Tyson Fury completed one of the greatest comebacks in modern sports history on Saturday night when he knocked out Deontay Wilder in the seventh round to add the WBC’s version of the world heavyweight championship to his own lineal claim to the title, delivering the definitive outcome their first encounter failed to produce.

The Gypsy King, whose career appeared finished when he left the sport for more than two years amid public battles with addiction and mental illness, made good on his promise to press for a knockout in the hotly anticipated rematch against a man regarded as boxing’s most dangerous puncher. As promised, he came forward from the opening bell, dropped the champion for the first time in a decade with a right hand to the temple in the third round, then again with a clubbing left to the body in the fifth.

By the sixth, Wilder was bleeding from his left ear, his legs were gone and he appeared unable to adequately defend himself as Fury relentlessly picked him apart. When referee Kenny Bayless waved it off at the 1:39 mark of the seventh after the champion’s corner threw in the towel, it set off scenes of pandemonium among the sold-out crowd of 15,816 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

“He will be back,” said Fury, who serenaded the audience with a rendition of Don McLean’s American Pie immediately afterward. “He will be champion again. But I will say, the king has returned to the top of the throne.”

The conventional wisdom dictated that Fury would have been well-suited to reprise the tactics from their epic split draw 15 months ago, when he spent most of the evening boxing Wilder’s ears off with erratic feints, a stubbornly effective jab and deft upper-body movement belying his towering 6ft 9in frame. Even after suffering knockdowns in the ninth and 12th rounds, the latter of which left him seemingly unconscious on descent, Fury came off the floor each time and finished the round getting the better of the exchanges.

For Saturday’s rematch, Fury replaced Ben Davison, the astute young trainer who marshaled his astonishing comeback from a personal abyss, with the Kronk Gym alumnus SugarHill Steward. He deliberately packed on extra weight, eating six meals and drinking eight litres of water daily in search of a size advantage against the lighter American, coming in at 273lb at Friday’s weigh-in compared to Wilder’s career-high 231lb.