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Larry Merchant on Fury’s win over Wilder: Is this bye-bye for the American heavyweights?

Image: Larry Merchant on Fury's win over Wilder: Is this bye-bye for the American heavyweights?

By Scott Gilfoid: Former HBO commentator Larry Merchant believes that it’s possible that Deontay Wilder’s recent defeat to England’s Tyson Fury could potentially be ‘Bye-bye for American heavyweights’ unless he can turn it around in the trilogy fight.

For now, fans will need to wait until the coronavirus pandemic blows over before we find out if Wilder can regain his WBC title from Fury and put his nightmare from last February behind him. Wilder blames the loss on his uniform that he wore for the ring-walk, and perhaps he’s right.

For U.S boxing fans, they can only hope that Wilder avenges his loss to Fury (30-0-1, 21 KOs) and puts things right again with States as being the center of the heavyweight division. Lennox Lewis, Wladimir Klitschko and his brother Vitali had their time as holding the reigns as the top heavyweights on the planet, but Wilder took over that spot 2015.

Although some boxing fans have seen Anthony Joshua as the #1 heavyweight since 2016, his lack of opposition and his chin problems have prevented him from being viewed as #1.

Can Wilder come back from his loss to Fury?

“I’m not a good rater but I can tell you I woke up Sunday morning smiling, and I think I’ve been smiling ever since,” said Merchant to INSIDE PBC BOXING on Fury’s win over Wilder. “It was that kind of a fight and that kind of bigger than life between two guys that were bigger than life, and one guy that is bigger than life in Tyson Fury.

“I loved every moment of it from the hokey walk-in and the fight, Fury licking the blood off of Wilder’s neck. It was like a predator licking his prey before he was about to devour it. I suppose it as Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson,” said Merchant when asked about a comparable fight to the Fury vs. Wilder 2 rematch heavyweight fight.

“That was a big event, although Tyson was past his best and everyone knew that he was going to have a hard time at best against Lewis on that night. Nothing for me is better than the first Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier fight.

“It depends on what you do next. Boxing is that way,” said Merchant when asked if the loss for Wilder to Fury will define his career. “Does it ruin you or inspire you to come back better than before. Virtually everybody is going to have one of those nights when his a— is kicked, and it’s a hard thing if you’re in the elite class of fighters,” said Merchant on Wilder.

There’s a very good chance that Wilder (42-1-1, 41 KOs) will come back to beat Fury if he can land his shots early, and not get roughed up as he did in the first two rounds last February.

Image: Larry Merchant on Fury's win over Wilder: Is this bye-bye for the American heavyweights?

Wilder needs to make a career adjustment

“The thing we don’t know about Wilder is he’s in his mid-30s already, and this will be a test for him,” said Merchant. “He passed his tests against Ortiz. Everyone didn’t know what would happen when he got hit, and he came back to his credit. He’s going to have to do that now, and we’ll find out if he can make an adjustment like Fury made an adjustment after the first fight.

“The same fate happens to everybody. Nobody goes on forever, and there’s going to be eager young people coming after you, and that’s the nature of boxing and life. Boxing is no longer a mainstream sport like it used to be. So the marketing of the game is such that people want to know if he has a title, how many titles, what’s his record, who beat him?

“It’s like, ‘What do you mean he lost?’ It was not uncommon for the greatest fighters to lose in the past. So that’s the situation it is today and you have to live with it, but if you make good fights and entertaining fights, people will want to see you again,” said Merchant.

Wilder is a young 34 and quite capable of learning from his past mistakes. If you look back at the second fight, there were several right-hand shots that Wilder threw that just barely missed Fury’s head. Had those shots landed, there’s a good chance that Wilder would have knocked Fury out. Wilder aimed too high and missed Fury’s chin.

Fury’s athleticism makes him a different type of heavyweight

“He’s certainly the biggest heavyweight champion there ever was,” said Merchant on Fury. “And he is an example of how giant athletes have become so athletic over time. Once upon a time, they were stationary. They were big and strong, and they tried hard, but they didn’t have the athletic gifts that we see today among big men.

“This [Wilder vs. Fury] was an example of two big, big men that were bigger than life, and being athletic. That’s what makes them exceptional. The whole Fury story is tantalizing.

“He’s an Irish Traveler, an Irish barde and storyteller. There’s something deep within him that makes him what he is to overcome his addiction, and how he ran off the road. He’s a giant and a giant story-teller, and I want to see his next fight.

“That was a larger than life alibi, that beat all,” said Merchant on Wilder’s uniform excuse for his loss to Fury. “I think most fighters know when they’ve been pretty well beaten. In most fights, they recognize the other guys was the best on that night,” said Merchant.

Wilder made two mistakes that cost him the fight against Fury and they are as follows:

  • Wearing a heavy 45-lb vest for his ring walk. Wilder looked like he came into the ring with a 50-lb barbell attached to him, and it was too much for his legs.
  • Not being prepared for Fury’s roughhouse tactics.  When Fury started shoving, hitting Wilder to the back of the head, and leaning on him, he needed to adjust. It wasn’t enough for Wilder to look over to the referee to tip him off that he needed to start policing Fury’s roughhouse tactics. Wilder needed to get in the mud with Fury, and try and him hesitant to foul.

Image: Larry Merchant on Fury's win over Wilder: Is this bye-bye for the American heavyweights?

Merchant: Is it bye-bye for American heavyweights?

“Bye-bye, American pie, that’s what Tyson Fury is saying after the fight,” Merchant said on Fury’s win over Wilder. “Is it bye-bye to the American heavyweights? Is Deontay Wilder the last great, pardon the expression, ‘Black Hope?’ Most of the great heavyweight champions of the 20th century were black guys who came out of the South.

“Is that storyline still a story? We’ll find out when the rematch happens. Meanwhile, let’s just enjoy what we just saw [Fury beating Wilder], a show unlike any heavyweight show I’ve seen in a long time,” said Merchant.

“I think both were great moments for him, but maybe not for us because the fight in Germany didn’t resonate here. Nobody really knew who Fury was,” said Merchant when asked which of Fury’s wins against Wladimir Klitschko and Wilder was bigger.

“Klitschko, the arc of his career was on the downward [slope]. It came as a surprise, but I think both events in his [Fury] life that he’ll never be without,” Merchant said.

Well, the third fight between Wilder and Fury will tell the story. As long as Wilder is ready and learned from the mistakes he made in the first two contests, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be able to make things right.

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