Moments after a discombobulating right uppercut sent Dillian Whyte deep into the land, Tyson Fury asked Wembley to proclaim his greatness in what he claimed might be the final fight of his career.
“Dillian is a warrior,” said Fury. “And I believe that Dillian will be a world champion. But tonight, he met a great in the sport. I’m one of the greatest heavyweights of all time. ”
It is increasingly hard to argue, for all Fury’s indiscretions and dubious acquaintances outside the ring, with an unbeaten body of work that includes defeating Wladimir Klitschko in Germany, defeating Deontay Wilder twice, and a one ‑ sided demolition of a valiant but outgunned challenger.
To the casual viewer he might resemble an oversized character from Punch Out !!, the popular 1980s Nintendo boxing game, with that devilish glint in his eye and a little too much flesh around the belly. But his natural advantages – that 6ft 9in frame and 85-inch reach – combined with his boxing brain present a few challenges are able to decipher.
Beforehand Fury had promised fans that he would deliver a “real fucking war”. But when the fight was so straightforward there was no need to go into the trenches. Instead he provided a masterclass in the most basic of boxing arts: hit and not be hit.
In his last fight, the third of the trilogy against Deontay Wilder, Fury had surprised many by boxing on the front foot. But here he was as elusive as the Scarlet Pimpernel.
As Fury was introduced, Wembley transformed into a carnivorous pit. Forget that two popular British fighters were slugging it out for the WBC heavyweight title; the crowd’s allegiance was as lopsided as the eventual contest.
Many here were in their Saturday best, sharply dressed in Stone Island and Hugo Boss, and they acclaimed Fury as a returning hero in his first fight in Britain for more than three years. They roared him on as he entered the ring, as he landed that sixth-round knockout, and again at the finish when the WBC heavyweight belt was back snuggly around his waist.
These scenes, to put it mildly, were extraordinary in more ways than one. After all, Fury had spent the past week refusing to clarify the extent of his current relationship with alleged Irish gangster Daniel Kinahan – a man who the US government says leads a criminal group that has joined “the ranks of the Camorra and Japan’s yakuza” and now has a $ 5m bounty on his head.
It didn’t matter. For most of the fans at Wembley, Fury’s redemption story, from serious depression to the top of the world again, was what mattered most.
Whyte had tried to throw his opponent by adopting a southpaw stance in the first round, but it didn’t have any noticeable effect. Instead Fury established that pawing jab that is so hard to evade, before adding lacerating power shots.
The pattern of the fight was established early. And the more Fury landed, the more rushed and frenetic Whyte’s work became.
Before the fight, Whyte had espoused a theory that giant boxers age faster. There was no sign of that as he was gradually worn down by the bigger and faster man.
Frequently Whyte tried to land an overhand right haymaker but Fury was too quick and too smart. By round four he was cut over his right eye. In the fifth he was rocked. And in the sixth it was all over.
“There’s no disgrace,” said Fury. “He’s a tough, game man. He’s as strong as a bull. He’s got the heart of a lion. But you’re not messing with a mediocre heavyweight. You’re messing with the best man on the planet. And you saw that tonight with what happened. ”
Asked whether it was the greatest punch of his career, Fury replied: “I think Lennox Lewis could even be proud of the right uppercut tonight.”
This was predicted to be the largest ever attendance for a British fight, with 94,000 tickets available. The banks of empty red seats suggested it was a fair way short of that but the noise they made singing along to Fury’s rendition of American Pie at the end suggested they left home happy.
“I’m overwhelmed with the support,” added Fury. “I can’t believe that my 94,000 countrymen and women have come here tonight to see me perform. I just want to say from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much to every single person who bought a ticket here tonight or stayed up late to watch it on TV. ”
Those singing his praises included Lewis himself, who described Fury’s performance as “a masterclass”. “He’s undefeated, most of his fights are historical – he’s definitely up there among the greats,” he added.
True – but the questions about Kinahan still remain.