Wilder-Fury has been described as a battle between boxer and puncher, but the winner may be the one who exhibits a bit of both.
The biggest heavyweight bout of the year takes place tomorrow night. The outcome promises to shake up the entire division.
Deontay Wilder (40-0, 39 KOs) defends his WBC world title against lineal champ Tyson Fury (27-0, 19 KOs) at Staples Center in Los Angeles and live on Showtime pay-per-view (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT), in a guaranteed firestorm of raw power and contrasting styles.
Both fighters have walked through the proverbial fire to make it to Saturday’s showdown and neither is likely to go down easy.
Back in November 2015, “The Gypsy King” Fury, a 4-to-1 underdog at the time, turned in a career-best performance, upsetting Wladimir Klitschko and ending a reign of heavyweight dominance that lasted a decade.
Along with winning the IBF, WBO, and WBA belts that evening, Fury had established himself as the lineal champion, making him “the man who beat the man,” in a lineage going back to the sport’s earliest days.
Then things came crashing down.
The undefeated Irishman fell under the weight of mental health issues and substance abuse problems. It cost him all his belts, much of his dignity, and over two-and-a-half years of his career.
While Fury was scaling a mountain before plummeting to the jagged rocks below, Wilder found himself bogged down by his own issues.
Nearly three years and six defenses into his title reign, “The Bronze Bomber” was still more question mark than legend in many eyes—seen as a one-dimensional banger who was under-skilled, untested, and perpetually on the precipice of being exposed.
Wilder and Fury began 2018 in a bad place: Wilder battling for respect and Fury battling for his very life and livelihood.
But big comebacks for both were on the horizon.
Fury bested his inner demons, cut a ridiculous amount of weight, and emerged victorious in a pair of tune-up bouts.
Meanwhile, Wilder met and overcame his greatest career challenge, in the form of Luis Ortiz, stopping the skilled, top-rated Cuban in the tenth round of a war fit for Fight of the Year consideration.
After negotiations failed for a title unification bout between Wilder and UK’s Anthony Joshua, Fury slid into the open slot, making for half of what may be the most important heavyweight clash since Fury ended the Klitschko era three years ago.
“This is my coming-out party,” Wilder recently proclaimed. “Somewhere I was supposed to have been a long time ago…but we can't talk about the past because it's now. This is the future. This is the present and I can't wait. It's going to be an amazing fight while it lasts.”
Fury believes that overcoming personal adversity, as well as his edge in mega-fight experience, will push him to victory.
"Wilder has only one style: come forward and knock you out," he told ESPN. "If he doesn't do that, he's lost. He's only been the distance once in his whole career. That means he's inexperienced at the championship level. I don't believe he has the stamina to do it, the mental energy."
As for the matchup itself, the intrigue is in Fury’s style juxtaposed against Wilder’s reliance on brute force.
Fury has fast hands and good quickness for a six-foot-nine mountain of a man. He likes to play the "Ali-esque" slickster, poking and prodding on the outside with a herky-jerky style that throws opponents off balance.
Against Klitschko, Fury puzzled the long-reigning champ and kept him tentative. Klitschko’s unwillingness to risk counters turned a winnable fight into a changing of the guard.
With that performance in Germany, Fury proved himself more fighter than sideshow, displaying the kind of focus he hadn’t shown on a consistent basis before.
However, if Fury plans on revisiting his Klitschko plan against Wilder, he may be in for a rude awakening.
The six-foot-seven Wilder is bold, aggressive, and fearless whereas Klitschko was conservative, calculating, and cautious. Against Ortiz, Wilder not only won with his heavy hands, but also a heaping dose of heart in battling back from near defeat.
In victory, the WBC champion was validated. Even if he lacked the nuance to win over the purists, he proved to be a true elite. With fight-changing power, bolstered by a warrior’s heart and some smoothing around the edges, he could no longer be dismissed by critics as a one-trick pony.
Wilder will be on top of Fury the whole way, likely turning things ugly and chaotic in the process. And, as he charges forward—perhaps too raw to be juked out of his game plan as Klitschko was—Fury will get hit and maybe hurt.
Does Fury have the power to keep Wilder honest or turn the tide should he fall behind?
Wilder wants a war and, as his history shows, he eventually gets it. If that happens, this contest will come down to the will to win and the ability to withstand heavy artillery.
The survivor of this battle makes a strong case for claiming the top spot in boxing’s most important division. Both warriors know what’s at stake. Neither will go down without a fight.
For a closer look at Wilder vs Fury, check out our fight page.
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