By Johnny Walker
British and Commonwealth heavyweight champion Tyson Fury of the UK survived a tough third round to stop game American challenger Nicolai Firtha in the fifth round of an entertaining non-title battle at King’s Hall, Belfast, Northern Ireland, today.
Fury started out fast against Firtha, who had gone the distance with newly-crowned WBA “regular heavyweight champion” Alexander Povetkin in late 2010. Working behind a stiff jab that bounced off of Firtha’s face repeatedly, Fury opened up with straight rights, mixing in some uppercuts and left hooks, that left Firtha’s nose bloody and apparently broken. Firtha was already holding on as the first round wound down.
Round two saw Fury keep dishing out the punishment, landing some big right hand bombs and one especially vicious left hook to Firtha’s body. It seemed that Firtha would soon be laying on the canvas as the round came to a close, but the American, fighting on two weeks’ notice, had some surprises in store.
Firtha became more aggressive as round three developed, and Fury, perhaps too eager to strut his stuff for the Irish crowd, became a bit sloppy. Firtha took advantage of an opening in the Fury defenses to land an overhand right bomb that made Fury’s knees buckle, sending him lurching around the ring as the round ended, holding on to Firtha now in a reverse of the round one scenario.
Round four saw Fury regroup and again fight behind his jab, regaining control of the fight over a now more energized Firtha. Fury landed a big right hand near the end of the round that sent Firtha wobbling and finally falling to his knees in what was ruled a knockdown by referee John Keane.
Fury took the fight over completely in round five, landing a big right hands and uppercuts that rocked the very game challenger, who showed a tough chin in this bout. Firtha’s nose continued to pour blood and his head was now being snapped back repeatedly from Fury’s power shots. Finally, after a vicious right cross from Fury found its mark, Keane decided he’d seen enough and stopped the fight at 2:19 into the round.
“I took a good shot and showed I can come back,” said Fury after the fight. “I was a bit too eager to get him outta there, but listen, it’s not tap dancing out there.”
Fury is next slated to fight on November 18, as he keeps up a torrid pace that he hopes lands him a title shot within the next 18 months.