Britain’s Tyson Fury pulled off one of the great boxing upsets as he outpointed Wladimir Klitschko to become heavyweight champion of the world.
It was a dour and often messy fight but Fury, courtesy of his superior boxing skills, fully deserved to be awarded a unanimous decision.
Klitschko, whose nine-year reign as champion was brought to an end, simply could not work the challenger out and did not do enough to win.
Fury, who was awarded the fight 115-112, 115-112, 116-111 on the judges’ scorecards, is now the WBA, IBF and WBO champion.
The 27-year-old Manchester fighter is only Britain’s fifth bona fide heavyweight world champion after Bob Fitzsimmons, Lennox Lewis, Frank Bruno and David Haye.
Fun and games pay off for Fury
“You’re a great champion Wlad, thanks very much for having me,” said Fury, moments after his win was announced in Dusseldorf.
The self-styled ‘Gypsy King’ had taunted his opponent before the fight and even dressed as Batman at one news conference.
“It was all fun and games in the build-up, I just wanted to be confident, young and brash,” said Fury, who had complained about the thickness of the foam under the ring canvas before the bout.
To the delight of British fans in the 50,000-capacity Esprit Arena, he burst into a rendition of Aerosmith’s hit ballad I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing, dedicating it to his wife and his fans in Ireland, the UK, the United States and Germany.
Confounding the doubters
Klitschko had not been beaten since 2004 and his second reign as champion included 19 successful defences.
This represented a big step up in class for Fury, whose biggest previous win was against fellow Briton Dereck Chisora (twice).
After a build-up which included Fury impersonating Bette Midler at a public workout, few expected the Englishman to make good on his promises and dethrone Klitschko.
But Fury’s mobility and head movement, as well as his ability to switch between orthodox and southpaw, added up to a puzzle the 39-year-old champion simply could not work out.
How the fight unfolded
Fury came charging out of his corner at the sound of the first bell but thereafter it was a cagey first round which the challenger probably won courtesy of a couple of ramrod jabs.
The second was another tight affair but with Klitschko unwilling to open up and unleash his fabled right cross, the more ambitious Fury – who looked remarkably relaxed given the circumstances – probably nicked it again.
Fury’s switch to southpaw at the start of the third failed to draw Klitschko out of his shell and it was becoming apparent that the champion was finding his English rival more difficult to work out than perhaps he had anticipated.
After the fourth, during which Klitschko was again frustrated, there was a sense of disbelief among the German fans, that their hero was finding the task so onerous.
Klitschko did finally land with a big right hand in the fifth but Fury took it well and in the following round Fury openly taunted his rival, dropping his gloves and offering his chin, which Klitschko was still unable to locate.
Klitschko looks his age
In the seventh, Fury went one stage further, crossing his arms behind his back, and at the end of the eighth there were plenty of concerned looks in Klitschko’s corner. The cut champion, all of a sudden, looked every one of his 39 years.
Both men showed more willingness to engage in the ninth, with Fury sending Klitschko staggering towards the ropes with a meaty overhand right, and by the 10th the champion was showing real signs of fatigue.
The fight became messier in the 11th, with American referee Tony Weeks frequently having to pull the boxers apart, and Fury was docked a point for punching the back of the head.
With the result in the balance, both men went at it in the final three minutes but neither of them was able to land a clean, knockout blow.
Tyson Fury – champion of the world
Unbeaten Fury, written off beforehand by many pundits, was clocking up his 25th straight win.
Before Saturday, Klitschko had 65 wins from 68 professional fights stretching back to 1996, and he can take some consolation from the fact he surpassed Joe Louis’ previous record of 28 heavyweight world title fights.
There may yet be a rematch although victory over America’s WBC champion Deontay Wilder, if that fight could be made, would make Fury the first undisputed world heavyweight champion since Britain’s Lewis in 2000.
Other potential opponents include compatriot David Haye – who twice pulled out of a fight against Fury in 2013 and is making a comeback in January – and Britain’s Olympic champion Anthony Joshua, who is currently unbeaten in 14 pro fights, all by knockout.
Joshua’s next fight is against Dillian Whyte for the vacant British title on 12 December and while 2016 is probably too soon for a fight against Fury, it could happen the following year.