In the night’s other 10-rounder, Mexico City’s Carlos Cuadras, 31, continued his rebuilding job by narrowly outpointing Tijuanan Jose Maria Cardenas. Adalaide Byrd had it 95-95 but both Cheatham and Lisa Giampa scored it 96-94 in Cuadras’ favour, meaning he has now won three on the bounce since back-to-back defeats to Juan Francisco Estrada and McWilliams Arroyo.
Fury’s close friend and training partner Isaac Lowe maintained his unbeaten record but had to dig deep to come through his eight-rounder with another Mexico City resident Ruben Garcia Hernandez.
The Westgate Warrior made a slow start but readjusted in order to claim a 77-75 victory on the cards of Richard Ocasio and Steve Weisfeld while Patricia Morse Jarman had him winning 78-74 in a fight refereed by Byrd.
There were inside distance wins for Roman heavyweight Guido Vianello and promising Kazakh super-bantamweight Iskander Kharsan.
Vianello moved to 4-0 when Ohio’s Cassius Anderson retired after the third of their four rounds in a fight officiated by Nady, while Kharsan was also named winner in between rounds when referee Robert Hoyle stopped his eight-round fight with Fresno’s Isidro Ochoa at the end of the fifth.
Felix Valera of Santo Domingo was disqualified by referee Byrd with just 59 seconds left of his eight-rounder with Ukrainian Vyacheslav Shabranskyy for excessive low blows after what had been an entertaining light-heavyweight tear-up.
Earlier, highly rated Stockton lightweight Gabriel Flores Jr moved to 15-0 thanks to a comfortable unanimous decision victory over Tijuana’s Miguel Angel Perez Aispuro. Adalaide Byrd, Cheek and Giampa all agreed that the 19-year-old won 60-54 in the bout taken care of by Nady.
The Verdict Fury serves up gory Mexican war but now faces race against time for Wilder rematch.
Tyson Fury (254 1/2lbs), 29-0-1 (20), w pts 12 Otto Wallin (236lbs), 20-1 (13); Emanuel Navarrete (121 3/4lbs), 29-1 (25), w rsf 4 Juan Miguel Elorde (121 1/4lbs), 28-2 (15); Jose Zepeda (139 1/2lbs), 31-2 (25), w pts 10 Jose Pedraza (139 1/2lbs), 26-3 (13); Carlos Cuadras (115 1/2lbs), 39-3-1 (27), w pts 10 Jose Maria Cardenas (115 1/4lbs), 17-5 (14); Isaac Lowe (127 1/2lbs), 19-0-3 (6), w pts 8 Ruben Garcia Hernandez (127 1/4lbs); Gabriel Flores Jr (132 1/2lbs), 15-0 (6), w pts 6 Miguel Angel Aispuro (132 1/2lbs), 12-9-2 (8); Iskander Kharsan (122 1/2lbs), 7-0 (6), w rsf 5 Isidro Ochoa (122lbs), 7-1 (3); Guido Vianello (240lbs), 5-0 (5), w rtd 3 Cassius Anderson (244 1/4lbs), 7-2 (3); Vyacheslav Shabranskyy (175 1/2lbs), w disq 8 Felix Valera (176lbs), 18-3 (15).