LONDON -- Tyson Fury remained on top of the heavyweight division, if not the sport, with a picture-perfect right uppercut that sent Dillian Whyte crashing to the mat for a sixth-round TKO victory on Saturday before 94,000-plus at Wembley Stadium.
The obvious next fight for Fury is a matchup with the winner of the July 23 rematch between Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua, a bout that would crown boxing's first undisputed heavyweight champion in the four-belt era.
Instead, Fury (32-0-1, 23 KOs) swears he will hang up his gloves and bypass the riches such a fight promises to keep a vow.
"I promised my lovely wife, Paris, of 14 years that after the Wilder 3 fight, that would be it. And I meant it," said Fury, ESPN's No. 1 heavyweight. "We had a war. It was a great trilogy. And I meant that. But I got offered to fight at Wembley at home, and I believe that I deserved -- that I owed it to the fans, I owed it to every person in the United Kingdom to come here and fight at Wembley.
"Now it's all done. And I have to be a man of my word. And I think this is it. This might be the final curtain for 'the Gypsy King.' And what a way to go out!"
And with that apparent farewell message, Fury broke out into one of his favorite songs, and the song that first rang out before he walked to the ring -- Don McLean's "American Pie."
But it is hard to believe Fury has fought for the final time at 33 years old. His father doesn't even believe this is it. Fury left the door open for another fight -- or five -- when he said, "I think this is it." Almost assuredly, he'll be back. He has long yearned to become undisputed, and a bout against either Usyk or Joshua could earn him a purse close to nine figures.
Also a possibility is a megafight with UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou in 2023, when the Octagon star will be a free agent. Fury even asked Ngannou to join him inside the ring during his postfight interview to discuss a potential fight between the two. Ngannou is currently out of action, recovering from knee surgery.
Tyson Fury dominates fight prior to knockout of Dillian Whyte
Tyson Fury wins the opening rounds of his massive fight vs. Dillian Whyte in decisive fashion in front of 94,000+ strong.
That's why it's so hard to believe Fury will actually retire -- or remain retired.
Fury is smack dab in his prime, a bulldozing big man -- all 6 foot 9 and 264-plus pounds of him -- capable of steamrolling his foe with brute force or elegantly outboxing an opponent with speed and an educated, powerful and effective jab.
He did both against Whyte, using a brilliant jab from both stances to outbox from distance until the crushing right uppercut ended the bout.
When asked Friday at the weigh-in what his boxing legacy will be, Fury told ESPN, "Like Clark Gable said, 'I just don't give a damn!' We don't give a damn, we're not here about legacies. We're here to get laid and get paid!"
Of course, Fury's legacy right now is clear: He's the greatest heavyweight of his generation. And he has a chance to accomplish far more. Surely, he's already a Hall of Famer, but if he can continue racking up wins he has a chance to truly break through in the storied annals of boxing's glamour division.
Yet, Fury insists this is it. That he's thrown his final punch, evaded his final jab and sang his final postfight celebratory tune.
He insists he will forego the fight that has long eluded him since winning three of the four belts against Wladimir Klitschko in 2015. One he was seemingly on the precipice of grabbing numerous times. The ultimate fight for the undisputed heavyweight championship. Fury told ESPN's Mark Kriegel that he has held each of the four titles at some point, so he's content. But that's tough to buy from someone who has yearned to achieve so much.
Fury has never held all four titles at the same time, but the opportunity is closer than ever now that Usyk-Joshua 2 is set, and a fight against the winner is all but lined up for him -- if he wants it.
The win over Whyte was the final bout of Fury's five-fight deal with Top Rank, a promoter that helped build him into a superstar. There are no promotional or network roadblocks that could stop a fight against Joshua or Usyk -- as is often the case when it comes to boxing's biggest potential commercial events -- nor any obligations to former opponents that linger (an arbitration ruling that Fury owed Deontay Wilder a third fight scrapped plans for an Aug. 14, 2021, bout with Joshua for the undisputed title).
If Fury does indeed fight for the undisputed championship, it would be a superfight, but especially so if it's against Joshua, who remains one of boxing's biggest stars in the U.K. The chance to defeat Joshua and surpass him in terms of British fame outside the ring could be too much for Fury to pass up.
There are many reasons why Fury should -- and likely will -- box at least one more time, but one stands above the rest: It's a boxing rite of passage to retire, only to return soon after. Multiple times in some cases.
Fury is a historian of sorts when it comes to heavyweight boxing, so he's well aware that James J. Jeffries retired as champion in 1905, yet he was back in the ring five years later against the man who was then champ, Jack Johnson.
The fourth heavyweight champion in boxing history was the first to come out of retirement, but many followed after. Muhammad Ali retired in 1979, nearly one year after he regained the title from Leon Spinks, but "The Greatest" was back in the ring less than 13 months later.
And then there's George Foreman, who was retired for 10 years before he mounted a historic comeback that culminated with a second title reign at 45 years old.
Outside of the heavyweight division, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao both retired and unretired too many times to count.
But there are exceptions to the rule. Lennox Lewis retired as heavyweight champion in 2004 and never looked back. Fellow U.K. star and super middleweight champion Joe Calzaghe also retired without a comeback.
Just don't bet on this being it for Fury. But if it somehow is the end and Fury surprises us all once again -- just as he did with his remarkable comeback to regain the heavyweight championship -- Fury will be remembered fondly as one of the greatest big men of all time.
Fury wasn't earmarked for stardom when he was climbing the ranks, nor did he seem destined for the heavyweight crown in 2013 when he survived a knockdown to KO Steve Cunningham in his U.S. debut.
He was a nearly 4-1 underdog when he challenged Klitschko, but he ended the Hall of Famer's nearly 10-year title reign. Before Fury could defend the title in a rematch, his life spiraled out of control. During those 2½ years away from boxing, he said he contemplated suicide and he ballooned to 400-plus pounds.
Fury spoke often about his cocaine and alcohol addiction, along with depression. Eventually, Fury was stripped of his titles without a single defense, and it appeared he would never again reach those heights. But he beat the odds once more when, after two tuneup bouts, he challenged Wilder for the heavyweight championship in 2018 and survived two late knockdowns. It was a fight Fury clearly seemed to win, yet he settled for a controversial draw.
He left no doubt in the 2020 rematch with a seventh-round TKO. The third meeting with Wilder was Fury's most dramatic of all, ESPN's 2021 fight of the year. Fury could no longer be derided as boring, as he was in the aftermath of his tactical decision win over Klitschko.
Fury could no longer be called pillow-fisted, either, following two consecutive finishes of Wilder, one of boxing's top heavyweights, who possesses one of the best right hands in the sport. And now you can add Whyte to that list as well with the brutal right uppercut that sent him stumbling into the ropes after he got up from the canvas.
"There was once upon a time in this country when fans booed me, believe it or not," Fury told ESPN on Friday. "Now, they embrace me and they love me, and it's an overwhelming feeling. Overjoyed with it all."
Fury's departure at the height of his powers would deprive boxing of one of its biggest stars -- and best fighters -- but it would ensure that he left the sport with his health intact, something few greats can claim. Whatever Fury chooses to do next -- even if it's a return to the WWE ring -- we'll all be watching.
"I'll tell you what they'll remember Tyson Fury for," Fury told ESPN. "Being a crazy motherf---er!"