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Tyson Fury shows heart of a champion in tougher-than-expected scrap vs. Otto Wallin

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
Tyson Fury is tended to in his corner between rounds during his heavyweight bout against Otto Wallin at T-Mobile Arena on Sept. 14, 2019 in Las Vegas. Tyson won by an unanimous decision after the 12-round bout. (David Becker/Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS — There was no post-fight song, at least not at the news conference, from Tyson Fury. One suspects, though, that not long after the lineal heavyweight champion got his eyelid sewed up at University Medical Center, he’d find a pub somewhere and while the night away in beer and song.

It was a well-earned, and harder-than-expected, victory for Fury over Otto Wallin on Saturday before 8,248 fans at T-Mobile Arena. Judges had it 116-112, 117-111 and 118-110 for Fury, who improved to 29-0-1 with one of the more difficult wins of his career.

It saved, at least for the time being, a rematch with WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder that is set for Feb. 22. Wilder still must defeat Luis Ortiz when they meet later this year to cement the rematch of their disappointing split draw from 2018.

The only thing that was as expected on Saturday was promoter Bob Arum, who took off after rival Eddie Hearn at the post-fight news conference. The two have been going back-and-forth repeatedly, and Arum laid into Hearn, who was promoting a show for Matchroom Sport on Saturday in Los Angeles, at the start of the news conference.

“I want to do a shout-out to my friend Eddie Hearn, who, one thing you should know about Eddie, he doesn’t know s--- about boxing,” a beaming Arum, flushed from the victory, said. “He really doesn’t. And he doesn’t know a thing about America.”

He then launched into a tirade about immigration and comments Hearn made about it.

But other than that, it was the theater of the unexpected. Fury, at 6-9 with an 85-inch reach, wound up winning the fight by getting inside and pummeling Wallin’s body.

Tyson Fury in action with Otto Wallin on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. (Reuters/Steve Marcus)

Wallin cut Fury on the right eyelid late in the third round, and Fury couldn’t see out of it for much of the rest of the fight. Because it was ruled by referee Tony Weeks, correctly, that the cut was caused by a punch, Fury had to fight with a sense of urgency because it would have been a TKO for Wallin had the fight been stopped because of the cut.

“It is all heart and determination,” Fury said in the ring about how he survived the cut. “If I can keep going, I will keep going.”

But instead of using his reach, jabbing Wallin to oblivion and then stopping him, Fury was forced to improvise. And the fact that he did it as well as he did is a testament to his enormous skills as well as trainer Ben Davison’s preparation.

Davison and Fury worked on inside fighting, because Davison felt that after Fury pounded Wallin long enough from the outside, Wallin would look to hold. Thus, they worked on sequences of getting to Wallin’s body, which turned out to be critical to Fury’s success.

“I have to be honest, I had a feeling in the back of my mind that the fight was going to go that way,” Davison said. “I knew Otto could box. I knew he had a good pedigree and could make himself awkward. But I also knew he didn’t have the engine of Tyson, the size of Tyson, the heart of Tyson, the desire of him. We felt [Fury would] react to habit in case he needed [the body attack] and I felt he might need it.

“Luckily, he had it in the locker.”

Wallin repeatedly went after the cut once it opened and wasn’t above raking his glove across it during clinches to open it wider. Whatever he could do to get it to a point where Fury couldn’t continue, he was willing to try.

So he expected Fury to eschew his reach advantage and take it to the inside.

“I thought he was going to come out faster and stay on me,” Wallin said. “He did, and I wasn’t surprised he was trying to fight on the inside. We were ready for that. He hit me with some good shots there and I hit him with some good shots there.”

As champions do, Fury got stronger as the fight hit the stretch, and he almost finished Wallin with a crunching shot to the solar plexus along the ropes that nearly doubled Wallin in half.

Wallin, though, showed that he came to win by getting off the stool in the 12th and going at Fury. He won the 12th round on all three judges’ cards.

“Otto took that hard body shot and he came back to win that round,” promoter Dmitriy Salita said. “He showed a lot of heart.”

But it wasn’t enough against the man who is probably the top-ranked heavyweight in the world. Fury is an expert boxer, but he showed a lot of snarl on Saturday. He needed to win a dogfight and he went out and won it without doubt.

The best thing, though, is that assuming Wilder beats Ortiz, Fury will get the opportunity in February to prove himself in the ring.

Whichever way that bout goes, Fury showed he is able to deal with it. His boxing ability is what makes him elite, but it’s that ability to dig down and grit one out under adverse circumstances that makes him a superstar.

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