LAS VEGAS (AP) — Blood was flowing down Tyson Fury’s right cheek, and Otto Wallin was in his face. His scheduled rematch with Deontay Wilder suddenly in jeopardy, Fury needed to dig deep in a fight that wasn’t supposed to be this hard.
Fury did just that Saturday night, overcoming a bloody cut over his right eye to pound out a unanimous decision over his Swedish opponent and set up a lucrative heavyweight rematch with Deontay Wilder.
Fury remained unbeaten in 29 fights and retained his claim to the lineal heavyweight title against a fighter who was little known but gave the big Englishman all he could handle.
“I couldn’t see out of my eye,” Fury said. “I got cut over my eye and it changed the fight completely.”
With blood streaming down his face, Fury dominated from the middle rounds on in what was supposed to be little more than a tune up fight for his scheduled February rematch with Wilder. He was a 30-1 favorite at fight time, but after being cut in the third round had to reach deep to pull out the win.
The three ringside judges had Fury winning by scores of 118-110, 117-111 and 116-112. The Associated Press had Fury winning 116-112.
“It’s all heart and determination,” Fury said. “If I can keep going, I keep going. Otto is a great Swede, a Viking warrior.”
Fury was cut over his right eye in the third round, and it clearly bothered him as the fight went on. Blood flowed down the right side of his face and stained his trunks, and Fury kept wiping at the cut to try and keep the blood out of his eye.
Referee Tony Weeks stopped the fight briefly in the sixth round for the ringside doctor to look at the eye. When the fight resumed, Fury fought at a quicker pace, seemingly realizing he might be running out of time.
With renewed determination, he kept the pressure on Wallin the rest of the way to cement a huge payday against Wilder, who he fought to a draw in December.
“Deontay Wilder, I want you next,” Wilder said. “Now I’m going to go home and relax with the family.”
Wallin was still fighting hard in the final round, stunning Fury with a right to the head and chasing him around the ring in search of a knockdown that never came. Wallin, fighting for only the second time in the U.S., suffered his first defeat to fall to 20-1.
“I did everything I could, I tried my best,” Wallin said. “Tyson is a great fighter.”
Much of the fight was fought at close range, as the two men brawled on the inside. That was particularly true in the later rounds, as Fury (29-0-1) tried to land uppercuts and Wallin kept punching at Fury’s bloody right eye.
Fury earned a reported $12 million for the fight, part of a deal with promoter Bob Arum, who scooped him up after the Wilder fight. He will earn a lot more against Wilder, who still must beat Luis Ortiz in November to make the February rematch happen.
Arum said Fury stepped up the pace after the cut over his eye was ruled to be from a punch. Had the fight been stopped early because of the cut Wallin would have won.
“It was a courageous performance, a terrific fight,” Arum said. “We knew the Swede wasn’t a quitter. But Tyson’s a real warrior. That’s why they call him the Gypsy King.”
Fury came into the ring behind a mariachi band, wearing a pancho and a sombrero to stake his claim to fighting on Mexican Independence Day weekend in Las Vegas.
But he quickly found himself in a rough and tumble battle with Wallin, who was plucked from obscurity to be Fury’s opponent. Wallin had his moments in the fight, but never seemed to really hurt Fury.
Fury started landing cleaner punches as the fight went into the later rounds and when he wasn’t punching at Wallin he was leaning his 6-foot-9 256 1/2-pound fame on him. Wallin fought hard, but seemed to be tiring in the later rounds as Fury built up a lead on the scorecards.
The fight drew a crowd of 8,249 to the Las Vegas Strip, many of them British fans who want to see Fury reclaim his place on top of the heavyweight division. Fury beat Wladimir Klitschko in 2015 to win the heavyweight titles, but was stripped of them after battling mental and drug abuse problems and not fighting for more than two years.
Wallin was trying to score the biggest win for a Swedish heavyweight since Ingemar Johnansson defeated Floyd Patterson for the heavyweight title in 1959.