Tyson Fury's brutal domination of Deontay Wilder was consequential from each direction. It made him a champion — the heavyweight champion of the world. It was an introduction to an audience unfamiliar with today's boxing. It was a personal win years removed from suicidal thoughts and a lifestyle of drugs at 400 pounds. It was a paradigm-shifting, throwback to the golden age, face-of-the-genre victory.
Fury rode into the ring on a throne as the "Gypsy King." As one of the few recognizable fighters outside of boxing circles. He walked out wearing his opponent's blood splattered over his body. Wearing titles as the king of boxing, as the heir apparent to Floyd Mayweather.
Post-Mayweather, the second most well-known fighter, by default, was going to take the keys as the sport's biggest draw. This is what Canelo Álvarez did immediately upon Mayweather's retirement and return to retirement after his spectacle with Conor McGregor. Canelo rose in stature. He inked a massive, unheard of five-fight, $365 million deal with DAZN. And that is the extent of it. Canelo was the guy because no one else was. He has the qualities to be a star in boxing, which he is. He doesn't have the qualities to be a transcendent superstar at the pinnacle of the sport. Fury now does.
There are core traits a fighter must possess to resonate, cross over into the general sports conversation. This includes buzz-making, a unique personality, willingness to take on big fights, and being one of the top boxers in the world. That is a check, check, check, check for Fury. There are additional traits few fighters have that turn them into legends on levels comparable to the stars of the NFL and NBA. These fighters' appeal exceeds fight-day hype with week-long intrigue. These individuals are rare. Last night, boxing was handed one in Fury.
The 31-0-1 Fury is an all-around commanding heavyweight fighter. His personality has McGregor in it, but with goofy attributes making him far more likable. He's bizarre. He licks blood off the opposition. He dances around the ring as its a Broadway play. He sings songs after an emotional, legacy-altering battle with a man who took hurtful, personal shots at him. Tyson Fury is Tyson Fury, the quintessential boxing superstar.
If the sport was scripted, trying to find its torchbearer, the writing staff would start with a heavyweight. One that has never lost but has overcome fierce battles. The fighter would have a distinctive personality that is a mixture of arrogant and hilarious. Finally, the fighter would have baggage. It wouldn't be perfect, there would be negatives and wounds. There would be doubt. And there would be a dark, depressing period where the future is anything but promising and guaranteed. This fighter would look much like Fury does now.
In addition to his story, his arsenal, and his record, Fury is electrifying in the ring. Mayweather proved this isn't a prerequisite with his often dull, mechanical fighting style. However, Fury's adrenaline-filled, keep you on your feet fighting style is a substantial plus to his resume.
Fury is not going to be the attraction that was his predecessor. Mayweather is the pay-per-view king. Two of his fights eclipsed four million buys. A draw from the judges is also attached to Fury's record preventing an unblemished career. (Though, he was robbed against Wilder the first time and should have been awarded the win.)
There isn't going to be another "Money" Mayweather, but there doesn't need to be. Fury has pluses Mayweather didn't. Which include, and this can't be understated, fighting as a heavyweight. Fury also has ESPN's muscles behind him. While playing the heel role led to an unprecedented amount of buyers purchasing Mayweather's fights — to watch him lose — clearly worked, there are benefits of being the good guy. Unlike, Mayweather, Fury has a rival and could add another. Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao was the rivalry that never was. Fury has his Frazier in Wilder and Anthony Joshua is looming.
Of course, Fury's reign and position could be short-lived if he walks away from the fight game after his current deal is up. Last week, Fury told ESPN's Ariel Helwani he's considering it. While predicting where his heart is would be reckless, at 31, I'd bet on Fury's career not concluding that quickly.
Fury's win over Wilder supplanted him ahead of Canelo in boxing, but will it over the rest of combat sports? Meaning Conor McGregor. I'd go yes — soon.
Throughout boxing's in-depth, prestigious history, the rest of combat sports were irrelevant — that is no longer the case. While the UFC hasn't replaced boxing, like some said it would, McGregor has been combat sport's biggest start since Mayweather. It hasn't even been close. The trash-talking, wildly entertaining mix martial artist has undoubtedly trumped Canelo in the race. McGregor's matchup with Khabib Nurmagomedov drew 2.4 million pay-per-view buys. The 1.3 million buys with Gennady Golovkin is the highest Canelo has drawn as the A-side. As the B-side, Canelo-Mayweather drew 2.2 million. Comparatively, Mayweather-McGregor recorded 4.3 million buys.
Fury has work to do to decisively surpass McGregor. Though, he is on pace to do so as a more relatable and enjoyable fighter. Additionally, Fury, whose talking skills are on par with McGregor's, is better at his sport than McGregor is at his. McGregor has always been more fun than he has been great.
Tyson Fury is the heavyweight champion of the world. That title used to mean something. It carried weight. It was what "the best basketball player in the world" meant now. Times have changed. Fury isn't Muhammad Ali. He isn't Mike Tyson. He's Fury, which is what boxing dreamed of having in 2020.