LAS VEGAS, Nevada., February 21, 2020 – The faceoff-less weigh-in is now in the books. The boxing world sits in the eye of the storm, awaiting the arrival of the rematch between American Deontay Wilder (42-0-1, 42 KOs) and Great Britain’s Tyson Fury (29-0-1, 20 KOs).
No faceoff took place between the main event fighters. It was scrubbed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) after some grabbing and shoving took place between Wilder and Fury at Wednesday’s final news conference. It’s doubtful there was anything to be concerned about, but no one wants to be responsible for scrubbing boxing’s biggest event in many years.
Fans weren’t denied their final confrontation. For the final time after two months worth of engaging each other in appearance after appearance, Wilder and Fury engaged each other 10 feet apart on the stage at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. They stood behind barricades, as if they would hold back either of the big men if they felt motivated.
Both made their feelings clear, Wilder making threatening hand gestures and Fury countering with two middle fingers at Wilder. British fans out in force to support Fury roared at his antics, in full voice and fueled with their favorite adult beverages.
Fury, who said he would weigh 270 pounds, weighed in at 273, 17 pounds more than the first bout. Wilder weighed in at 231 pounds, 18 pounds heavier.
Now it’s time for fans to place their final bets, enjoy the night anticipating the big event on Saturday, and for the boxing media to synthesize two months’ worth of interviews, appearances, workouts, and history. Wilder and Fury provide so much material and history between them, it seems more like putting together a Ph.D thesis than a simple preview.
Deontay Wilder: What to watch
Deontay Wilder did many things right in the first fight. He is among the few fighters who don’t need to be too concerned losing rounds early on the scorecard. He’s knocked down every single opponent he’s faced as a professional. The only man who got off the canvas was Fury.
Wilder does not need to change his basic approach. He has 12 rounds and 36 minutes to find the opening he wants to deliver a lights out punch. He’s fond of saying his opponents need to be perfect for 36 minutes, and he only needs to be perfect for two seconds. Few men trust in their power this much to rely on it like Wilder does. So far it hasn’t let him down.
What Wilder needs to do is step it up. While Wilder is looking for an opening, he needs to stay busy and not let Fury steal rounds on the scorecard. In their first fight, Wilder threw more jabs than Fury (248 to 224). He needs to keep this up, flicking the jab with force toward Fury’s body to wear him down and set up him for a knockout in later rounds. It will also keep Fury honest, and deny Fury rounds on the cards early.
Wilder needs to maintain the proper distance from Fury. If Fury intends to crowd him as he claims, Wilder needs to find ways to prevent it.
Wilder’s belief in his ability to deliver the right hand when he needs to has only gotten stronger since he last met Fury. It allows him to stay calm and not get anxious, which leads to mistakes. Fury wasn’t able to avoid the punch in the first fight. Recall that he was also knocked down in the ninth round. Slowed down by weight, can he avoid getting hit again for all 12 rounds?
Tyson Fury: What to watch
Tyson Fury proved he can take a punch in the first fight. He is Wilder’s only opponent to get off the canvas after being hit by the full force of his right hand. But Fury must demonstrate more skill to win the fight than a healthy chin.
Since the first fight, Fury added trainer Javan “Sugarhill” Steward of Detroit’s Kronk Gym to help him sit down on his punches and deliver them with greater force. They have only worked together for eight weeks. It is hard to see how Steward can make much impact in such a short time. Fury’s approach is likely to be baked in at this point.
Fury promised a second-round knockout. Call us skeptical. Fury has only scored a single knockdown this quickly in the last ten years against the overwhelmed Tom Schwartz. If Fury’s strategy is to rush at Wilder and overwhelm him with activity to try and catch him unaware, unload every bit of ammo in one big blast, good luck with that.
Whether Fury bursts out of the gate or not, he weighs 17 more pounds than he did in the first fight. Additional weight is carried by the legs, and requires more energy to throw a punch. He will need to be well-conditioned to pull this off.
Extra weight also affects speed. There is a sweet spot between the right amount of muscle and weight versus maximizing speed. Speed is one of boxing’s greatest assets. Fury cannot afford to sacrifice too much speed.
The cut Fury suffered in the fight against Otto Wallin appears nicely repaired. But it was only five months ago. The surface may be healed, but has it knitted completely deeper under the surface? The cut’s location is accessible to Wilder’s right hand, and if it opens and bleeds it will be a significant handicap for Fury. This may be the major X factor in the fight. No amount of training can help Fury prevent it. Take note Fury has replaced Jorge Capetillo, his cutman in the Otto Wallin fight, with the veteran Stitch Duran. He’s thinking about it.
Fury’s biggest victory to date over Wladimir Klitschko was a technical fight. Fury’s boxing skills resemble a car dealer’s wacky waving Air Dancer inflatables, but he is crazy effective because the offense is so difficult to predict. Fury’s best bet is to make the fight a boring distance fight. He can rack up rounds on the scorecard and take the WBC belt home to Great Britain.
IF Fury goes this direction, he might win the battle while boxing loses the war. Fans who purchase the pay per view will be disappointed if they don’t see a knockout, or at least a fight with the threat of one. They’ll remember how they felt after the Mayweather vs. Pacquiao PPV, and they’ll take to social media to express their displeasure.
Wilder Fury 2 prediction: Sound and fury
The key to this fight is confidence. Who believes more in his ability to win? Who will be able to impose his version of the game plan on the other man? Who will stay the course, and who will need to adjust?
Wilder needs to stay move active in the early rounds, work his jab and keep Fury’s mind calculating the threat assessment. All the data coming in will break Fury’s focus, potentially enough to give Wilder the opening he’s looking for, those two seconds to end the fight.
Wilder would also be wise to target Fury’s healed cut. It will be vulnerable to opening again, and it’s a factor no one should overlook. It’s another potential distraction for Fury and opportunity for Wilder.
Fury has made a lot of changes: weight, trainer, cutman. You only fix things you don’t think are working. If Fury changes the boxing style that won against Klitschko and moves in to pressure Wilder, he does so at his peril. There are plenty of ways for Wilder to land punches on Fury if he’s within target range. Fury would do best to use his footwork skills to stay on the move, in and out. He can outbox Wilder, and he nearly did in the first bout.
In this true 50-50 fight, we turn to one of history’s wisest observers of human nature for help, William Shakespear.
Among Shakespeare’s most famous quotes is the soliloquy from “Macbeth” which ends “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Fury says he’s confident in his ability to win on Saturday. But there is nervous energy in his colorful bluster. Could he be “protesting too much,” an observation by Prince Hamlet as a clue to someone’s true feelings?
Wilder, a man from humble beginnings, came to boxing at the late age of 20 and has learned the sport in full public view. He’s acquired maturity and he has also acquired patience. As his skills have developed and his confidence in himself has grown, his mental strength has propelled his physical strength. He puts on the show when he needs to, but he doesn’t need to shout about his accomplishments. Saturday’s fight will be a potentially record-setting 11th title defense in the heavyweight division.
Wilder only needs a few seconds of doubt to take advantage of Fury and exploit an opening.
Our prediction: Wilder by 10th round (or later) TKO.
Undercard cheat sheet
All undercard fighters made weight for Saturday’s fights. Worth noting: Super welterweight Sebastian Fundora, who will open the PPV broadcast, and heavyweight Charles Martin, who appears in the co-main event, are both 6-foot-5. Fundora weighed in at 153.5 pounds; Martin at 256 pounds.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News” when quoting from or linking to this story.
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