Tyson Fury almost lost his undefeated record at age 21, but was saved by controversial referee decision against John McDermott

Tyson Fury stands today as the undefeated 30-0-1 WBC heavyweight champion of the world.
It’s something he will be keen to keep when he eventually puts his belt and record on the line against Anthony Joshua.
Fury was a highly rated rising heavyweightGetty Images – Getty
However, on one Friday night in Essex in 2009, the young ‘Gypsy King’s’ unbeaten record almost came to an end.
The 21-year-old was 7-0 at this point and had won each of his learning fights against journeymen by stoppage.
It was time for his first step up with English heavyweight champion John McDermott named as his opponent.
By this point McDermott was 29 years of age and held a record of 25-5.
He’d lost his last two fights to Danny Williams as he challenged for the British belt, though wasn’t thought to be completely finished due to the close nature of these contests.
McDermott was far more experienced than his challengerGetty Images – Getty
Against the hot prospect Fury though, who was installed as a 1/3 betting favourite, few gave McDermott a chance.
In the build-up, the challenger mocked the champion for his pot belly and branded him ‘John McDoughnut’ among other insults.
On fight night, the older man would get his chance to exact revenge.
Fury had previously never been beyond four rounds in a fight, whereas McDermott had gone the full 12 in both of his last two contests.
This English title bout was only scheduled for ten rounds and, as a result, would be scored just by the referee rather than three judges.
Fury’s pre-fight taunts made headlinesGetty Images
The fight began with both men coming out firing from the first bell.
McDermott negated the size difference well and hit Fury with a strong right hand before following up with a hard uppercut in the opener.
Fury riled McDermott at the end of the round by leaning in and saying something in his ear.
McDermott responded by attempting a headbutt as proceedings boiled over and the pair were separated.
McDermott started better than many expectedGetty Images – Getty
Referee Terry O’Connor brought the fighters together and told them to calm down at the start of the second round.
Fury began the second better as he used his jab and counter shots to punish McDermott for falling short.
However, the English champion replied with a big left hook and already the Sky commentators began to ask, “Is Fury ready for this?”
The challenger had some success with his jab early in round three, though, he was far from the elusive defensive expert we see today and McDermott answered back again.
Fury tried to use his reach to keep his opponent at bayGetty Images – Getty

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The fourth was another positive session for the veteran who forced himself onto the younger man’s chest and hammered home shots to head and body.
As they entered the middle stages, McDermott began to tire and Fury had his moments.
Nevertheless, the champion battled back once more and appeared to hurt his challenger with multiple powerful right hands which stopped him in his tracks during rounds seven and eight.
With two to go, momentum had swung so far in McDermott’s favour that the bookies now had him as the in-play betting favourite.
Many believed McDermott had done enough to winGetty Images – Getty
The ‘Gypsy King’ regained control in an impressive penultimate round, and dominated McDermott in a fantastic final round, but many felt it’d been too little, too late.
Remarkably though, referee O’Connor walked straight over and lifted the arm of Fury when the final bell rang, crowning him the new English heavyweight champion.
When the score was read out as 98-92 to Fury, astonished Sky co-commentator Jim Watt reacted: “Did he have the names mixed up. I can’t explain that, extraordinary.”
Fury insisted he deserved the decision in his post-fight interview while McDermott gave a moving appeal and asked: “I’m a nice man. What did I do wrong?”
Referee Terry O’Connor awarded Fury the victoryGetty Images – Getty
The result was so shocking that it was later revealed McDermott’s promoter Frank Maloney (now Kellie Maloney) suffered a heart attack at ringside.
Maloney and McDermott even suggested that O’Connor was biased against McDermott as his father, who was in his son’s corner, beat the referee back when they were both boxers in 1977.
Reflecting on the fight, McDermott told Sky last year: “I thought the judges were scoring it. But people were booing and I saw the referee holding Fury’s hand up.
“It’s just madness, I don’t know what happened. How can he score it 8-2?”
Fury has been floored four times since, but the McDermott fight was still the closest he has come to losingGetty Images – Getty
McDermott added: “One thing I’ll say about Fury – he’s got plenty of bottle and heart. To box me in his eighth fight? I knew then that he was special.
“He was just a boy but has improved tenfold since then. He’s so awkward – big, unorthodox, strong guy but he can’t hit very well.
“He fought his heart out and I gave my all. I was in bed for three days after, knackered…
“And I suppose the better he does, the better it makes me look. But I don’t kid myself, I’d have no chance against him now.”
Fury stopped McDermott in their rematch and, 12 years later, is now the WBC heavyweight champion of the worldGetty Images – Getty
Following the controversy against McDermott, Fury chose to take a backwards step and fought two more journeymen before returning for a rematch in 2010.
There was no doubt second time around as a new and improved ‘Gypsy King’ knocked out McDermott in the ninth round.
Regardless, that one night in 2009 remains the closest Fury has come to losing – something Anthony Joshua will be looking to change this year.

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