Tyson Fury was allowed to recover from his final-round knockdown against Deontay Wilder because he was a champion, referee Jack Reiss has revealed.
Fury was dumped on the canvas by right-left combination with just two minutes of his enthralling heavyweight fight remaining.
The Brit looked set to be counted out as he lay motionless, but somehow recovered to continue and hear the final bell.
He was denied victory when the fight was controversially scored a draw but has Reiss to thank for allowing him to continue.
And the official told Sirius XM: "I was evaluating these guys throughout the whole fight [and] in the 12th round, they’d boxed their hearts out, threw a lot of punches but there wasn’t a lot of heavy damage taken by either guy.
Fury lies on the deck
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"They both moved into the 12th round tired but not extremely hurt. When [Fury] got hit and he went down hard, that was an unbelievable knockdown.
"Two things went through my mind – No 1 always count a champion out and No 2 give this guy the benefit of the doubt and let’s see how he still is.
"So when I went down to count… not only did I get down, I scooted in so he could see my hand and hear my voice.
Fury and Wilder
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"I said three, four… he was grimacing, his eyes and his cheeks, he was grimacing so I knew he was awake and then when I said five his eyes popped open like I startled him.
"He rolled over and got up and said ‘I’m OK! Jack I’m OK,’ or whatever he said.
"I said, ‘Do you want to continue?’, he said ‘Yes’ and put his arms on my shoulders. I pushed his arms off and said walk over there, come back to me and show me you’re OK. He did and we let it go."
Fury and Wilder after the fight
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Video footage has suggested that Reiss allowed Fury too much time to recover.
But the referee said: "The 10 count doesn’t mean 10 seconds.
"It is the referee’s opportunity to make sure the fighter who is hurt can intelligently defend himself because you’re about let a guy come hurtling across the ring and finish this guy.
"People started making them walk in a straight line, any drunk can walk in straight line. Doctors taught us it is hard to hide things are off when they have to change direction. That’s what I was doing."
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