Shaquille O’Neal’s stunned reaction perhaps perfectly encapsulated what was a frantic and enthralling heavyweight title fight in Las Vegas, as Tyson Fury finally put his long-term rivalry with Deontay Wilder to bed.
There were five heavy knockdowns throughout the scintillating Fight of the Year contender, with the Gypsy King claiming back-to-back stoppage wins over the American with an 11th-round knockout victory.
Having claimed a knockdown in the third round, Fury himself hit the canvas twice in the fourth, before once again exhibiting his miraculous powers of recovery and retaining his WBC strap in style.
O’Neal was one of many famous famous in attendance at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, alongside the likes of Michael J. Fox, Michael B. Jordan, Mike Tyson and pound-for-pound contender Terence Crawford.
The 7ft 1 frame of the NBA Hall of Famer unsurprisingly stood out, even with the heavyweight giants going toe-to-toe in the ring.
It wasn’t so much O’Neal’s size that caught the attention, however, but his shocked expression as Fury went in for the finish, which perhaps summed up the feeling among those both in the arena and those watching from home.
It started in intriguing fashion as Wilder – who had relied almost exclusively on his right hand throughout the pair’s first two encounters – successfully utilised the jab to the body in the opening round in what was a clear change in tactics.
The Bronze Bomber swiftly reverted to type, however, searching solely for a big right hand, particularly after Fury sent his seemingly tiring opponent crashing to the canvas in the third round.
Wilder did show yet another example of his ferocious power in the fourth round, knocking an unsteady Fury to the floor twice, but the Gypsy King quickly regained his composure and began to dominate proceedings.
Fury delivered another knockdown in the tenth round with Wilder’s chances of a victory evaporating punch-by-punch, before referee Russell Mora immediately waved the fight off in the penultimate round as the American was heavily dropped once more.
The Brit started his celebrations in the ring, serenading the Vegas crowd with a rendition of ‘Walking in Memphis’, while Wilder departed and was taken to hospital for precautionary tests.
In victory, Fury will likely take on mandatory challenger Dillian Whyte next, before a mouth-watering undisputed showdown against either Anthony Joshua or Tyson Fury should he prevail once more.
The Gypsy King also confirmed there will not be a fourth fight against Wilder, however much that might disappoint O’Neal in attendance.
‘Me and Wilder’s saga is done now, done for good,’ Fury said. ‘It was definitely a historic trilogy for sure, it swung both ways and both fighters had the opportunity to seize the moment.
‘It was just that I showed the initiative, dug deeper and wanted it more. At the end of the day, when it comes down to that sort of fight, it’s who’s willing to push further – and I wasn’t willing to let it go to the scorecards. I was definitely trying for a knockout.’