”It’s unlikely to be fight of the year, but it sure will be absorbing”
November 29, 2018
A Los Angeles arena that is still getting used to hosting LeBron James will on Saturday reverberate to the sound of two very different sporting giants. Tyson Fury takes on Deontay Wilder at the Staples Centre in a fight which pits the lineal ruler of boxing’s big men against the WBC belt-holder. The venue is usually home to the Lakers and Clippers of the NBA along with the LA Kings ice hockey franchise.
We live in an era in which US boxing regularly haemorrhages possible champions to more popular team sports. It is fitting therefore that Deontay Wilder, arguably the most athletic heavyweight champion of his generation will defend his title in such surroundings. Wilder played almost every sport available whilst at school and was particularly at home with both hoops and helmets. However, the NBA and NFL’s losses are boxing’s gain and the 6’7” Alabama native won an Olympic medal just one year after walking in to a boxing gym.
In the opposite corner to Wilder will be a man who is perhaps slightly less athletic but no less skilled. It’s been a testing three years for Tyson Fury. The man who shocked the world by defeating Wladimir Klitschko in 2015 hasn’t had a meaningful fight in the ring since that night. Most of Fury’s travails have come beyond the ropes. A messy battle with UKAD over a positive test for nandrolone and a much-publicised struggle with mental health issues have all played out in public.
For a long time, fans wondered if they’d ever see “the man who beat the man” fight again. Seemingly surpassed by both Anthony Joshua and Wilder himself, we’re now in a position where Fury is about to take part in the biggest heavyweight contest of 2018. As many have pointed out, nobody saw this coming in January and yet here we are.
One of the biggest concerns ahead of this bout is how much of a toll has Fury’s sabbatical taken on his abilities. When you look at the records of both men it’s tempting to suggest that a fight between them at their respective peaks would heavily favour the British boxer. Wilder is almost certainly at the zenith of his abilities but it’s impossible to know in what state Fury will enter the ring. To prepare for his comeback, Tyson has lost almost 150lbs in the last 12 months. That’s an entire fighting weight Ricky Hatton shed inside a year. Whilst that won’t have dulled Fury’s fight IQ he relies heavily on his excellent footwork and movement so naturally there are questions arising about stamina after such a gargantuan weight loss.
Stamina also aids punch resistance and if there is one thing Deontay Wilder does well it’s knocking people out. The “Bronze Bomber” is undefeated in 40 fights and he has won 39 of those by knockout with a staggering 32 of those coming inside 4 rounds. Wilder is, as his name suggests, a rather unorthodox fighter but it’s unfair to suggest that he can’t box. In winning the title he fought beautifully to score a unanimous points victory over Bermane Stiverne. It should also be pointed out that when the two men met in a rematch Wilder knocked Stiverne out in the first round.
Saturday will see a clash of two very different styles and if Fury wins it is unlikely to be an enthralling affair. The fight against Klitschko was a masterclass in nullifying your opponent’s strengths and dictating tempo and direction from start to finish. In that instance Fury had clearly rattled the Ukrainian champion mentally and it showed. Wilder is a wilier foe altogether and he is unlikely to be perturbed by Fury veering between apparent instability and disarming vulnerability.
Another huge weapon in the American’s arsenal is a granite chin. Wilder got hit cleanly by ferocious puncher Luis Ortiz and he didn’t even blink. Allied to conditioning that would make a marathon runner look twice he really is an excellent fighter. General consensus seems to be that if Wilder wins he does it early and if the fight goes the full 12 rounds it’ll be Fury’s hand raised. However, Wilder deserves more credit than that and I think he will be just too savvy to get drawn into Tyson Fury’s world. If Wilder remains patient there’s every chance that Fury will simply run out of gas and won’t be able to keep the heavy shots at bay. It might not be a fight of the year contender, but it’ll will be utterly absorbing for as long as it lasts.
In other news
Here at the bookmakers offering the best Fury vs Wilder betting odds
Author: George Ogier
George has been writing about boxing and other sports for over seven years. He has written for various sites including The Mirror, Joe and Boxing Scene. He also runs his own social media management company from West Oxfordshire. When not feverishly staring at his laptop he likes to be ultimately disappointed by Tottenham Hotspur.