Simply put, these are not your grandfather’s heavyweights. These are not even your father’s heavyweights. Despite everything the two behemoths may lack in craft compared to previous generations, Deontay Wilder vs Tyson Fury is arguably the most intriguing heavyweight title fight to be made since Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson squared off sixteen years ago.
If nothing else, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury have two things in common: size and bravado. The second and third tallest heavyweights to ever carry the belt, these two giants have relied on their towering stature to carry their careers towards the upper echelon of the heavyweight division. For the “Bronze Bomber”, Wilder’s 6’7’’ frame gave him the leverage to level 39 of his 40 victims en route to the WBC title. And while most would agree that the Alabama native’s accomplishments are enough to make Wilder the boxing superstar he is, Deontay is never shy to express why he believes he’s the most dangerous man in the sport, making “Bomb Squad!” the most repetitive personal mantra since Aaron Pryor’s “Hawk Time!”
Fury, on the other hand, uses his 6’9’’ stature to shut down his opponents’ offense with his awkward, elusive style. As loud as he is big, Fury has little reservations about his ability to pull off the upset even as “The Gypsy King” is less than six months into a comeback that follows a 30 month hiatus. After scoring a huge upset against the second-longest reigning heavyweight champion in Wladimir Klitschko, Fury began a rapid descent into obscurity as drugs, alcohol, depression, and obesity transformed the new heavyweight champion into a 400 pound afterthought.
So why is Fury now, all of a sudden, ready to regain the heavyweight championship of the world against arguably the most dangerous puncher north of 200 pounds? While there really isn’t a good reason on paper that Fury won’t end up as Wilder’s 40th KO victim, something must be said for the surprising fact that “The Bronze Bomber” is less than a 2-1 favorite to defend his title.
While Wilder made believers out of many with his come-from-behind 10th round stoppage of Luis Ortiz, “The Bronze Bomber” still lacks the same signature victory that Tyson Fury holds against Klitschko in Düsseldorf, Germany. To his credit though, Wilder has been relentless in his pursuit of Anthony Joshua. He spent the better part of 2018 trying to secure a unification bout with his fellow titlist, but when negotiations fell through between the two promotional teams, Wilder’s handlers Lou DiBella and Shelly Finkel found solace in working out a deal with Frank Warren and Tyson Fury.
In many ways, Fury is the perfect alternative to Joshua. He’s nearly as big a name as Joshua is in the UK and still holds the lineal heavyweight championship of the world, while clearly not as threatening in terms of power and recent activity. So what can go wrong in this seemingly low risk, high reward type match-up?
Well, Fury has thrown off far better technicians than Wilder with his size, awkwardness and defensive ability. As Wilder’s victory against Luis Ortiz showed us, Deontay is only dangerous as long as he is set to punch, and against well-schooled fighters like Ortiz and Fury, he can be neutralized for rounds at a time as he sets and re-sets and searches for openings. He also tends to utilize a very wide stance, which may make it even harder to close the distance between himself and Fury, who should have plenty of countering opportunities as Wilder reaches for the target.
Of course the key question is what does Tyson Fury have left after being so inactive and letting himself get woefully out of shape. Those thinking Fury has it in him to regain his Klitschko-beating form naturally believe he can outbox Wilder over the course of 12 rounds. Despite Wilder’s 83’’ wingspan, “The Bronze Bomber” seldom uses his jab or straight punches to control pace and distance but instead to trap his opponents as he looks to set up his power punches upstairs. And where Wilder is a bit of a one trick pony in his over-reliance on his right hand equalizer, Fury has shown an assortment of different tools to win fights, and has also boxed comfortably out of either stance. But whether or not Fury can use his varied arsenal to keep Wilder at bay for 12 rounds remains the big question.
Vocal critics of Fury vs Wilder harp on the fact that the Briton had to pick himself up off the deck to defeat former cruiserweight champion Steve Cunningham in 2013. But in all fairness, Fury fought with little respect for Cunningham’s power before Steve dropped him with an overhand right Fury didn’t see coming in round two. Against Wilder, however, Fury has publicly acknowledged Deontay’s crushing power, and it is highly unlikely that he will be at all eager to trade with “The Bronze Bomber,” as he was against the smaller Cunningham.
For a fighter as self-confident as Tyson Fury to acknowledge an opponent’s power (or any attribute, for that matter) begs the question of just how defensive “The Gypsy King” will be against the hardest puncher he’s ever faced. Even if Fury can avoid Wilder’s best shots, will he be bold enough to counter-punch frequently and score points? Some think Fury will need to be extra cautious in the early going when Wilder is most dangerous, but on the other hand “The Gypsy King” may need to establish some respect early on against a fighter who has knocked out every opponent he has ever faced. Fury should have no shortage of opportunities to score with telling counters as Deontay has a dangerous tendency to over-commit and make himself a wide open target for return fire.
Of course Fury must also be aware that Wilder remains deadly at any point, from first bell to last. Even after a blistering nine rounds against Ortiz that saw Wilder nearly out on his feet in the seventh, “The Bronze Bomber” came on strong and closed the curtains on the crafty Cuban in the tenth. And that’s precisely why Wilder is so dangerous; despite all his technical shortcomings, he possesses uncanny power and is prepared to strike at any time. The way Fury broke Klitschko’s spirit by the late rounds will likely not be the case against Wilder if Tyson is able to build up an early lead.
Thus I favor the American to prevail because he has the smaller mountain to climb. For one, Wilder can end the fight at any time, as he has shown against Ortiz, Johann Duhaupas, and Artur Szpilka. For all his bluster and bravado, Fury will have to be in the best shape of his career to box and stay out of harm’s way right up to the final bell. A single mistake on Tyson’s part could decide the contest and such a challenging assignment so early in his comeback may be asking too much. That said, from a technical standpoint, this match could also be a serious challenge for Wilder as his telegraphed, reaching shots should make him an easy target for Fury to pick off at range, but I don’t see Deontay discouraging easily, even if he falls behind on points.
Besides using his footwork, head movement, and counter punching to rake up points, Fury will also have to mug Wilder on the inside with clinching and mauling if he wants get the job done. It is important to note that while “The Gypsy King” may have the style to neutralize Wilder’s straight right hand at a distance, Wilder has also used looping shots and uppercuts in close quarters to devastating effect. If Fury isn’t physically strong enough to subdue “The Bronze Bomber” on the inside, he might find himself on the end of some fearsome shots. All in all, Fury must remain the ring general in there for as long as possible, because Wilder can be best described as a man possessed when he gains momentum.
While it is commendable that Tyson Fury was able to overcome drugs, depression, and morbid obesity to put himself at the center stage of the heavyweight division once again, I don’t think Frank Warren is playing to Fury’s career longevity by putting him against Wilder at this stage. On the other hand, Fury has already proven to be enough of a wildcard outside the ring that such a lucrative match may not be possible at any other point. Perhaps Fury vs Wilder is as much about taking advantage of a huge financial opportunity as it is about again reaching the pinnacle of the heavyweight division.
Even if that’s the case, a “Bronze Bomber” victory will be the perfect appetizer for what has to be viewed as an even more compelling showdown: Wilder vs Joshua. Wembley Stadium is ready and waiting to accommodate Anthony Joshua’s April 13th date, and if Wilder prevails against Britain’s second most popular heavyweight, it’s hard to imagine a bigger event than a Joshua-Wilder affair in London, England. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. For now, let’s hope that the night of December 1st gives us a bloody good heavyweight fight that justifies all the hype. Ready or not, Fury vs Wilder is here. — Alden Chodash