By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
Saturday night has the potential to be the biggest moment in boxing in over a decade, as undefeated heavyweights Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury meet with Wilder’s WBC title as well as the vacant The Ring title on the line.
The bout is a rematch of their 2018 meeting, which ended controversially in a draw. After controlling the fight early, Wilder seemed to give way to Fury in later rounds. Despite being knocked down in Round 9, Fury went into the final round with a perceived lead, only to find himself on the wrong end of a brutal knockdown a minute in.
WBC Heavyweight World Champion Deontay Wilder lands a right hand and left hook combination that sent the 6-foot-9 Tyson Fury down for the second time in the ...
Fury amazingly got back to his feet, although the damage was already done on the cards. The three judges scored the fight 115-111 for Wilder, 114-112 for Fury, and a 113-113 tie. The speculation immediately began that, if not for that two-punch combination from Wilder in Round 12, Fury would have won the fight.
Although there was instant interest in a rematch from both fight camps and the fans, Wilder-Fury II was delayed after Fury signed a deal with ESPN and Top Rank, meaning the next fight between the two would have to be a co-promotion, something that rarely happens in the sport of boxing. The last fight notable enough to line up a co-promotion was Mayweather-Pacquiao in 2015.
How They Got Here
Each man took a two-fight detour over the last year while the details were sorted out. Wilder absolutely decimated Dominic Breazeale in May, before a slightly tougher fight against Luis Ortiz in November. Ortiz handled Wilder well for six rounds before being knocked out late in the seventh.
WBC Heavyweight World Champion Deontay "The Bronze Bomber" Wilder delivered the 40th knockout of his career in devastating fashion, sending mandatory challen...
Fury meanwhile knocked out the previously undefeated Tom Schwarz in the second round of a bout in June, then won by unanimous decision against Otto Wallin in September.
A combined 4-0 since their disputable 2018 draw, both fighters enter their second meeting undefeated.
The 34-year-old Wilder comes in as the defending champion with a 42-0-1 career record. Forty-one of those wins have come by way of knockout, 20 of those coming in the first round. His lone decision came in 2015, when he first won the WBC title from Canadian Bermane Stiverne. That was the only fight where an opponent had gone the distance with Wilder before Fury.
Fury comes in at 29-0-1. The 31-year-old established himself as an elite heavyweight after taking the WBA, IBF, WBO, IBO and The Ring titles from Wladimir Klitschko in 2015. At the time, Klitschko had won 22 straight fights and his nearly 10-year run as heavyweight champion was the second longest in history.
The win would be Fury's last fight for almost three years as he was forced to step away from the sport due to personal issues. Because of this layoff, he was stripped of the titles he won from Klitschko for inactivity.
This meeting marks the first time boxing has a chance to break back into the mainstream since Mayweather-Pacquiao in 2015. That fight failed to capture the nation’s attention as expected for a number of reasons, including the fact that Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao were both well past their primes by the time the match took place, compounded with an overly conservative strategy from both fighters.
Don’t expect either of those things to be an issue with Wilder-Fury II. Neither is the typical defensive, calculated fighter you see in lower weight classes. Both are heavyweight home run hitters who make up for lack of classic technique with explosive power and the ability to absorb blow after blow.
Meet The Fighters
At 6-foot-7, 213 pounds, Wilder’s original athletic path looked to be headed through his hometown of Tuscaloosa playing football or basketball for the Alabama Crimson Tide. However, poor grades put his NCAA eligibility in doubt, and he ended up attending community college where he focused on boxing. He won the National Golden Gloves (awarded to the best amateur boxer in the United States) in 2007, then went on to represent the U.S. in the 2008 Olympics where he won a bronze medal. He is the only American Heavyweight to medal in Olympic Boxing since 1996.
Wilder’s unusual path to this point combined with his ability to take a punch has led to a wildly aggressive style in the ring. He throws as hard as anybody in boxing right now, with his knockout highlight reel looking like something out of a video game. He picks his spots, but once he finds an opening he’ll unleash with everything he has, disregarding his own wellbeing in the process.
Fury proved to be the perfect foil to Wilder’s style in their first meeting, and should be again. At 6-foot-9, 257 pounds, most seeing him for the first time expect him to be a plant. That couldn’t be further from the case. Surprisingly elusive and agile for this size, Fury at his best bounces around the ring constantly forcing his opponent to readjust, avoiding him while landing quick combinations of his own. He’ll even go so far as to tease fighters by placing his hands behind his back, mimicking a bolo punch or rope-a-dope, and even sticking out his tongue.
The tongue out, the feints, the taunting. This is @Tyson_Fury's world and we're all just living in it... ???? The Gypsy King has to be the only man in the world willing to showboat against Deontay Wilder ???? https://t.co/LRNEMuhHJl
When on the attack Fury can hit hard and quickly, although his accuracy has been inconsistent. It’s not a small issue with his game, either. He once almost knocked himself out of a fight with a wild uppercut.
As well as both of these guys can throw punches, they can take punches even better. Outside of his last fight with Wilder, Fury has not been knocked down since 2013. Meanwhile, the defending champ has not hit the canvas since 2011.
Keys To Victory
Saturday night will come down to Wilder being able to catch Fury in an open window. This can happen one of two ways. First, predictability. Wilder seemed to be thrown off by Fury’s jumpy style in the first meeting and had trouble keeping pace with his movements around the ring. This allowed Fury to land some key strategic punches that won him rounds on the cards.
However, as well as he moves with his feet, Fury isn’t a typical defensive fighter, and seems to have no interest in protecting his body with his arms. Once Wilder caught on to his rhythm he was able to land key punches late, culminating in the Round 12 knockdown that probably saved his unbeaten record. Now with 36 minutes of experience against Fury in his head, will Wilder be able to anticipate his movements and catch him with his arms down? As strong of a chin as Fury has, Wilder is the hardest hitter in the game right now, and may only need one shot to put an end to the evening.
The second way Wilder could catch Fury is if the Brit decides he wants to go for the knockout himself. Fury certainly has impressive punching power in his own right, but his aggressiveness could expose him if he puts himself in a position to land a haymaker. If Fury does decide to try and take on Wilder in the pocket, he’ll likely end up with a view of the ceiling.
Fury’s key to victory is to replicate his strategy from the first fight as closely as possible. Be quick, catch Wilder off-balance to land shots, and absorb some big blows of his own. He has the potential to knock down Wilder or even possibly win by knockout, but he can’t get distracted chasing that opportunity. And even though it may not be popular from an entertainment point of view, he needs to be willing to stay clear of Wilder late to avoid a repeat of the last ending.
Part of what is so exciting about this fight is it could end in any way at any time. Everybody knew Mayweather-Pacquiao was going to the cards. Wilder-Fury II could just as likely end with a knockout as with a judge’s decision, and both fighters have a chance to win either way. Wilder (-115) is currently the slight favorite on DraftKings Sportsbook (Fury is at -106).
Both fighters joined 98.5 The Sports Hub's Felger & Mazz leading up to the fight to talk trash and discuss their strategy both in preparing for the fight and what they plan to do in the ring.
Felger & Mazz talk with Deontay Wilder (begins at 10:30):
Felger & Mazz talk with Tyson Fury:
Saturday night won’t be an hour-long staring contest like Mayweather-Pacquiao, or a complete joke like Mayweather-McGregor. This is a bonafide heavyweight title fight between two competitors that know each other well, something that the sport hasn’t seen in over a decade. These guys both compete with a mean streak Mike Tyson would be proud of, and this bout is way more likely to turn into a brawl than a chess match.
With a potential unification match against Anthony Joshua on the line, this could be the springboard that boxing needs to find renewed popularity in the U.S. To put the stakes into context casual sports fans will understand, the last three American undisputed heavyweights who made it to a title defense are Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, and most recently Evander Holyfield, who lost his unification status 28 years ago. A win over Fury would put Wilder on the doorstep of joining that club.
On the other side, the United Kingdom has only had one unified heavyweight champion in the history of the sport in Lennox Lewis, who held the distinction from November 1999 to April 2000 (no heavyweight of any nationality has been a unified champion since). If Fury wins Saturday and a match with Joshua can be arranged, the U.K. would be looking at a homegrown unification fight and a guaranteed British undisputed heavyweight champion.
People being turned away from boxing due to the ‘spectacles’ of the last ten years is understandable, but don’t think Wilder-Fury II is in that category. This is a legitimate fight with legitimate fighters and legitimate stakes. This is everything we love about sports, elite competitors at the highest level. If you give boxing a chance to win you back Saturday night and go in watching with an open mind, you might be surprised with how much you enjoy yourself.
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Hate mail? Let him hear it on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at [email protected]