On Saturday, February 22, the new decade’s first big fight goes down in Las Vegas, Nevada as Deontay Wilder (42-0-1, 41 KOs), the reigning WBC Heavyweight champion will be making the 11th defense of his title.
Across the ring, Tyson Fury (29-0-1, 20 KOs), the man with a claim to that division’s Lineal title (ie. The man who beat the man) will look to reestablish his own place atop the sport’s marquee weight class.
Each man represents the sole blemish on the other’s record.
Big fights, for the most part, have a bit of a mystery element to them. Not knowing how a match will turn out is a huge part of their magnetic quality which pulls viewers in.
To a point, we already have an idea of how Wilder vs. Fury 2 will turn out.
Their First Fight Was Initially Something of a Sideshow Attraction
Tyson Fury had been out of boxing for 30 months for a variety of reasons. Mental health issues, multiple drug-related suspensions in his native Great Britain and more than a 100 pounds of weight gained.
You name it.
At his best, he befuddled and frustrated the great Wladimir Klitschko in that man’s own adopted home country. But no one really thought he could ever come close to being that version of himself again.
Deontay Wilder on the other hand, had knocked out every man he’d faced to that point.
The one man who’d made it the full distance with him? Silenced inside of three minutes in their rematch.
He may not be the most technically sound boxer in the world, but what Wilder lacks in classic technique, he more than makes up for in power. I’m fully prepared to argue that he is the hardest puncher in boxing history.
When you add the athleticism and hand speed to that, it’s a truly devastating combination. Not to mention, the punches that aren’t lightning quick, straight-up-the-middle shots, come from highly unorthodox angles.
Yes, one could argue that Wilder’s sometimes “windmill” approach can be an asset. It’s incredibly difficult to train to defend punches coming from such odd arm slots and trajectories.
So, when Fury stepped into the ring against Wilder last December, with only two tune-up fights against nondescript opposition separating the former from his much-discussed self-imposed layoff, it seemed like an easy fight to call.
Scripted in Hollywood
Sure, Fury at his best gives anyone hell, but this couldn’t be that version of the man known as the “Gypsy King.”
Surprisingly enough, what we got was pretty close to it.
Fury, who hadn’t looked particularly impressive in his prior comeback efforts, looked like he was fully comfortable in there from the opening bell. He used deft footwork along with a longer reach and superior timing to negate Wilder’s offense. In the span of a 36-minute fight, Wilder only won two moments in two separate rounds.
It was almost enough to win him the fight. The first knockdown, in Round 9, appeared to be a flash, as a Wilder right hand caught Fury behind the ear. An equilibrium shot that shook him only momentarily.
The second knockdown, in Round 12, revealed a lot about both men.
After taking a hard right cross from Fury just 30 seconds into the round, Wilder returned fire with a three-punch combo of his own: a jab, cross and hook.
The cross and hook landed flush and put Fury flat on his back. He later admitted that he only remembered hearing referee Jack Reiss pick up the count at four–a clear indicator that he was out for a few seconds.
But, because of the gravity of the moment–the implications of a Heavyweight championship fight–Reiss continued the count and gave Fury a chance.
It is still difficult to comprehend how Fury got up, but he beat the count (and mechanical timers as seen here.)
Fury showed a near superhuman chin, and an Evander Holyfield-like heart. His coming back to win the remainder of that round is on par with Holyfield coming back in the 10th round of his first fight with Riddick Bowe.
As a fan, you’re on the edge of your seat, waiting for a finish, and then the seemingly wounded fighter rallies to do something that shouldn’t be humanly possible.
Wilder, for his part, showed that his self-belief (and his belief in that dynamite right hand) is unparalleled. The ability to maintain the power and a killer mindset through 12 rounds of being out-boxed speaks volumes about his mental fortitude.
I scored that fight 116-110 for Fury. The way I saw it, you could argue 115-111, and maybe 114-112, but boxing is scored round by round. Two, 10-8 rounds do not erase the other 10 in which Wilder was totally frustrated and had no answer.
If nothing else, the draw guaranteed a return fight.
Now, Onto the Rematch
There’s no denying that Wilder has looked more impressive than Fury since that night last December.
Wilder has had two fights against credible opposition, while Fury had his hands full in his last outing against little-known Otto Wallin.
Of the two, Wilder looks to be much more of a known quantity. He has been devastating since becoming Heavyweight champion in 2015.
Per BoxRec, the coming fight against Fury will be his 11th title defense. While he can definitely be out-boxed, it is extremely difficult to avoid his power for the full 12 rounds.
Gerald Washington won the first four rounds before getting clipped in the fifth round of their fight in 2017. Tyson Fury won every round in which he wasn’t knocked down when they fought.
Most recently, last month, 40-year-old Luis Ortiz was winning most (possibly all) of the rounds until being flattened by a Wilder right.
His right hand is the ultimate cheat code.
Tyson Fury, on the other hand, is a bit of a mystery. What else is new?
His effort last time out against Otto Wallin can be considered as a one-off. A subpar performance by one of the sport’s best technicians. People have off-nights, but against Deontay Wilder, having an off-moment could be lethal.
Add to that, the fact that Fury suffered one of the worst cuts you’ll ever see early on in that fight. In this writer’s humble opinion, Fury also suffered one of the worst performances by a cut man in recent memory.
The bleeding into his right eye never stopped or even slowed through the whole fight.
Many boxing pundits speculate that a cut so deep will not be sufficiently healed in time for Fury’s next fight.
Another factor to consider is Fury’s new trainer.
Enter, the new presence in his corner, Javan “Sugar” Hill, also known as Emmanuel Steward’s nephew.
Steward and the world-famous Kronk gym in Detroit churned out straight-forward, aggressive punchers. Tommy Hearns and Michael Moorer, and Wilder’s current trainer Mark Breland, to name a few.
Steward himself engineered the career resurgences of both Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko.
To be honest, this move looks to be the wrong one for Fury. Aligning with an offensively minded trainer will only put him more in the line of fire during the actual fight. Conventional wisdom would dictate that Fury use his legs and slick movement to evade Wilder’s power; to “swim without getting wet.”
The oft-repeated George Foremanism, “Don’t follow a puncher around,” comes to mind. Move in semi-circles, cut angles, take what he gives you and score points as you can.
If a stoppage should be the result from that, then so be it. Don’t walk at him and tempt fate.
But, who are we to question Tyson Fury? The degree of self-belief that he has shown in raising himself from the dead–in both a spiritual and pugilistic sense–is straight out of a Rocky movie.
Then again, so is Wilder willing himself to be great for the sake of his daughter, Naieya.
It’s a ‘pick ’em’ fight and in this case, it comes down to a gut feeling. Fury always fights to the level of his opposition. He had a sub-par performance against Wallin and former Cruiserweight, Steve Cunningham. He even suffered a knockdown at the hands of Cunningham in April 2013.
But against Wilder and Klitschko? Largely dominant. He has the chin to go against such monstrous punchers, along with the head movement to avoid enough big shots to possibly win. Add to that, the fact that he is 6’9″ and that punching up takes power off, and he’s a tough out for anyone.
Wilder is a singularly great fighter, but this fight will be even closer, however.
Even with a new voice in the corner, Fury will just be himself once the bell rings. He marches to the beat of his own drum, and that shows up even more when he fights.
“My opponents have to be perfect for 12 rounds,” said Wilder. “I only have to be perfect for two seconds.”
Wilder forces his opponents to walk a tightrope for 36 minutes. If anyone is capable of walking that tightrope, it’s Fury.
Similarly, if anyone is capable of coping with the mental gamesmanship and skill of Fury, it’s Wilder.
My gut says Fury. After another year-plus, he’ll only be sharper, with stronger legs. But if anyone is being honest, they really aren’t sure who will win.
We do know this much; boxing as a whole will win on February 22. You don’t want to miss it.