LOS ANGELES -- Long before the heavyweight world championship fight between titleholder Deontay Wilder and lineal champion Tyson Fury was made, Wilder's team tried to finalize a deal for Wilder to face three-belt unified titlist Anthony Joshua for the undisputed crown.
Wilder agreed to take a bad deal: a $15 million flat fee for easily the biggest fight in the division and one of the biggest in all of boxing, as well agreeing to face Joshua in the United Kingdom, where Joshua is from.
However, when Joshua and Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn declined to finalize the bout, Wilder quickly went after Fury, who had returned from a 31-month layoff in June. After Fury won an August tune-up fight, he accepted the deal to fight Wilder.
The British boxer came to the United States and faced Wilder on Saturday night at Staples Center, where the judges ruled the fight a split draw in an exciting fight in which Fury got up from knockdowns in the ninth and 12th rounds.
After the fight, Fury (27-0-1, 19 KOs) accused his countryman Joshua of ducking Wilder.
"It's no secret that Joshua did not want this fight, and he didn't want it for a reason -- because Deontay Wilder is the most fiercest puncher in boxing history, in heavyweight division history. And I saw that, and I felt it," said Fury, who became only the second opponent to push Wilder (40-0-1, 39 KOs) the distance in his 41 fights. "No wonder AJ didn't want no part of that right hand. He can't move like me. He'd have been nailed."
Fury also said he believed Wilder's efforts to make the fight with Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs) were legitimate.
"Wilder came over to the U.K. and showed up [at a previous Joshua fight]. He called out Joshua. [Joshua] got offered a lot of money. A lot of money. Money that could change countries probably, make broke countries rich, and he turned it down."
After that happened, plans for Wilder-Fury got rolling.
"I said to Deontay -- Deontay's got the texts -- I said, 'I'm sorry what's happened to you,' and I said, 'But you offer me the fight, and I will not turn it down. I promise you.' I said I'm a fighting man and I'll step up and represent my country. And [Saturday night,] I did that.
"I had a great dance partner. Deontay Wilder can definitely fight, he's definitely a showman, he definitely can talk."
When Wilder scored a heavy knockdown of Fury in the 12th round, smashing him with a clean right hand and left hook combination, it appeared as though the fight was over as Fury lay motionless on the canvas. However, Fury just barely beat the count from referee Jack Reiss.
"[Joshua] can't move, so he would have never got out of the way of Wilder," Fury said. "Wilder's got lightning fists and dynamite in his hands. Great fighter. I respect him a lot."
Wilder could not believe Fury rose from the second knockdown.
"I don't know how he got up," Wilder said. "I literally saw this man's eyes rolling in the back of his head. When I seen Jack on the ground checking him, I'm like, 'It's over.' Only God knows how he got back up."