Apropos sportsperson names have long set headline-givers salivating. Usain Bolt, Tiger Woods and Margaret Court jump to mind. Two from the same sport, however, is rare. Even rarer is the said two engaged in a battle for supremacy; in this case, a rematch for supremacy.
If ‘Wilder-Fury II’ sounds like an obscured sequel to an 80s action flick, it’s because the names Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury themselves seem straight out of a ‘boxer name generator’ algorithm. On Sunday morning, the undefeated Wilder and Fury will pummel each other in heavyweight boxing’s most anticipated rematch in a long time.
Yes, it’s only February 2020… but here’s why you should care about what is shaping up to be the fight of the decade.
Best of the best
Sure Anthony Joshua has more straps with alphabets, but Fury and Wilder are the top two heavyweight boxers on the planet, and that was even before Joshua went ahead and got knocked out by an unheralded Andy Ruiz.
Fury (29-0-1) is the lineal champion (a prestigious, sort-of-made-up title that can be traced back to the late 1800s’) and Wilder (42-0-1) owns the WBC belt. A win for either would mean everlasting glory, all the bragging rights and all the bargaining chips in the constantly shifting broadcasting landscape.
The ‘Gypsy King’ a trickster. Armed with his awkward style, jarring feints, long range and accurate punching from unconventional angles and openings, Fury dethroned Klitschko in his adopted backyard of Germany in 2015, freeing up the heavyweight division after 11 years of the Ukrainian’s tactical (read boring) hold.
And then, wilderness called. Fury got busted for cocaine and was stripped of his belts. What followed was a three-year-long downward spiral, which pushed Fury to the brink of driving his speeding Ferrari off the bridge.
“There’s 500 calories in a pint of beer. And I’d have 18 of those. Followed by whiskey, vodka. Then I’d stop off on the way home and have pizza, kebabs. I was 400-pounds, a drug addict, alcoholic, cocaine was the usual one,” Fury told Joe Rogan on the MMA announcer’s podcast. “Just as I was heading to the bridge, if I hit it the car would have crushed like a Coke can by the way, I heard a voice say, ‘No, don’t do this Tyson. Think about your kids.”
Fury lost more than a 100 pounds, and after two low-level warm-up wins, took the ring against Wilder…
Wilder had a plethora of reasons for wanting to defeat Fury, and the lineal title is only the most obvious. For starters, it was Wilder who was in line to fight Fury before the latter’s hiatus. But more importantly, the American is still looking to make a name.
Wilder is articulate, sharply-dressed, a consummate family man and has all the gimmicks in place. But the 34-year-old would still finish third in a popularity poll against his rivals. That, and his adequate technique, have prompted many to question his boxing pedigree and the five-year long title reign.
The father of four took up prizefighting at the age of 19 to support daughter Naieya, who was born with a rare and serious spina bifida condition. Since then, Wilder has amassed a 42-0-1 record (41 KO wins!) and a Beijing Olympic bronze.
The ‘Bronze Bomber’ is the hardest-hitter since George Foreman. If his skills gets a 7.5 out of 10, the right hand is a solid 17.
The first fight
The December 1, 2018 meeting went just as one would expect. For 95% of the fight, Fury was too good for Wilder, peppering him with jabs, marshalling the ring and putting on a clinic.
The other 5% was Fury on the canvas, staring at the lights. In the 9th and 12th round, Wilder connected and dropped the Brit; the latter a moment for the ages. A flush right sent Fury down and Wilder celebrating. And then, Fury pulled an Undertaker and rose from the dead.
— Nicola Adams (@NicolaAdamsOBE) December 2, 2018
The verdict was a split draw. Fury complained about dominating the fight, but even the ref acknowledged that he was rather lenient with the count.
After the fight
The rematch was inevitable. Wilder proceeded to pass the time racking up two more devastating knockout wins.
Fury too collected two victories. Three if you count his fling with the WWE.
The second fight
Overshadowed by the two knockdowns was the fact that Wilder had begun to make reads during the first 12 rounds against Fury. His technique is also not as one-note as the harshest critics would have you believe. Boxers have tried to suffocate his right hand and move counterclockwise. But all it takes is one mistake. Wilder has also worked on his left hook and a ‘super punch’ — a ferocious right from short range.
Fury meanwhile has bulked up for this fight and split with trainer Ben Davison, the deuteragonist in this comeback tale. The signs are pointing to Fury aiming for a knockout win. The 31-year-old’s finishing has been his one weakness, and his last clean knockout win came in 2013. The strategy would be to again crowd Wilder, go inside and throw uppercuts and hooks. If he has the power to stop Wilder is the all-important question.
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