Tyson Fury is the better boxer, but Deontay Wilder has power in his hands which could end any fight in an instant
After all the heavyweight hype and weeks of debate, now the fight. Boxing and Las Vegas are bedfellows in controversy and drama, and this weekend a rematch involving Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury in the biggest heavyweight showdown for two decades – and one which stirs echoes of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in 1971 – finally takes place after 14 long months.
The winner between Wilder, the World Boxing Council champion, and Fury, widely considered the No 1 heavyweight in the division, can claim the right to be hailed as the generational leader of the heavyweight division.
The truth is that the margins are on a knife-edge. The styles of the two men are utterly converse, and the result wholly unpredictable. Yet we know this: Fury is leagues above Wilder as a pure boxer, with skills defying his 6ft 9ins, 19st physique. In the other corner, Wilder has power in his hands which is far above that which can be mustered by Fury. The American has an equalising punch in both fists.
The throne both men covet may no longer be referred to as ‘the richest prize in sport’, as the greatest heavyweights enjoyed 50 years ago, yet debate has raged here this week on the outcome of the rematch, which was inevitable after their epic first fight in Los Angeles. Back then, in 2018, we were treated to the drama of Fury’s fall and rise in the last round, and – less enjoyably – some truly bizarre scoring by the judges.
This second dance between the ‘Bronze Bomber’, with a 95 per cent knockout ratio in his 43 fights, and the ‘Gypsy King’, one of the most unpredictable, elusive heavyweights in history, has crossed into mainstream America.
It was even mentioned in the Democratic Presidential Debate, taking place up The Strip at the Paris Casino this week. In the middle of their own form of political pugilism, Amy Klobuschar, the Senator for Minnesota, said: “If we are going to carry this on, we might as well go to the rematch here in Vegas on Saturday night.”
When politicians try to hitch their wagon to your show, you know you have cut through. That was why a cordon was put in place and the two men kept six feet apart at the pre-fight weigh-ins on Friday: it was one pre-fight show that just had to take place.
Fury is fuelled by an utter conviction in his destiny to rule the world. Speaking to Telegraph Sport on Friday night, Fury was a man at ease, already plotting out how he plans to spend fight day.
“I’ll have breakfast as normal, stay hydrated. Stay off my feet as much as I can. Then have my lunch and last meal at 5pm. Get warmed up and next thing you know I’m walking to the ring thinking ‘S—, this happened quite quick’. I’ll hear the crowd roar and it’s time for battle. Look back at the guys and say: ‘We are Spartans’. And get ready for war.
“I’ve a very deep confidence because I’m good in the office. I talk like this because I can back it up. You’re going to see an excellent boxing display. You’re not going to see a brawler, because I don’t do brawling. Only fools rush in.
“I’ve envisioned a KO of Wilder. I’ll be looking for it more. I’m open to it more than points. I’ll be going out there with slick boxing. Some good footwork, reach and range and then I’ll land it on him and she’ll go ‘night, night’. It could be the performance of a lifetime.”
It will need to be. But there is a path to victory for the Lancastrian here: he needs a dominant start, to find his rhythm, use his jab and pepper Wilder. He needs to clock up the rounds, the most dangerous of which are likely to be the sixth, seventh and eighth. That is when Wilder has planned to inch close enough to detonate.
Will Fury’s eye – which required 47 stitches in his last fight – play a part? It may very well. That is why two cuts men are in Fury’s corner, Jacob ‘Stitch’ Duran and Jorge Cepatillo, who kept Fury’s face in one piece in his last fight in September here at the same venue.
We know that both these fighters – who are undefeated in 73 bouts between them – have hearts and courage beyond measure. It may even come down to the man who has handled the pressure of the week best, for it has been on a scale neither man has experienced before.
For me, Fury wins on points but he must avoid Wilder’s giant punches. Whatever happens, we know that this fight pits the best against the best in their prime – something that happens all too rarely in boxing. That alone makes this very special indeed.