LOS ANGELES -- Well, at least they have a rematch clause.
Deontay Wilder dropped Tyson Fury twice, but Fury also outboxed him for long stretches, leaving the judges with a lot to pick from.
In the end, they could not decide, and the heavyweight world championship fight, the second-biggest fight of the year next to the Canelo Alvarez-Gennady Golovkin rematch, was ruled a split draw on Saturday night before a raucous crowd of 17,698 at the Staples Center.
Wilder nearly knocked Fury out in the 12th round with a hard knockdown, but Fury survived and stormed back for a memorable round of the year candidate in a fight that likely will see a sequel.
Judge Alejandro Rochin, of Mexico, scored the fight 115-111 for Wilder, Canadian judge Robert Tapper had it 114-112 for Fury and British judge Phil Edwards had it 113-113 as both fighters remained unbeaten. ESPN.com scored it 114-112 for Wilder, who retained his belt for the eighth time. Fury retained the lineal championship in his first defense.
"I think with the two knockdowns I definitely won the fight," Wilder said. "We poured our hearts out tonight. We're both warriors, but with those two drops I think I won the fight."
Fury, who had much of a raucous crowd filled with British fans behind him, also thought he won.
"We're on away soil, I got knocked down twice, but I still believe I won that fight," Fury said. "I'm being a total professional here. I went to Germany to fight [Wladimir] Klitschko, and I went to America to fight Deontay Wilder. God bless America. The 'Gypsy King' has returned.
"That man is a fearsome puncher, and I was able to avoid that. The world knows I won the fight."
From the moment the fight was made, Wilder promised he would do to Fury what he had done to every man he has faced, and that meant knock him out. He came close, dropping Fury in the ninth round and again in the final round, but Fury showed the same kind of heart and will that helped him overcome the nightmare of the past three years since he won three major titles and the lineal championship three years ago this week in a monumental upset of Klitschko, the longtime champion.
But Fury never defended the belts as his life went into a downward spiral because of drug and alcohol abuse, mental health issues -- including depression and suicidal thoughts -- and enormous weight gain from around 260 pounds to 400.
But Fury, in part with motivation from Wilder, eventually got his life under control and returned to the ring in June after a 31-month layoff and won two fights in a row before agreeing to face Wilder.
He said winning would be "the first chapter of a new storybook, the beginning of a new life, a new era of Tyson Fury."
But even though he did not win, his comeback from the depths of addiction, mental illness and despair remains something to behold, as he and Wilder gave the fans a memorable, tension-filled fight.
"I hope I did you all proud after nearly three years out of the ring," Fury said. "I was never going to be knocked [out] tonight. I showed good heart to get up. I came here tonight and I fought my heart out."
They opened the fight looking to feel each other out and burned off nervous energy. Wilder controlled the round until Fury landed a couple of shots in the final seconds to get the Brits excited.
Chants of "USA! USA! USA!" broke out in the fourth round as Wilder moved forward and looked to unload. Fury spent much of the round going backward other than throwing a few jabs.
Fury (27-0-1, 19 KOs), 30, of England, clowned around by putting his hands behind his back and bobbing his head, but he eventually began landing jabs to the head and body as Wilder was wild with his punches. By the end of the sixth round, Wilder's left eye was puffy.
"I came out slow. I rushed my punches. I didn't sit still. I was too hesitant," Wilder said. "I started overthrowing the right hand, and I just couldn't adjust.
"I was rushing my punches. That's something I usually don't do. I couldn't let it go tonight. I was forcing my punches too much instead of sitting back, being patient and waiting it. I really wanted to get him out of there, give the fans what they want to see."
A right hand stung Wilder (40-0-1, 39 KOs), 33, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, midway through the seventh round. He came back with a series of punches, but nothing landed cleanly, and Fury tied him up and then landed another right hand. Fury was in a groove, bouncing and moving in and out and not giving Wilder a clear target to hit, even though he carried his left hand very low, almost below his waist, in an inviting opening for Wilder's big right hand.
The 6-foot-9 Fury landed two solid rights inside 30 seconds remaining in the eighth round, as Wilder, who is 6-7, pawed with his jab and could not find the target for the right hand that had been cocked at his side.
Wilder finally found a home for the right hand in the ninth round. Although he didn't land it with full force, he dropped Fury, who did not seem badly hurt. But Wilder seemed to think he was and went for the knockout. It was a tremendous action round as they exchanged fierce punches.
Late in the round, Fury threw his hands in the air and wagged his tongue, imploring Wilder to come at him.
The 256½-pound Fury, who held a 44-pound weight advantage, bounced back well in the 10th round, and it was clear Wilder was becoming frustrated by his movement.
Wilder went for broke in the 12th round and landed a huge right hand and a clean left hook to put Fury flat on his back as the crowd erupted. It looked like the fight was over Fury barely beat referee Jack Reiss' count and even when Wilder rocked him in a follow-up attack Fury was still together enough to hold on. And then he came roaring back, stunning Wilder with a right hand as the battled to the final bell.
When it was over Wilder and Fury, who have admitted that they like each other despite the harsh words in the days before the fight, hugged it out.
"When you're at each other and you have a great fight, we give each other all we've got. At the end of the fight, that's what it's all about," Wilder said. "He was just telling me great fight, he loves me, and thank you for the opportunity. We're the best in the world. The respect was mutual."
According to CompuBox punch statistics, Wilder landed 71 of 430 shots (17 percent), and Fury landed 84 of 327 (26 percent).
Wilder earned at least $4 million to Fury's $3 million, though each will earn millions more thanks to their percentages of the profits from the event. They will almost certainly earn much more in a rematch of the most significant heavyweight world title fight in the United States since Lennox Lewis, in what turned out to be his final fight, stopped fellow Hall of Famer Vitali Klitschko in the sixth round of an epic slugfest to retain the title in 2003, coincidentally also at Staples Center.
"The rematch, I guarantee I'm going to get him," Wilder said. "I would love for [the rematch] to be my next fight. Why not? Let's give the fans what they want to see. It was a great fight, and let's do it again. It doesn't matter to me where we do it.
"We're the two best in the world and we proved it tonight. When you get two warriors you get a great fight. That's what we proved tonight and I'm ready to do it again."
Fury is also ready to do it again.
"One hundred percent we'll do the rematch," he said. "We are two great champions. Me and this man are the two best heavyweights on the planet."