LONDON — Tyson Fury has introduced himself as “The King.” He sat on a throne. And then he did it all against challenger Dillian Whyte in six rounds and went unbeaten with the British boxing public within reach. It was a job done as he said.
There’s a fine line between ridiculous and impressive with Fury’s ring walks, but in front of a record crowd at Wembley Stadium, Fury (32-0-1, 23 KOs) had the masses in the palm of his hand – and with it the status of one of Britain’s biggest sports stars and the face of heavyweight boxing. After brief flashes in the fourth round, it was all Fury as he held Whyte (28-3, 19 KOs) at bay and floored him with 10 seconds left in the sixth with a right uppercut. Whyte got up, but fell into the arms of referee Mark Lyson who then waved the fight off to send Whyte to his third career loss.
After his memorable trilogy against Deontay Wilder, it was Fury’s return. And it was also affirmation of the journey he made from the depths of the Depression to get back in the ring with all the fanfare and deliver to retain the WBC and The Ring world heavyweight title belts.
It was a record attendance: the official tally of 94,000 fans saw it surpass all previous boxing fights in Europe in history, edging out the 90,000 who attended Anthony Joshua’s decisive victory on Wladimir Klitschko almost exactly five years ago. Officially speaking, on a night when records fell, it was the highest attendance at a boxing event since the Julio Cesar Chavez-Greg Haugen match, which drew 132,274 spectators in Mexico City in 1993.
When Joshua floored Klitschko in this Wembley classic, he was the star of British boxing. It was the fight that heralded him on the world stage and cemented him as one of the nation’s most popular athletes. Fury at this point was out of the sport, as he dealt with his mental health. Five years later, and it was Joshua’s star that faded after his loss to Oleksandr Usyk in September – the second of his career – while Fury’s winning trilogy against Wilder saw his popularity skyrocket and planted him at the center of British sporting consciousness.
The self-proclaimed “Gypsy King” has taken over Wembley. His fans turned out in their thousands, all decked out in Fury merchandise. This corner of North London had been whipped into Fury frenzy all day. Even Friday there were queues for the weigh-in, but Saturday the nearby Boxpark was packed early, with the opening rounds of “Sweet Caroline” ringing out from around 1 p.m. Fury-branded drinks were consumed and stamped into the ground. They all came to see their heavyweight.
Every glimpse of Fury on the stadium’s video screens drew a tide of cheers, cascading around the still-full seats. The first sighting of Whyte – perhaps surprisingly, given he’s also a homegrown fighter – prompted boos. The loudest cheers on the undercard were reserved for Tommy Fury, Tyson’s half-brother, who fought while it was still light, and Isaac Lowe’s fourth-round stoppage by Nick Ball . This flurry of punches was greeted with a combination of heavy inhales and grunts of admiration. Klitschko also addressed the crowd in a video message, calling for donations to help Ukraine.
But the disappointing undercard meant the loudest cheers were still reserved for those man-of-the-moment sightings. Sandwiched between 1990s techno, smoke machines, fighters coming and going, Fury kept returning to the screen – singing, pointing at the camera, leading discussions from the locker room. Whyte was more reserved, buried in his phone.
And then came those first bars of Gala’s “Freed from Desire” and then “Sweet Caroline” and that cocktail so frequently used in boxing matches and in this stadium for England football matches ignited the crowd . The undercard was over, the seats sank and thousands of lights were dotted around the stadium.
Whyte’s ring walk was sparked by Jaws’ theme music and it then shifted to AC/DC’s “Back in Black”. The man himself had been quiet all week, choosing to embrace the shadows, but he didn’t seem bothered by the spotlight at all when it came to his moment in the stadium. However, he then had to wait around 15 minutes for Fury to join him in the ring.
The champ’s extended ring walk began with a special rendition of Don McLean’s “American Pie” with input from Fury, then a nod to the fact that it was St. George’s Day as he came out dressed in red and white, the flags of St George on his gloves, accompanied by a group of knights, all against the backdrop of “Sex on Fire” from Kings of Leon. He spent time sitting on his throne, then he beat the challenger with that sweet uppercut.
It all ended with him in the middle of his kingdom singing “American Pie” again, and an audience wondering if they would ever see him in the ring again. He had previously said that this would be his last fight. He promised his wife, Paris, that would be it. “This could be the last curtain for the Gypsy King,” he said in the ring. It was the one act on his part that earned him boos all night.
If it’s his farewell, then it’s a long way to go. He lived a remarkable life and had a roller coaster career. He’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but his boxing ability is undeniable. His last words, sung, were “this will be the day I die”. It was a farewell that only Fury could handle. But it leaves you wondering if this atmosphere and the occasion will prove too great for him to go away.