LOS ANGELES, Calif., November 30, 2018 – The health of boxing in the United States has long rested within the heavyweight division. There was a time when people didn’t have to be fans to know the big names in the sport. Ali. Frazier. Foreman. Holyfield. Tyson. As the sport has retreated into a niche pursuit, it does not seem like a coincidence the sport’s big names lack the big men: Mayweather. Pacquiao. Even Canelo Alvarez. Based strictly on skills, only cruiserweight Oleksandr Usyk is a lock for the top ten pound-for-pound best over 160 pounds.
Heavyweights Deontay “Bronze Bomber” Wilder of the U.S. (40-0, 39 KOs) and Tyson “Gypsy King” Fury of Great Britain (27-0, 19 KOs) can restore glory to the division with their heavyweight championship fight on Saturday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The bout airs as a Showtime Pay Per View event starting at 9 pm ET/6 pm PT.
At stake: Undefeated records, national pride
Wilder’s WBC title is at stake, as well as the undefeated record of both men. Fury remains the lineal champion and will defend it for the first time against Wilder. Lineal champions can only lose the title in the ring, or by retirement. So even though Fury was stripped of the titles he won from Wladimir Klitschko in 2015, he is still the lineal champion and it’s a prize Wilder badly wants.
“I don’t need to beat Deontay Wilder to prove I’m the best. I’m the lineal champion,” said Fury. “If Deontay wins, he will be the best, but he’s not going to beat me. I’m the best heavyweight alive, and there’s only one way to get that title. You have to come take it from me. There’s never been a man who could better me in a fight. I’m showing up on Saturday night, beating Wilder up and becoming WBC champion.”
There is also considerable national pride on the line between the Alabama native who carries the legacy of many great African-American heavyweight champions, and the Irish Gypsy who is fighting in his own way for a group of people long discriminated against in their country.
Wilder is coming off his toughest career test against Luis Ortiz in March. He passed with flying colors, getting off the canvas to knockout the powerhouse Cuban. Fury’s path has been difficult after his shocking defeat of longtime champion Wladimir Klitschko nearly three years ago to the day. His biggest battles have been outside the ring against mental illness and drug addiction. He finally returned to the ring in June, and has defeated two tune-up opponents to position himself for this fight. “I am the people’s champion. I’m fighting for those people. I’m on a mission to keep inspiring them,” said Fury.
“In his mind he already feels like he obtained victory with everything he’s had to overcome,” Wilder said. “I think he’s satisfied with that, that he’s overcome mental illness. He came back with his health, losing so much weight. That is victory in itself. So whatever happens Saturday night, he has no reason to put his head down. He can go back to his country with a whole lot of money and smile on his face.”
WIlder vs Fury: Tale of the tape
Wilder is a lean 6-foot-7; Fury is even taller at 6-foot-9. At Friday’s weigh-in, Fury tipped the scales at 256.5 pounds, down over 150 pounds from his peak, Wilder’s weight varies little. He weighed in at 212. 5 pounds.
Both are orthodox fighters This is where the similarities end. Wilder works from a wide wingspan, allowing him to throw looping hooks and missile strength straight punches from the outside with tremendous force. He is all about classic power punching, the potential to end a fight with a single shot.
“America has a mighty man in me. America has the best heavyweight in the world. I’m here and I’ll be damned if I let another man from another country ruin what I’ve built,” said Wilder at this week’s final news conference.
Keys to the fight
Fury is a tactical boxer, who employs twitchy head and upper body feints and awkward angles to throw his opponent off, giving him a chance to score with the jab and set up more damaging punches. This is how he defeated Klitschko, although the knockout punch didn’t happen. He is willing to fight close and fight dirty when required.
“It’s three years to the day I went to Germany and beat Klitschko and we’re just three days away from me doing the same to Deontay Wilder,” said Fury at this week’s final news conference … He don’t want to be in this fight, he’s going to get knockout out, all 212 pounds of him.”
Fury can’t fight close in with Wilder, or he will be at risk from a punch that could end the night early for him. Wilder need to be careful about Fury racking up rounds on points while waiting for the moneymaking knockout punch.
Fury’s chin has never been tested by anyone with Wilder’s power. Wilder still has the knockdown he suffered at the hands of Luis Ortiz fresh in his memory. He also knows he can get back up and carry on, and this gives Wilder a significant advantage.
Wilder is by far the better athlete, much more nimble and patient. Despite the 40 pound weight difference, Wilder has more power, and perhaps even more important, more speed. He doesn’t use hand speed for combinations. Instead, he uses it to catch his opponent napping, firing off the looping trademark hooks which become more powerful when the victim doesn’t see them coming.
Fury’s only major opponent was a faded version of Klitschko. He is still coming off a two year layoff, one in which he left himself in poor physical condition prior to resuming training. He could catch Wilder unaware and unarmed, but his more likely road to a win is to get to the judges’ scorecards. Fury has the boxing skills to keep him out of trouble and he could potentially outbox Wilder. Fans at the Staples Center won’t like it, and they’ll make their displeasure known. Fury needs to ignore the crowd egging the fighters on, and fight his own way, winning rounds.
“To be in America, boxing on U.S. PPV, boxing in Los Angeles — it’s a fantastic place. I’m happy to be a part of such a massive event,” Fury said. “I’m sure it’s going to go down in American boxing history. You’ve got two unbeaten world heavyweight champions — both giants, both have got big points to prove — fighting each other. I’m as excited as a boxing fan.”
Wilder vs Fury: Ringside Seat’s prediction
This fight should not go all 12 rounds. It is impossible to bet against Wilder. He is fighting at home, and he has fought far superior competition than Fury. He also has more quality rounds in recent months leading to the fight.
Wilder can end the fight with one punch, if he gets the chance. If Fury makes a mistake, he’ll pay for it. Wilder has been far more battle tested in every way. The fight may go to the final bell, but whether it’s a knockout or a decision, we are calling the fight for Wilder.
“Actions speak louder than words,” declared Wilder after his weigh-in. “Come tomorrow, I’m going to show everything, I’m going to release everything inside me … I fought way tougher guys than him. My last opponent was way tougher than him. This is just another step toward getting me where I want to go. There will be one champion, one face, one name and he goes by Deontay Wilder. I’m going to knock him out.”
Both men will keep their eyes on the big prize available with a win on Saturday. If Wilder defeats Fury, discussion will ratchet up right away about a fight with British heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, Joshua is currently scheduled for a fight in London on April 13 at Wembley Stadium opponent TBA. Wilder says he’s willing to negotiate the fight after beating Fury. If Fury wins, a fight between him and Joshua would go down as perhaps the biggest all-British heavyweight ever. Either way, boxing fans around the world win.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is an award-winning boxing journalist covering the Sweet Science for Communities and for boxing fans worldwide. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News.
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