In what Steve Bunce and Michael Costello of BBC Boxing are calling ‘the most significant heavyweight bout in America for 15 years’, Deontay Wilder defends his WBC heavyweight crown against Tyson Fury in LA early on Sunday morning.
Whilst Anthony Joshua is the division’s face and cash cow, there are many that still believe that the undefeated lineal champion Fury is the man and others feel that undefeated demolition man Wilder is the king of the heavyweights.
Prior to his self-destruction, Fury became ‘the man that beat the man’ when he easily outpointed Wladimir Klitschko in Dusseldorf back in 2015.
The first man to beat the Ukrainian in 11 years, it was thought we had entered a new era in heavyweight boxing but Fury didn’t get to defend the Ring, WBA, WBO, IBF & IBO titles he won on the night.
Instead a failed drug test and mental health issues, saw Fury out of the sport until a come back in June 2018.
These belts (minus the Ring title) would eventually be picked up by Anthony Joshua in 2016 and 2017 when he beat Charles Martin and sent Klitschko into retirement, but the one title that Fury still holds is the lineal title, one he can’t lose until he is beaten.
As this was happening, over in America Deontay Wilder was building a reputation as a wrecking ball, cutting through B & C level fighters with spectacular knockouts.
Beating Bermane Stiverne to win the WBC title did create a small buzz, as it gave America it’s first heavyweight champion since Shannon Briggs lost the WBO title to Sultan Ibragimov in 2007, yet there were still doubts about Wilder.
He was yet to be properly tested against a quality opponent (not for want of trying – a bout with Alexander Povetkin in Russia was scrapped after Povetkin was busted for doping), but this changed in March 2018 when Wilder came through the storm to stop the much-avoided Luis Ortiz in an exciting fight.
Now Wilder & Fury face off at the Staples Centre for the heavyweight WBC & Lineal title, and people couldn’t be more split.
In the most basic of terms it’s a supreme boxer facing a deadly puncher, with either Fury winning on points or Wilder by KO, but this may be over simplifying things as Fury too can punch, and Wilder isn’t as terrible a boxer as made out.
For a 6’9 man, Fury shouldn’t move as well as he does.
He is an impressive technician with amazing reflexes, footwork and fast hands. He uses his feet to offset his opponent’s offence, constantly moving and turning them and refusing to allow them to set their feet in order to throw their punches.
He frustrates and picks and pokes at opponents as he did at Wlad and often cruises to unanimous decision wins or late stoppages via accumulation of damage and wearing his opponents down.
But you wonder how this will work against Wilder given that he too is incredibly quick for a 6’7 heavyweight, his punching power, unlike some fighters, doesn’t fade as the fight goes on and most importantly is as unorthodox as they come when it comes throwing and landing concussive shots.
Wilder does EVERYTHING wrong as a boxer; he crosses his feet, he leaps into shots, he throws wide, looping, clubbing haymakers instead of short sharp straight shots but it seems to work a treat for him as he has knocked out every man he has faced.
It is important to note though, that these ‘mistakes’ tend to arise when he has an opponent hurt and is going for the kill, when boxing he can throw straight textbook shots (the jab backhand that dropped Stiverne for the first time in their rematch was picture perfect).
You also have to factor in the lay off, Fury wasn’t just off for 3 years but he abused his body badly with drugs and alcohol, ballooning up to 28 stone.
And since returning he has fought two men that he probably wouldn’t employ for sparring partners, it isn’t the best preparation for arguably the most dangerous heavyweight in the world.
You can see why many people think this fight is too soon for Fury, and had he waited until next summer, he would be more likely to win.
Even when Muhammad Ali was exiled from the sport for refusing to be drafted into the US army, he came back and fought tough bouts with top heavyweights of the day in Jerry Quarry and Oscar Bonavena before facing Joe Frazier, and he still lost that bout.
But Fury’s boxing IQ and craft will set him in good stead, he can confound Wilder with a switch to the Southpaw stance (we’ve seen Wilder struggle with southpaws in Artur Szpilka and Ortiz) but I just wonder how long will it be until Wilder lands a hard shot on him and how will he deal with it?
We’ve seen Fury dropped twice before, including by a blown up cruiserweight in Steve Cunningham, so given that Wilder doesn’t need to land flush to put you away, I fear that Fury won’t be able to deal with Wilder’s power.
If I had to go out on a limb, I’d suggest Fury outboxes him early only to get caught mid to late on, 12 rounds is an awful long time to expect Wilder not to hit him with one of those bombs.
Wilder by stoppage mid to late to become the new lineal champion and add some extra spice to a Joshua fight, whenever that can be agreed and take place.
*all odds are subject to change