By Jake Donovan
Another press conference, another shoving match nearly igniting an all-out brawl.
Yet somehow, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury manage to add a new twist to restore interest in an otherwise familiar storyline.
Aiding their cause, of course, is the pairing itself. The two unbeaten heavyweights collide this Saturday at the famed Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, with Wilder’s alphabet title at stake (Fury’s—and the promotion’s—claim of still being the recognized lineal champion is widely disputed by boxing historians), along the perfect records both boxers bring into the ring.
Still, the old adage of a great heavyweight fight selling itself has never been given a fair chance to ring true. Wilder and Fury have done their part and beyond to drum up interest for this weekend’s Pay-Per-View headliner (Saturday, Showtime PPV, $74.95 HD), including their trading heated barbs—and nearly punches—during their final press conference Wednesday afternoon in downtown Los Angeles.
Like every other formal session between the two, things began civil before slowly unraveling into a predictable mess—but always with fresh entertainment value.
“The thing I’ve always said about Tyson Fury, the people aren’t laughing at him; they’re laughing with him,” Wilder (40-0, 39KOs) acknowledged of the one heavyweight in the world who can perhaps match his wits and silver tongue on demand. “In all of my fights, I was always the one who had to do the promoting.
“Fury can promote as good as he can fight. It’s refreshing.”
Somehow lost in the promotion is the bout representing Wilder’s attempted eighth defense of the alphabet title he claimed in a points win over Bermane Stiverne nearly four years ago. The feat was notable on several fronts for Wilder, who at the time was the last American male boxer to capture an Olympic medal (bronze in the 2008 Beijing Olympics) and the first U.S. heavyweight to lay claim to a major title in more than seven years.
Saturday’s contest leaves Wilder as the first American heavyweight to carry a major PPV event in more than a decade. He comes in on the heels of perhaps his biggest win to date, rallying to drop and eventually stop previously undefeated Luis Ortiz in 10 rounds this past March. The win kept alive his streak of having knocked out every opponent he’s faced as a pro, with his one distance fight—the aforementioned title win over Stiverne—followed up by a 1st round knockout in their Nov. ’17 rematch.
Somehow, though, his in-ring success has only translated to favorable TV ratings but still lacking the superstar label that has been afforded previous American heavyweights in his very position. It’s something Wilder has long recognized, thus his overwhelming desire to clean house which has been hindered by an inability to get England’s Anthony Joshua in the ring.
The two—who between them own every significant piece of heavyweight hardware—have managed to run parallel for as long as they’ve been in the championship picture. They’ve emerged as the best two heavyweights in the sport today but with a head-on collision no closer than was the case even a year ago.
Sick of waiting around for that type of fight that will advance his career from emerging star to bonafide worldwide attraction, Wilder instead focused on another unbeaten Brit in Fury—and it’s been a wild ride from the moment the suggestion of a full-on clash surfaced this past summer.
Of course, it required Fury (27-0, 19KOs) to exercise quite a few internal demons just to make his way back toward the top of the heavyweight mountain. At one point, he ruled the roost, with his upset points win over then-lineal champion Wladimir Klitschko having occurred three years ago to the day of Wednesday’s press session.
A single defense of the crown never followed, as his twice-canceled rematch with Klitschko highlighted a 31-month forced ring hiatus while he battled drug and alcohol addiction along with ongoing mental health issues.
Fury managed to rise from adversity to return to the ring this past June, having since won a pair of rust-shakers while setting his sights on bigger game. His points win over Francesco Pianeta in August was merely a prop to set the stage for a planned showdown with Wilder. Many have suggested it’s too much, too soon given his extended ring absence.
As he’s done with whatever has been coming out of Wilder’s mouth during this promotion, Fury isn’t really listening to anything other than the beat of his own drum.
“It’s been three years to the day since went to Germany to kick Wladimir Klitschko’s ass; now I’m three days away from doing the same to Deontay Wilder,” Fury revealed the moment he was prompted to speak during Wednesday’s final pre-fight press conference. “I don’t recall a training camp going any better than this one. Injury-free, in shape and no marks on this beautiful face.
“I’ve been looking forward to this fight (for months).”
They are still more than 72 hours away from the opening bell, but the two haven’t stopped fighting—mostly with words—from the moment their fight was announced. Three of their four public sessions together dating back to their press tour in early October have resulted in shoving matches requiring immediate intervention and multiple members from both camps being forcibly restrained from igniting a full-scale riot.
From the moment Showtime’s Jim Grey was brought out to conduct a Q&A session between the two, everyone tuned in braced for the inevitable.
“Wilder needs me. Let’s make no mistake about this contest,” Fury insisted, speaking to Wilder’s lack of global star power. “Wilder has been a WBC champion since 2015. He’s made seven defenses and is still unknown in this country. So what do they need to do? Bring in the loud mouth Brit to help sell his next fight.
“I’m the lineal heavyweight champion of the world. It goes all the way back to John L. Sullivan, 1898. So yes, if he beats me he will be the best heavyweight in the world. The winner will be the lineal champion of the world and the baddest heavyweight on the planet.”
Of course, Fury believes it’s a role he’s long filled.
“I’ve been searching the world for someone to better me for 10 years. (Promoter) Frank Warren has been searching for someone to beat me,” Fury claimed, in his best effort to rile up his upcoming opponent. “They couldn’t find him, because no such man exists!
“Here’s the thing about Deontay Wilder – he tried football, he tried basketball. He couldn’t make it, so he went to boxing. I didn’t want to be (anything else), I just wanted to be what I’m born and bred to be, a boxer.”
His next opponent isn’t quite as impressed with the finished product.
“Let’s be real: “(Fury) didn’t beat Klitschko; Klitschko beat himself,” Wilder claimed, in his best effort to dismiss Fury’s best win. “If Wladimir Klitschko threw any punches, it’d have been a whole different story.”
With both boxers long giving way to complimentary praise, the war of words dominated the rest of the press session.
“This is a young man’s sport,” Wilder claimed, despite—at 33—being three years older than the 30-year old Fury, though pointing to his opponent’s out-of-ring lifestyle having poorly aged him. “I’m here, baby. I’m hyped because now we get to back up every word that’s been said. You can smile at your opponent, you can smile at your enemy. The night of the fight, all that go out the window.
“The night of the fight, I can do what I want to. I can hurt a man and get paid for. Saturday night, I promise you this -he’s going down. I don’t know when it’s happening but when I do, look out because it’s gonna be over.”
The only thing they could agree on is the night ending inside the distance.
“Nobody can get the best of me in the ring,” Fury interrupted Wilder, to the point of the two shouting over one another. “I want you to try (Deontay). You’re getting knocked out!”
That neither boxer was any longer listening to the other was enough for Gray to cease asking questions, instead giving way to the call for the obligatory on-stage staredown. The two continued to threaten a world of bodily harm upon one another, with two-way shoving providing instant chaos.
Both parties were quickly restrained, although Fury found time to—for whatever reason—take off his shirt and show off a slim physique. Wilder—still fully dressed, complete with his trademark sunglasses—didn’t seem at all impressed, steadily seeking out his forthcoming in-ring rival while onlooking media shoved through the pack to get in perfect position to film the ruckus.
As pointless as are weigh-ins for heavyweight contests (which, of course, don’t have a weight limit), chances are there will remain a genuine interest in Friday’s session—the next time the two will share a stage, and for the last time until fight night.
More of the same will likely ensue—but don’t count on it to dampen justifiably growing interest in the most significant stateside heavyweight title fight in more than a decade.