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Fury and Wilder Will Have Their Trilogy As Fans Have their Dreams of Joshua-Fury

Anthony Joshua Deontay Wilder Tyson Fury

By Rory Hickey: On Monday, an arbitrator ruled that Deontay Wilder is entitled to a third fight against Tyson Fury, and a verbal agreement has been reached, which calls for their third matchup to occur on July 24th in Las Vegas.

The details of Fury-Wilder II are probably foggy for many, seeing as that bout occurred one global pandemic ago. Fifteen months have passed since Las Vegas played host to another epic night of boxing on February 22nd, 2020.

Tyson Fury vs. Deontay Wilder II was one of the most anticipated fights in recent boxing history. The lead-up to the pay-per-view event was massive as ESPN and FOX came together for a rare joint promotion that included a Super Bowl commercial and coverage on each of the company’s various platforms. The rematch of an exciting twelve-round split decision draw between Fury and Wilder in December 2018 was contested for Wilder’s WBC heavyweight championship and the fabled lineal heavyweight championship currently held by Tyson Fury. The lineal championship dates back to 1892 when it was first held by John L. Sullivan– the title is passed on every time the lineal champ is defeated, moves to a different weight class, or retires. Between Sullivan and Fury, the lineal heavyweight championship has been held by icons of the sport, including Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, and Muhammad Ali.

The rematch was considered to be an even fight with oddsmakers favoring Deontay Wilder slightly over Tyson Fury. The contrast between the two men in boxing’s most monumental heavyweight bout in years was embodied in the way each made their way to the ring. Tyson Fury, the colossal charismatic Irish gypsy who moves around the ring like a man half his size, was carried to the ring on a throne wearing a crown as Crazy by Patsy Cline played throughout the sold-out MGM Grand Garden Arena. Following Fury’s entrance, prodigious knockout artist Deontay Wilder emerged from his locker room. The Alabama native trailed behind rapper D Smoke, who performed his song Black Habits, as Wilder ambled out to the ring in his now infamous forty-pound, $40,000 jewel-encrusted Transformer/knight suit. There was a sense of anticipation in the air as fight fanatics who came from across the Atlantic, celebrities excited to take in the action, and fans lucky enough to score a seat combined to create a buzz that felt reminiscent of a classic big fight night on the Vegas Strip. As an added bonus, we finally got an answer to the age-old question of what would get Gordon Ramsey, Patrick Mahomes, and Steve Harvey into the same room at the same time.

Anthony Joshua Deontay Wilder Tyson Fury

Though the night had a nostalgic feel to it, once the opening bell rang, spectators had a totally new experience: the “Bronze Bomber” Deontay Wilder on the receiving end of the fight’s major power punches and barely being able to defend himself at times. In the fight’s final moments during the seventh round, Fury had Wilder trapped in the corner, having used his size to wear down the smaller American and his elusiveness to frustrate him. Fury had earlier knocked Wilder down in the third round with a quick two-punch combination and again with a left hook to the body in the fifth round– Wilder had not been knocked down in any fight since he was floored by the unheralded Harold Sconiers back in October 2010. With no punches of any menace coming back from Wilder, his longtime assistant trainer Mark Breland threw in the towel from Wilder’s corner, and referee Kenny Bayless put a stop to the bout 1:39 into the seventh round, making Tyson Fury, aka the Gypsy King, the new WBC heavyweight champion. Wilder landed just 34 total punches in the entire fight. Tyson Fury connected with 58 power punches in the six-plus rounds of this fight, a power punch being any punch that is not a jab. By comparison, Fury landed only 38 total power shots in the first fight between the two.

In the fight’s aftermath, there was some criticism of Mark Breland’s decision to throw in the towel. This seemed strange, considering referee Kenny Bayless looked like he was about to stop the fight himself, which he confirmed later. Breland, a former welterweight champion during his own boxing career, watched his fighter repeatedly use the ropes to balance himself and saw him bleeding from a cut in his ear that would later require seven stitches to close. Longtime promoter Lou Dibella put it best when he tweeted: “I am disappointed to hear ANYONE criticize Mark Breland. It was CLEAR that Wilder lacked balance; he looked like he could barely stand. He had a better chance of sustaining permanent injury than winning. #Boxing needs to change its culture & wake up!”

***

“Spike Lee your dreams and Bruce Lee your tantrums

Two-three that bullshit and go Michael Jordan, go Samson.”-D

Smoke, “Black Habits”

After losing his championship via technical knockout, Deontay Wilder was interviewed in the ring and said this: “Even the greatest have lost [and] came back. That’s just part of it. And you take it for what it is. I can’t make no excuses tonight. Got a lot of complications, and like I said, we’ll come back even stronger the next time around.” Those comments in his post-fight interview were exactly what a losing fighter should say and were a great way for Deontay Wilder to take his first loss as a professional. However, it turned out that when he said, ‘I can’t make no excuses tonight,’ Wilder meant that he would not begin making excuses until the next day. Here is a list of things that Deontay Wilder or his camp have pointed out in the days following the fight:

  • The costume Wilder wore to the ring weighed so much that by the time he got to the ring his legs were weakened
  • Fury used dirty tactics throughout the fight, and referee Kenny Bayless failed to do his job correctly by letting these tactics occur
  • Jay Deas, Wilder’s head trainer, and co-manager, said in his post-fight press conference that he did not think assistant trainer Mark Breland should have thrown in the towel
  • In his dressing room before the fight, when Wilder told Michael J. Fox his theory about the ending of Back to the Future, Fox laughed in his face, and Wilder entered the ring completely heart-broken
  • Wilder said that Mark Breland was influenced to throw in the towel by Anthony Dirrell, who is trained by Fury’s head trainer, Javan “Sugar Hill” Steward. Dirrell was seated near Wilder’s corner and repeatedly yelled for Wilder’s trainers to stop the fight.
  • Wilder later said that Breland spiked his water with “muscle relaxers” or something similar.

One of those excuses was not from Wilder or his camp, but I did want to include my excuse for Wilder’s poor performance. Given the spectacle of the event and the attention this rematch brought to boxing, it is truly a shame that much of the discussion following the fight has been about Wilder and his lame excuses rather than Tyson Fury’s unimaginable comeback story. Wilder eventually decided to fire Breland as his assistant trainer in October, and the two have been exchanging insults and accusations through the media since.

Anthony Joshua Deontay Wilder Tyson Fury

For Deontay Wilder, it is time to go back to the drawing board. 41 of Wilder’s 42 professional victories have come by knockout, and the explosive power in his right hand was able to carry him from taking up boxing relatively late at age twenty all the way to the heavyweight championship. He could get by without great technique or fundamentals because his monstrous power gave Wilder the ultimate equalizer: a right hand that he fittingly calls “The Eraser.” The Bronze Bomber has reached a crossroads in his career, as for the first time, he has come across an opponent whose will and skill have been able to overcome his powerful punches. This next act of Deontay Wilder’s career will be his biggest challenge. For the first time, he has tasted defeat, and he will need to conquer the self-doubt that comes with it.

Deontay Wilder will finally be able to exercise his contractual rematch clause to face Fury for a third time. The road to this point was long, with potholes of public negotiations and contractual squabbles. Then for a while, it seemed like Fury would be veering off to face Anthony Joshua in Saudi Arabia. However, once Monday’s ruling came down from the arbitrator, Fury opted to go ahead with a third Wilder bout rather than paying Wilder some money to step aside or having to engage in more drawn-out legal discussions over it.

Having lost the second fight, Wilder will receive a forty percent split of the third fight’s total purse to Fury’s sixty percent. Maybe February 22nd was just a bad night at the office, and in the third match, a reinvigorated Wilder will learn a few tricks, wear something more sensible to the ring and land a massive right hand to regain his heavyweight championship. Given what Wilder has already accomplished, that scenario is certainly possible. The future of Deontay Wilder’s career will come down to how he answers this question: what happens when Wilder’s deficiencies are highlighted so brightly that the Eraser is powerless?

***

“I knew you’d love me as long as you wanted

And then someday you’d leave me for somebody new.”

-Patsy Cline, “Crazy”

On November 28, 2015, a twenty-seven-year-old Tyson Fury defeated Wladimir Klitschko via unanimous decision in a big upset to win all four heavyweight championships and become the new lineal heavyweight champion. Fight fans were elated that the stranglehold the Klitschko brothers had on the heavyweight division for nearly a decade was over. The Gypsy King now sat on the throne at the top of the heavyweight mountain. Fury, who comes from an Irish traveler family famous for fighters, was born in 1988, three months premature. He weighed just a pound and was not expected to survive. His dad John named him after Mike Tyson in the hope he’d battle his way through. Tyson Fury won that battle and many more that followed in the boxing ring to accomplish his dream of being the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.

In his athletic prime and at the peak of his earning potential, Fury would not step into the ring again until he faced off against Albanian Sefer Seferi on June 9, 2018. In the 925 days that passed before Fury entered the ring again, the Gypsy King went through extreme weight gain, ballooning up to nearly 400 pounds, a bout of cocaine use, a debilitating bout of depression, and having to vacate his three newly won championships; plus disputes with the British Boxing Board of Control and UK Anti-Doping as he tried to regain his boxing license and return to the ring. Tyson Fury returning to professional boxing at all, let alone achieving championship glory again, would seem implausible coming from a screenwriter’s pen.

Having gone through the wringer following his first championship triumph in 2015, certainly, Fury will be more content or at least more well-adjusted during this championship honeymoon period. That is not to say it will be without incident. There are currently theories abound that Fury’s gloves were tampered with during his rematch with Wilder. The theory is that Fury was able to move his hands freely inside his gloves, enabling him to utilize the unpadded part of his gloves and inflict more damage to Wilder with his punches. While I don’t believe this is true (given the amount of people watching and monitoring the event, the fact the gloves were of no issue to anyone in the building makes the theory hard to believe), I do enjoy this type of conjecture in boxing. It reminds me of past controversies in the fight game, such as Sonny Liston having his corner apply an ointment to his gloves to temporarily blind Muhammad Ali during their first fight or Sugar Ray Leonard sending a member of his team to spy on Marvin Hagler’s training camp prior to their 1987 fight. Now, there is a very fine line between gamesmanship and cheating, especially in a sport where violence is the objective. It is next to impossible to know how much each ‘added advantage’ aids a fighter, which makes the line especially blurry.

The speculation and scrutiny regarding murmurs of foul play are completely different in 2020 than in the 1960s or 1980s for the Liston/Leonard incidents. With the greater availability of information plus the advent of social media, everyone’s an expert, and generally, the burden of proof is on the accused to prove their innocence in the court of public opinion. This phenomenon is, of course, not limited to Tyson Fury, or boxing, or athletics. In this instance, what is the difference between internet sleuths questioning the fight’s legitimacy and Deontay Wilder filling a reporter’s notebook with excuses for his poor performance? The contrast of the general public’s attitude towards accusations of cheating versus when athletes make excuses is an interesting thing to consider. Both are rationalizations of why an event’s result occurred. If a participant in a sporting event gives excuses after the fact, it is viewed as sour grapes. Whereas faceless commenters and talking heads alike feel quite comfortable critiquing or, in some cases delegitimizing an athlete or team’s triumph, invalidating a feeling viewers had. In light of the devastation and disruption the coronavirus has caused globally, when things get back to normal, hopefully, people will reassess their reflex of finding flaws with games or matches and appreciate sports for what they are at their core; people preserving through adversity and self-doubt to perform at their best when the lights are at their brightest.

Following Tyson Fury’s triumph over Deontay Wilder, the Gypsy King ended his post-fight interview by serenading the Las Vegas crowd and pay-per-view audience with a rendition of Don McLean’s American Pie. It was hard not to feel great for the mercurial Tyson Fury, who once again had a chance to make the crowd dance. Maybe he’ll be happy for a while.

***

If boxing fans could control the immediate future of the heavyweight division, a fight between Tyson Fury and British heavyweight Anthony Joshua would be the next match to occur. That seemed like a near certainty in the last few weeks, a two-fight deal in Saudi Arabia was agreed to, and promoter Eddie Hearn kept teasing the announcement of the fight date was imminent. Unfortunately, fight fans will have to wait a bit longer for the much-anticipated clash. A bout between Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury would see the winner take home Joshua’s three belts plus Fury’s one, giving the heavyweight division a badly needed undisputed champion. The fight would arguably be the biggest boxing match in the history of Britain, with Joshua’s massive following in the United Kingdom and Fury having achieved crossover popularity in the United States, no easy feat for a boxer of European descent.

As things stand with Fury-Wilder III finally happening, Joshua will likely defend his three belts against WBO mandatory challenger Oleksandr Usyk (18-0, 13 KO). The Ukrainian Usyk has fought just twice as a heavyweight in his career since cleaning out the cruiserweight division to become the undisputed champion in that division. Usyk is a quality opponent, and given his pedigree and skill, the atmosphere at a Usyk-Joshua fight would be electric, just not as electric as Joshua-Fury would be. When the third Wilder-Fury bout finally does happen, fight fans will be eager to see the third iteration of the Bronze Bomber and the Gypsy King facing off. Having said that, given the nineteen rounds between Fury and Wilder that have already occurred, imagining how a bout between Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua would play out is more enjoyable. French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau once said, “the world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless.” As with too many potential mega fights, fans are left to debate and envision what will happen if Fury and Joshua face off instead of watching the real thing.




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