Tyson Fury went to hell and back again. This time physically through a curtain of blood in Sin City, not from the depths of mental illness back home.
Two gaping cuts at Fury’s right eye threatened to rob him of his lineal world heavyweight title and of the multi-millions awaiting him in that mega-rematch with WBC champion Deontay Wilder – the injury was so severe that Fury went to hospital after the bout, and didn’t attend his post-fight press conference.
Those mighty incentives kept him going all the way from the third round as the blood poured from cuts above the right eye and in that eyelid, the first inflicted by a punch but the second by a clash of heads with Sweden’s unexpectedly skilled and demonstrably valiant Otto Wallin.
The scorecards were overwhelmingly unanimous in his favour at the end but Fury fought for nine rough-house rounds on the precipice of referee Tony Weeks or the doctors calling it off.
The official scores in favour of Fury were 116-112, 117-111 and, somewhat unkindly to Wallin, 118-110. I had it 117-111.
The more the blood poured down, turning his white shorts red, the more gallantly Fury went for the finish which would take those judgments out of the hands of the officials.
But on the several occasions he had Wallin reeling, he could not find the finishing punch.
Then, at a sensational climax, it was Fury who was perilously close to being knocked out.
As they stepped back from each other the admiration was mutual, even though Fury had aimed a double-barreled four letter insult at him earlier, when he believed the worst of the damage had been inflicted by a Swedish butt.
Wallin had come to war in memory of his recently deceased father and Fury told him: ‘You are a true Viking warrior and your father will have been proud of your performance tonight. But I also proved that I am the Gypsy Warrior.’
The T-Mobile Arena was not as packed as it would have been for Canelo Alvarez, the seating space having been configured down to half its 19,000 capacity and not quite filled at that.
But with a majority of Mexicans in the crowd there was a fiesta atmosphere and plenty of noise.
The opening exchanges were less heated than the reception. Wallin looked ready to make a fight of it and landed a couple of early shots to the body but Fury’s jab dictated most of the first round.
Fury was clearly bothered by the cut, flicking at it with his right glove and tried to end it with a hefty right but Wallin fired straight back.
Fury complained loudly to the referee in the fifth as Wallin bored in head first but found time to connect with a couple of juicy uppercuts…..and to scream two four-letter words at his opponent.
When another cut appeared in Tyson’s right eyelid the referee paused the action to inspect the wounds, arousing fears of a stoppage.
The start of the eighth was delayed for the removal of excess Vaseline and the blood was flowing again.
This was a rough night at the office. Fury was landing heavy shots but Wallin kept absorbing them, although barely surviving a pounding at the end of the ninth.
Fury poured on the punishment in the tenth but Weeks declined to pull Wallin out. The Swede was in even deeper trouble towards the end of the 11th but somehow survived.
In an astonishing climax, it was Fury who was virtually out on his feet in the last round but he, too, found the courage to survive.