IT IS possible that both Tommy Fury and Jake Paul realised at some point in their scrap that they had reached their limit. There is no great shame in that.
Fury knew enough and did enough to end part one of the fighting feud as the deserved winner. Paul was left wanting in the department of boxing’s rudimentary and basic boxing skills. However, they fought to a standstill – they promised they would and they did. There will be more.
And somewhere in the middle of the maul, somewhere at the end of any of the wild punches and yet another ugly clinch, there was the raw truth that both had probably found their true mountain peaks. Again, there is no shame in that.
Fury finished the fight cut, exhausted, emotional and survived a legitimate knockdown in the last round. Paul had struggled with closing the gap, which is a skill that children master in their amateur gyms. Still, they kept trying, they kept throwing and for their effort they deserve some respect. As the seconds ticked away, the pantomime theme diminished as they struggled with each other.
They are, obviously, easy fodder for critics. Paul has often mentioned his dream to fight and beat Canelo Alvarez and both, obviously again, left Saudi Arabia this week with a small fortune stashed from their novice eight-rounder. It is doubtful if the top ten cruiserweight boxers in Britain have made as much combined in their careers as Fury allegedly received for Sunday’s work. However, that is not the fault of either Jake or Tommy.
I make no apologies, it was a glorious event, full of humour and fun with the offer of a camel as a gift. Mike Tyson never stopped smiling, Derek Chisora went full Arab dress and wandered from incident to incident with an unlit Cohiba Esplendidos in his fingers all week. Paul offered one liners and Tyson Fury was in great form. It only got serious in the hour or so before the first bell at about 1.30am.
Fury came to the ring first and the laughing game was quickly over. “He switched, Tommy knew then it was serious,” Tyson Fury said. It looked that way.
Paul’s entourage made their way to the ring in a suitably serious way. The taunting was over. Perhaps the pair knew then that they had crossed the thin line from their safety zones, a place where willing opponents collapsed in generous heaps, to a new place where the man in the opposite corner would refuse to fall. The novelty fight was suddenly very real; minutes later, fists were flying and they both probably took the best punches of their limited careers in that opening round. That is the truth.
In one corner, BJ Flores did his best to remind Jake about what he knew and across the ring, Gypsy John Fury kept telling Tommy to stick to the basics. Paul looked lost at times, especially when Fury moved his feet. It was, as Clan Fury had predicted, all about that little bit of extra boxing grade.
In round five, the overly officious referee took a point off Paul for hitting in the back of the head; in round six he took a point off Fury for pushing Paul’s head down. And in the opening seconds of the last, a Paul jab caught an exhausted Fury square and he was over. He got up to win the round. That is about the fight, really. They both left everything they had, and every single thing they knew, in the ring.
It was a split for Fury and he deserved it. A rematch makes sense if they stay inside the walls of licensed boxing; there are alternatives, but they tumble far from my blessing. It was an old-fashioned scrap of pride from two men with limitations, but big ambitions. Perhaps in the aftermath they will both adjust their ambitions to match their skills. Amen, as they say.
The WBC title fight between Ilunga Makubu and Badou Jack was hard and gruelling and a stark reminder of the gap between words and reality. Their fight was the perfect antidote to any of the bold stupidity that preceded the main event.
Jack won in the 12th and final round. He was winning on all three cards at the time of the stoppage. He is 39 now, a true survivor in the brutal game. He has now won world titles at super-middleweight, light-heavyweight and cruiserweight. He is everything that is noble about our sport and that includes being shamefully neglected throughout much of his career. People are too quick to attack Fury for being popular and too slow to praise men like Badou.
Makubu was dropped in the fourth and the 11th, and in a bad way when he stumbled back to the ropes in the last. It was a good stoppage by Mark Lyson, the referee, at 54 seconds of the 12th. Jack will, no doubt, be very popular now. I still feel he could have washed down an avocado smoothie and got back in the ring 10 minutes later to handle Fury and Paul in some type of tag-team hybrid. But that is not the point and many forget that.
Makubu was losing the fight and his title, but he remained in the fight; his wild attacks to the body from both fists kept it competitive. There was not one easy minute for either of them at any point in the fight. They both looked weary at different times, but Jack always seemed to bounce back fresher. Mike Tyson had led him to the ring and offered advice from his ringside seat.
It was just the latest in a long and often anonymous list of hard, hard cruiserweight title fights. It reminded me of a fight from the Eighties; Jack and Makubu are men from a different time.
Jack was just a bit too smart and slick for Makubu. Fury knew just a bit too much for Paul – boxing survived on Sunday night because of the boxing skills. Jack learned his the hard way, Fury possibly the easy way.
The undercard was full of mayhem and crazy stoppages; the new Saudi professional team have a bit of work to do.
THE VERDICT: This may have been the night when Jake and Tommy peaked.