Big-punching WBC heavyweight titleholder Deontay Wilder will face his greatest challenge to date when he meets lineal champion Tyson Fury at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, on Saturday (Showtime Pay-Per-View, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
The two have exchanged barbs on social media and in person on countless occasions. When Wilder was unable to secure a fight with IBF/WBA/WBO titlist Anthony Joshua, his team, led by Shelly Finkel, quickly brokered a deal with Frank Warren for a bout against Fury.
Both gregarious characters look to gain the upper hand in the final run-up to this weekend.
Wilder first sprang into our consciousness when he won bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He turned professional and looked to be a project – a big one, at that – viewed more as suspect than prospect. However to his considerable credit, he improved and, even though he still lived up to his surname in fights, he eventually earned the right to face Bermane Stiverne and won the title behind an educated jab.
Since then he’s turned back seven challengers, some in highlight reel fashion, all inside the distance to run his record to an eye-catching 40-0 (39 knockouts). This promises to be the big Alabama native’s acid test.
Fury turned professional at just 20, with no senior amateur experience, though he had fought Internationally. Much like Wilder, early on, he had his fair share of critics. He had to overcome adversity but he showed time and time again that he had the fighting heart and a knack for finding a way to win.
Finally having won 24 bouts, Fury (27-0, 19 KOs) met Wladimir Klitschko, in Dusseldorf in November 2015. He wasn’t expected to unseat the long-reigning champion; however that is exactly what he did by unanimous decision. His life spiraled out of control; he gained weight and battled mental health issues and was forced to vacate his IBF, WBA and WBO titles. Fury was also ultimately stripped of The Ring Magazine championship for inactivity. Since returning from over two-and-a-half years away, he has won two low level fights this year.
Coming into this fight, there are several key questions: What are Fury’s mental and physical states? All looks well on the surface but underneath, is he really ready for a fight of this magnitude after not facing a significant test since Klitschko, three years ago? Is Wilder falling under Fury’s spell much like Klitschko did? Who can control the pace of the fight and win the crucial battle of the jab? Wilder will be the lighter man, perhaps as much as 35 pounds; will that work against him if the fight becomes a battle of attrition? Can Wilder find a way to land his one-hitter quitter on the awkward Fury and, if he does, will he be able to capitalize on it?
Conventional wisdom suggests Wilder by KO or Fury on points but there seem to be so many intangibles, that neither is a sure thing.
Online gambling group William Hill lists Wilder as a 8-13 (-162.50) favorite, while Fury is priced at 11/8 (+137.50); the draw is 25/1 (+2500). Wilder is 11/10 (+110) for the KO and Fury is 9/4 (+225) on points.
Here’s how the experts see it:
THE RING MAGAZINE/ RINGTV.COM
GARETH A. DAVIES: WILDER TKO 8
There is no doubt that Tyson Fury, based on his skills, can win this contest. But the question marks are whether he is battle-hardened after the long absence in the wilderness. I can see Fury outboxing Wilder, attempting to be elusive and potentially ahead on points by the midway point but being chased down. If anyone can beat Wilder, then it is Fury, who has the tools and if he can impose himself on the pattern of the fight, Wilder could become desperate We know about Wilder’s power and speed and when he has a man hurt, he jumps him. Would be delighted to see Fury triumph and not ruling out a “Gypsy King” victory – or even a stoppage himself – but that time away may tell and if not on point for every minute of every round, Wilder could capitalize with a stoppage between rounds 6 and 9. Wilder versus Fury is a huge fight for the division because we are watching the man who beat the man (Fury beating Klitschko) and both are undefeated. Historically if Fury wins, it must rank as one of the great comebacks to claim the heavyweight crown. Verdict: Wilder TKO round 8.
MARTY MULCAHEY: WILDER KO 10
If this were the Tyson Fury from 2015, I would make this as a 50/50 fight but two farcical comeback bouts and a bunch of weight loss does not wipe away two years of inactivity. Deontay Wilder will find Fury a handful for the first three to five rounds. Unable to find the right distance, he will miss more than he connects, while Fury scores points with counters and that lone lead jab. However as we saw in the Steve Cunningham fight, Fury lets his guard down and Wilder finds his range in the middle rounds, where the tide will change fast. Wilder, behind on the cards again, scores two knockdowns in the ninth round and finishes Fury off in the 10th round of what will probably be a dull affair.
MICHAEL WOODS: WILDER KO
Fury is an A-grade defender. He’ll need to be against the detonation specialist Wilder. Wilder looks awkward but his hand speed, and that speed equaling power, could prove hurtful if Fury loses defensive focus for a half-second. That’s why this fight is more than bit intriguing. I see it as a 50/50, because I can picture Fury stinking his way to a UD 12…but I can more so see Wilder landing that nasty bomb which discombobulates the Traveler and leaves him feeling the sting of his first L. So I see it 51-49 for the ‘Bama boxer. With a half-measure of conviction, Wilder by stoppage, later rounds.
NORM FRAUENHEIM: WILDER TKO 10
If it goes 12 rounds, Tyson Fury wins a one-sided decision but it doesn’t figure to go that long. Wilder is one-dimensional but what a powerful dimension. Nobody has been able to duck that right hand, much less beat it over the long haul. Fury’s skill set is loaded with reasons to think he’ll be the one. Thus far, however, staying away from that right for 12 rounds has proven to be impossible. The guess here is that Wilder will land at least one. And one has been enough.
FRANCISCO SALAZAR: FURY MD
Tyson Fury was the underdog when he faced Wladimir Klitschko and pulled off the upset win. He effectively boxed circles around Klitschko that night. On December 1, Fury again is the underdog. Wilder is expected to land that right hand and end matters to set up a super-fight with Anthony Joshua. Fury overcoming personal issues to return to boxing is nothing short of a miracle. I wouldn’t be surprised if Wilder scores the knockout win (and I could be wrong) but Fury relishes being the underdog. He will get dropped but will overcome it to win by majority decision.
TOM GRAY: FURY TKO 10
Fury is not only the better boxer, he is a master at slowing the pace. He does that by using feints, footwork and positioning, so the layoff and lack of ring activity doesn’t decide this fight, in my opinion. Fury just knows how to box. He’s 6-foot-9, 250 pounds-plus and very athletic for a man of his size, so you don’t just walk up and punch him without paying a price. The Englishman is clearly fit and, stylistically, he gives Wilder nightmares. The WBC champion has grown on me. I once believed Wilder was nothing more than a huge puncher with limited skill but there’s method in the “wildness.” Unlike Wladimir Klitschko, Wilder is unpredictable in his movements and he can change the trajectory of his shots mid-flight. He has superior athleticism and his power is just incredible. For that reason, my pick is made with trepidation because he could catch Fury with something crazy. I just believe Fury will frustrate Wilder and make him flounder. As the rounds pass, I think the champ will begin to make more mistakes and he’ll get stopped, more from exhaustion than anything.
ANSON WAINWRIGHT: FURY UD
Wilder’s power versus Fury’s skills. Wilder has knocked all, bar one, of his opponents out to date but has never fought anyone of Fury’s skill set. Fury has had two low-key comeback fights, after his time away from boxing. They were more about getting the weight off than anything else. This is a big step up from those two comeback fights and admittedly Fury may not be the man he was before his time off. I think there will be more fun in the build up this week than in the actual ring and that doesn’t bode well for the American. Fury went to Germany and unseated Wladimir Klitschko and I think he’ll do the same here in a slow-paced fight, making Wilder miss and keeping him at bay with a steady jab, using his footwork and lateral movement to confuse Wilder. Fury by wide uneventful unanimous decision.
JOLENE MIZZONE (MATCHMAKER, MAIN EVENTS): DRAW
I think it is going to be a sloppy fight, with two big punchers and two guys with not such great chins. I think both are going to be a little gun shy and focused more on not getting hit. I am going to go with a draw.
CARL MORETTI (VICE PRESIDENT, TOP RANK): WILDER, DECISION
Wilder W 12. Awkwardly fought – Fury survival mode kicks in after five rounds.
DUKE MCKENZIE (FORMER THREE-DIVISION WORLD TITLEHOLDER/TV ANALYST): WILDER KO
Wilder vs. Fury will be a one-sided fight, as you could want to see. Fury’s well-documented problems with a banned substance and poor mental health will surface in this fight sooner rather than later. I genuinely fear for Fury; where this man will end up five years from now, God knows. Wilder isn’t Mickey Mouse or Pluto like Fury’s last two opponents. He’s an unbeaten 40-0 with 39 KOs; surely this fight shouldn’t be happening. History is written by winners; I can only see one here Wilder inside seven rounds KO.
TOM LOEFFLER (PROMOTER, 360 PROMOTIONS/GGG PROMOTIONS): FURY, DECISION
Hard to predict a winner on this one. I think this will be a very competitive fight and that Fury could definitely frustrate Wilder with his style, if he is in the same shape mentally and physically as when he fought Wladimir Klitschko. I wouldn’t be surprised if Fury wins by decision or if Wilder wins by KO but I think this fight probably goes the distance. If Fury fights the way he did against Wladimir, I would pick him by decision.
PAULIE MALIGNAGGI (FORMER TWO-DIVISION WORLD TITLEHOLDER/TV ANALYST, SHOWTIME): WILDER
I think Wilder is probably the trendy pick and it’s hard to see him losing, based on his recent form and based on Fury’s recent form. Having said that, nothing in Fury’s recent form prior to the Wlad fight would have led you to believe he was going to pull off that upset either. Fury is an unpredictable guy. Hard to tell. Probably Wilder but with no surprise if Fury does it.
ROBERT DIAZ (MATCHMAKER, GOLDEN BOY PROMOTIONS): WILDER UD
Fun fight with two very big heavyweights, two colorful heavyweights that don’t hold back when they speak their mind. However I hope that transfers over into the ring; I don’t see it. I see Fury on the back foot avoiding any type of exchanges with Wilder and I see Wilder as the stalker, which is not really his forte. I see this as a dull fight with a few moments of hope but, in the end, it takes two to tango and I don’t see that happening here. Wilder by wide UD 12.
BRAD GOODMAN (MATCHMAKER, TOP RANK): WILDER KO 8
I think it can be a real difficult fight for Wilder, depending on which Fury shows up. If Fury has anything left and can survive the early onslaught, he can make it a real difficult time for Wilder. I just don’t know what he has left and the two tune-up fights were just to get back into shape. Wilder is so dangerous with his shots but yet is so limited; it’s just nobody has capitalized on it yet but give credit to Wilder for that because he can change a fight just from his punches. I think it will be somewhat competitive for awhile but somewhere Wilder will catch him with one of those bombs and end it. I’m thinking eight rounds.
RODNEY BERMAN (PROMOTER, GOLDEN GLOVES SOUTH AFRICA): WILDER KO
Can’t see Tyson surviving 12 rounds. If you discount his last two fights against no-hopers, he effectively hasn’t had a competitive fight for three years. A hungry Wilder, a big puncher will be a different proposition to the aging Klitschko he beat.
VADIM KORNILOV (MANAGER): WILDER KO
It all depends on what shape Fury will be in by fight night. I believe that Wilder’s power will be his advantage towards victory. It is unpredictable. Wilder by stoppage.
MIKE ALTAMURA (MANAGER): FURY UD
I think it’s a great contrast of styles providing unprecedented challenges on paper for each fighter. Consensus suggests either Wilder by KO or Fury outboxes him from the outside. Although a tight call, I’m backing Fury to survive a few shaky moments in the middle rounds and pulling out the decision to regain part of the heavyweight throne. Fury UD 12.
NATHAN GORMAN (BOXER): FURY UD
I am going for Fury on a unanimous decision. Honestly and truthfully I can see Wilder loading up and hitting fresh air. I think he’ll miss and Tyson will punish him for it.
RICKY HATTON (FORMER TWO-DIVISION WORLD TITLEHOLDER): FURY, DECISION
I am going for Tyson by points. I know Wilder can punch hard but he isn’t technically all that good, if you watch him. I’ve been with Tyson in the gym seeing the way he handles sparring partners, so I’m going with Tyson.
KATHY DUVA (PROMOTER, MAIN EVENTS): FURY TKO
While I believe that Wilder will have an edge due to his hometown advantage in Las Vegas, I am going out on a limb to predict that Tyson will win. In my opinion, Wilder has not really ever had to deal with a fighter who was bigger than him and not at all afraid of him. When Klitschko found himself in exactly the same position, he learned that combination extremely tough to deal with. In addition, I’m not all that sure about Wilder’s chin, which has not ever really been tested in the ring. I know that Tyson has more elite experience than Wilder. He has hung in there with a much more experienced fighter in Klitschko and he is afraid of absolutely nothing. He is also a much better athlete than people tend to be willing to admit. He is quick on his feet and with his hands. Of course, Wilder has the big punch but I believe that Tyson is the more skilled fighter of the two. Therefore I will pick Fury by late stoppage.
SEAN GIBBONS (MATCHMAKER): WILDER KO 10
Viva Fury vs. Bomb Squad Wilder. This is an intriguing fight to see if Tyson Fury can come back and regain his form he had for the Klitshko fight. I can see Fury having early success with his head movement, feints and great footwork. Wilder is just as his name says: Wild! That is his strength, very unpredictable with his punches coming from all angles and I can see Fury early but ultimately I have to go with the puncher Bomb Squad by 10 round KO, Wilder.
PINKLON THOMAS (FORMER WBC HEAVYWEIGHT TITLIST): WILDER TKO 8
I like Deontay Wilder. Tyson Fury has been inactive for a long time. I like Deontay Wilder because he looks like he has that killer instinct. I think you’re going to see Wilder do a paint job on Fury with his left hand. I think Wilder wins; he might stop him on cuts. I think he’s going to butcher him. I look at about eight rounds.
13-8-1 in favor of Wilder
Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter @AnsonWainwright.
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