Tyson Fury retained his WBC heavyweight title after beating Dillian Whyte by technical knockout in the sixth round in front of a raucous 94,000 fans at Wembley Stadium.
It was a true boxing masterclass from Fury, who further cemented his place at the top of this generation’s heavyweight division.
Whyte came into the fight with serious aspirations of taking the WBC belt from Fury, but was outmatched and outclassed from the opening bell in what was one of the most hotly-anticipated heavyweight bouts in recent history.
“He [Whyte] didn’t fight the world champion tonight,” Fury said in his post-match press conference. “I ain’t the world champion, I’m a legend in this game. You can’t deny it, I’m the best heavyweight there’s ever been.”
The 94,000 tickets sold out in just hours and set an all-time record for the highest attendance at a boxing match in Europe and the biggest globally of the 21st century.
Wembley Stadium was more than three-quarters full two hours before Fury and Whyte were even due to make their ring walks – perhaps unsurprising given some fans had paid around £2,000 ($2570) for the more premium seats.
With both fighters hailing from the UK – Fury from Manchester and Whyte from London – they were each treated to a boisterous reception as they appeared on the big screens for the first time, with Fury narrowly edging Whyte on the Decibel meter.
Thanks to his larger than life character and incredible technical ability, Fury boasts a unique magnetism and is extraordinarily popular among British boxing fans, but Whyte’s grit and determination during what has been a roller coaster career at times has also greatly endeared him to the public.
This shot at the WBC heavyweight title had been long-awaited and many felt it was long overdue.
The build up the fight had been uncharacteristically amicable by the heavyweight division’s standards, with both men clearly holding a great deal of respect for each other.
The pair shared a number of comical moments during fight week, notably when they competed in a dance-off during the weigh in.
Fury also drew a roar of laughter from the gathered media during Wednesday’s press conference when he playfully grabbed Whyte during the face-off.
‘War’ in the ring
As expected, though, any niceties dissipated when the first bell sounded; Fury had promised fans “a real war” in the ring and it was certainly a promise he lived up to.
With the defending champion boasting the superior skill should the fight go the distance and be decided on points, Whyte knew his only realistic shot at claiming the title was by knocking Fury out, so he understandably started on the front foot.
After a tentative opening round, Whyte came out swinging at the start of the second with a huge right hook that Fury evaded elegantly, drawing the first ‘ooh’ from the crowd.
As the third round drew to a close, Fury landed two jabs on Whyte and gave himself a nod of approval.
By the fourth, the niceties were well and truly over. Whyte seemed upset with Fury for an apparent use of the head, leading referee Mark Lyson to give both men a stern talking to in their respective corners.
The clash injected a bit of animosity into the fight, as Lyson once again had to pull the fighters apart after they landed a number punches on each other while clinching in the corner.
For a split second, Whyte looked as though he would go for Fury after the bell had gone, apparently unhappy with what he initially thought was a late jab.
Such was the increasing tension, the referee was forced to bring the fighters together in the middle of the ring before the fifth round began.
The crowd inside Wembley was brought to its feet after Fury first landed a blow to Whyte’s body, before making his opponent stagger for the first time with a shot to the head.
Whyte started looking increasingly desperate as the sixth round wore on, ending up in the ropes after aiming a wild swing that Fury avoided with ease.
It was the beginning of the end for a clearly fatigued Whyte.
With his guard lacking, Whyte walked straight onto a shuddering right-handed uppercut from Fury.
It was instantly lights out for Whyte, who dropped straight onto his back like a great felled tree. He did well to climb back to his feet, but Lyson was forced to stop the fight after Whyte staggered past him.
What next for Fury?
Now the question is: what next for Fury? The 33-year-old insisted numerous times during the week that he was going to retire after this fight, a claim that training partner Joseph Parker called “very sincere.”
Fury said in his post-fight interview that this was now “curtains” for his boxing career.
It remains to be seen whether or not Fury will stick to his word, but this is a fighter still at the peak of his powers and the thought of unifying the heavyweight titles must remain a tantalizing proposition, even for a man that has achieved so much in the sport.
After his dismantling of Anthony Joshua, Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk has possession of the other heavyweight belts and a fight between Fury and either of those fighters would be a mouth-watering clash for fans of the sport.
With 94,000 fans hanging on his every word and joining in with his now trademark rendition of Don McLean’s ‘American Pie,’ it would surely be hard for Fury to say no to one last night under the lights.