Like great trilogies in boxing history, the rise and fall of Fury-Wilder rivalry has mapped out defining periods in their respective lives
Trilogy fights always have an epic quality which suffuse the narrative with drama and dark moments. And so, as Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder prepare to meet in this their third encounter, the anticipation levels heighten in Las Vegas.
Two vastly different contests thus far. The first, in 2018, a split draw, controversial in its outcome, with Fury down twice but Wilder outboxed for almost the entire bout. The second a clear victory for Fury who dropped Wilder twice on the way to a dominant seventh-round stoppage 20 months ago. Now, following a long gap and an arbitration case which forced the third meeting after ruling contractually in Wilder’s favour, we have an enticing and potentially dramatic denouement between Fury, the elusive boxer, and Wilder, the knockout artist.
Perhaps not directly comparable to the three fights between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, two names which are inseparable due to their history – their trilogy regarded as the most compelling three-part series of all time – there are nevertheless imponderables bringing Fury and Wilder together at the T-Mobile Arena on Saturday night which make it an unmissable contest.
Like the four great trilogies before this for the heavyweight championship, the rise and fall of the Fury-Wilder rivalry, spanning almost three years, has mapped out defining periods in their respective lives. Thus runs the rhythm of trilogy battles.
Wilder had made 10 defences of the World Boxing Council crown – as arguably one of the most devastating single punchers in history – when he met Fury in Los Angeles in December 2018.
The Alabaman had knocked out 41 of his 42 victims, the highest knockout ratio in the history of the heavyweight division. As the fighter himself has repeated, mantra-like, in the lead-up to this contest, he may not be the best pure boxer ever to hold the title, but he only needs “two seconds” for finality against his foes: the right position, the right angle and range to land his concussive right hand, left hook, or uppercut. All have been used to devastating effect in his career thus far.
Embattled and angered by many things after the second contest in the Mojave desert, Wilder sacked his cornerman Mark Breland for throwing in the towel, alleged that Fury’s gloves had been tampered with (even complaining that his 45lb-bodysuit for the walk-in had affected him) and complained that he felt strange, believing his water had been tampered with. Wilder is a man hell-bent on revenge, and has pledged that “blood will be spilt” and that “heads will roll”. But the key, of course, will be laying those heavy hands on the now WBC champion.
For Fury, who first won the IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight belts from Wladimir Klitschko in 2015, before falling into darkness and depression, suicidal thoughts and ballooning to 27st in weight, Wilder has been a defining figure in his resurgence, return as a fighter and, perhaps more importantly, transformational growth as a person.
The narrative swirling around this trilogy of fights between the two men – Fury 6ft 9in tall, from Lancashire, of the traveller race – and 6ft 7in-tall Alabaman Wilder – an openly emotional and powerful speaker on African-American rights – will define them in history. Any lingering questions will be answered by this third bout. Did Fury receive “a long count” by referee Jack Reiss when he was felled by a left hook in the 12th round in Los Angeles, when seemingly unconscious, before rising like Lazarus to take the fight to his foe? Did Wilder – in his alter ego as the ‘Bronze Bomber’ – have an off night here 20 months ago? Will Wilder’s adjustments prevail this time? Has Fury stayed on track and will he have the presence and poise to keep the punching bully on the back foot once again?
Trilogy fights have often brought the best out of the protagonists, and both Fury and Wilder have waited, without throwing a punch in a competitive bout, for a very long time.
Typically, Fury threw a curveball when he played down the trilogy aspect of the rivalry, but deep down, as a student of the sport, he knows its significance. “It is just another fight – trilogy smilogy – they are all just boxing fights to me,” he professed. “This trilogy is mine so far. I have done 19 rounds with him and out of those 19 he has won two. This isn’t round one of a WBC heavyweight world title fight, this is round 20 and that is where it is going to start – round 20. I have watched a few [heavyweight trilogies] from the past – Bowe vs Holyfield, Ali vs Frazier – the classic fights from the past.”
This is the “Tyson Fury Roadshow”, he added. “Always has been, always will be. I don’t underestimate anybody. Especially not someone like Wilder. He has got a point to prove. Out of all the fights I’ve ever had, this is the one I want to win the most. This one.”