VERO BEACH, FLORIDA – Nov. 28 was a great day to be a U.K. fight fan.
On the same day, a pair of Brits — Tyson Fury and James DeGale — scored two of the biggest wins of the boxing year, no doubt causing their countrymen to pop a shirt button or three.
And, while on the subject of recent national pride-producing ring performances, a week earlier, Nihonjin squared circle aficionados also had every right to puff out their chests over the showing of Takashi Miura, albeit in a loss.
All three reps, indeed, shone brightly on the worldwide television stage.
Fury ended Wladimir Klitschko’s 11-year reign as heavyweight champion and snapped his 22-bout unbeaten streak in title tiffs (second only to the great Joe Louis among heavies), in winning a 12-round decision over the Ukrainian in Duesseldorf, Germany.
Later in the day, Fury’s countryman, James DeGale retained his super middleweight belt by entering the Lion’s Den in Quebec City, Canada, and defeating — in sensational manner — hometown boy Lucian Bute, also via unanimous decision.
And if ever a fighter won while losing, it was the Japanese pugilist Miura.
The Akita native “stole the show”, as they say, from headliners Canelo Alvarez and Miguel Cotto, with his remarkable performance in an undercard war in Las Vegas with undefeated Mexican fighter Francisco Vargas.
Miura may have lost his super featherweight crown on a ninth-round TKO but he won over a country — the U.S. — with his gutsy effort.
The most impressive win, of course, had to be Fury’s toppling of Klitschko.
While not the most action-packed fight, Tyson’s win was a technical masterpiece.
The 206-cm Manchester bloke befuddled the normally unflappable Klitschko by preventing Wladimir from ever establishing his heretofore highly successful — if often boring — method of attack.
Previously, the 198-cm Klitschko’s reach and stinging jabs had always kept opponents at bay until the middle rounds when he could usually launch heavier bout-ending shots at exhausted foes from a higher level, and in a downward motion.
But not only could the 39-year-old Klitschko NOT establish his punishing jab, for the first time in his career he had to punch UP at a foe, negating much of Wladimir’s normal power.
Fury, meanwhile, danced around — almost comically at times — while delivering fast punches from all kinds of angles.
Though not powerful, his blows were point-producing.
Tyson was in control throughout.
Fury’s most dangerous moments occurred late in the fight when he spent much of the time trying to pull up his trunks in the back, which kept sliding down his bony butt.
Klitschko’s only shot, it seemed, was to nail an open Fury while Tyson was attempting to avoid an involuntary moon of the crowd But it never happened. Both Fury and his trunks stayed up.
Wladimir couldn’t even take advantage of openings presented by Fury’s showboating.
Tyson often dropped his gloves and stuck his chin out in a defiant, mocking manner, offering Klitschko a free shot.
If not the most athletic fighter, Fury is definitely an entertaining one.
Before the fight, Tyson, an evangelical Christian, said it was his duty to defeat the “devil-worshipping” Klitschko (Fury apologized for his comments after the fight, calling his words pre-fight hype).
In the ring following the fight, Fury serenaded his wife and the crowd with a more than slightly off-pitch rendition of Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.”
And all the way to Berlin, dogs howled.
Suffice to say, whatever lanky and loopy Tyson Fury — named after Mike, the ex-heavyweight champ — may lack in smooth technique, he definitely makes up for in unorthodox quickness AND quirkiness.
DeGale displayed a vastly different type of panache in winning his fight in Canada with Bute.
A glib, street-smart type, DeGale brings to the ring both a cocky cockney confidence and a full toolbox of boxing skills.
When he felt like it, the Londoner went toe-to-toe with the adopted Romanian warrior Bute, who has no reverse gear.
But DeGale also displayed slick lateral and in-and-out movement.
This superior ring generalship and greater hand speed helped DeGale outpoint his game foe in a hard fought, exciting bout.
Let’s put it this way. The fans didn’t need seats — they were on their feet most of the fight.
DeGale, the only Brit to win both Olympic gold and a world title — looks like he could be the next to join the pantheon of legendary Brit fighters in the welterweight and middleweight classifications — guys like Nigel “The Dark Destroyer” Benn, Lloyd Honeyghan and Chris Eubank.
As for Miura’s performance, when you can make a HUGE impression on often-critical Hall of Fame HBO boxing announcer Jim Lampley and his knowledgeable boxing historian sidekick Max Kellerman — as well as color commentator Roy Jones, Jr., former pound-for-pound best fighter in the world — well, you’ve put on a heckuva show.
That trio — as well as those in attendance — marveled at Miura’s relentless, full-speed ahead, heavy punching attack.
And his “take a shot to deliver one” approach.
Ahead on points entering the ninth round, Takashi was dropped by a big right hand from Vargas, whose left eye was grotesquely swollen shut by that time.
Though Miura arose from that knockdown, he was never able to fully recover and the referee wisely stopped the fight shortly thereafter with Miura in a semi-defenseless state.
But long before that ending, Miura had covered himself with glory in a fight the TV announcing triumvirate all agreed would HAVE to be included in any “Fight of the Year” discussion.
Takashi Miura may have lost the bout and his title but, in his first big-time U.S. exposure, he also won a shot at some sizeable American TV paydays in the future with his crowd-pleasing style.
Since only a few Japanese fighters have made it big in the U.S., this is truly heady stuff.
Oh, MAS almost forgot one more fight involving a Brit (warning: “Creed” spoiler alert).
If you also went to the movies Nov. 28 and saw the latest Rocky installment, you saw fictitious Liverpool bad boy “Pretty” Ricky Conlan score a dramatic win over Adonis Creed, Apollo’s boy.
A great day all-around for the UK, indeed.
So, MAS says to all three Brits: Hip, hip hooray!
And “Banzai!” to Miura-san.
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