By Neil Leverett
- Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury meet in their much-anticipated WBC World Heavyweight title rematch on Saturday in Las Vegas
- MGM Grand stages second fight after hugely controversial split-draw in December 2018
- Fighters involved in heated build-up, after multiple altercations
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – With Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury’s much-anticipated Heavyweight title rematch less than 48 hours away, who will come out on top at the MGM Grand?
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High noon in Las Vegas
It’s being billed as the biggest fight in 20 years. As the bell rings at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada on Saturday all the talk will finally stop as after weeks and months of verbals jabs, egos and posturing, an increasingly heated build-up will be put to one side as Deontay Wilder defends his WBC World Heavyweight title against Tyson Fury.
In what could be compared to an old-fashioned Wild West shootout at the O.K. Corral, 14 months on from their hugely controversial bout in 2018, the two men who claim to be the number one fighter in the division, will put their reputations on the line for the second time in the Entertainment Capital of the World this weekend.
As Wilder and Fury touch gloves for another 12 rounds, the fighters swap Los Angeles for the Mecca of Boxing and the MGM Grand for their second dance. With both men still undefeated in the ring and with an again dangling carrot of a unification super-fight with Anthony Joshua on the line, the stakes are high on The Strip.
Winding back the clock to just over a year ago, it was the fight that captured the imagination of the sporting world, as the potential for a five-belt unification bout came ever closer.
After a said super-fight between WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO champion Joshua and Wilder failed to materialise earlier that year, it was left for Fury to seal a deal for a fight at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles to close out 2018, as the Wythenshawe fighter looked to regain his place at the pinnacle of the sport’s pyramid, after being forced to surrender his unified titles won against Wladimir Klitschko due to mental health issues.
With many questioning Fury’s stamina and mental fragility after having only two comeback fights against Sefer Seferi and Francesco Pianeta beforehand, the Briton proved he had not lost his touch, outclassing and out-boxing Wilder from the opening bell until the latter rounds.
With Fury four or fives rounds up on the cards of many pundits and experts at ringside – despite having been down in the ninth – Fury took the 11th before the 12th and final explosive round.
A visibly fatigued Wilder came forward desperately trying to keep hold of his crown and stunned the Staples Centre, by flooring Fury with a right-left combination to leave the Briton flat on his back. As referee Jack Reiss started the count, to the astonishment of the crowd, commentary teams and Wilder himself, Fury rose before 10 and survived to the final bell.
Both men embraced at the conclusion of the bout, but the consensus was that Fury had done enough to dethrone the champion. After a split decision on two of the judge’s cards, a 113-113 outcome was reached to howls of derision in the City of Angels.
‘I brought you back’
As the duo completed a final exhaustive week of media commitments, a further flurry of jibes were exchanged in Wednesday’s final pre-fight press conference and the champion was typically in no mood to mince his words.
With the ‘Bronze Bomber’ making his 11th title defence this weekend, the Alabaman – as quoted by BBC Sport – was taking full credit for Fury’s rehabilitation into boxing, making pointed jibes about his issues with substance abuse.
“I brought you back, put food on your table.” [And] “I’m doing it for a second time. Don’t you forget that. I found you when you were strung out on coke, as big as a house and contemplating killing yourself.
I brought you to big-time boxing. I rehabilitated him [Tyson] back.”
Fury promises of ‘permanent retirement’
In the opposing camp, the lead up to the second chapter of the rivalry has been rather more barbed, with Fury still clearly irritated by the judges’ decision last time out, coupled with the growing tirades of his American opponent.
Whether they be a direct influence of boxing’s hype machine, the Brit has his own view of Wilder, suggesting it was he who brought the WBC champion to the bright lights of Vegas after a string of fights in New York and LA. Fury adds rather pointedly, that undefeated Wilder is running scared.
“I gave him the biggest payday of his life, brought him to Las Vegas and this is how he thanks me. He has a lot of appreciation for someone who put millions in his account.
I will put you into permanent retirement, don’t you worry about that. This is a big act for him. He [Deontay] is nervous underneath, I can see his heart beating through his jumper, he is terrified and he is getting knocked out.”
Power or nous?
Having survived an almighty scare versus Luiz Ortiz in his last fight, Wilder prepares for his 44th professional and surely biggest fight to date. After a run of contests going largely untested, the 34-year-old has however shown his resilience in his last four fights and will again need to show that same mettle once – perhaps moreso.
Out-boxed for large portions against Fury and Ortiz, Wilder retains his destructive and decisive knockout power that stunned both aforementioned men and also Dominic Breazeale, who was dealt swift and decisive justice with a brutal first-round stoppage last May.
But will that be enough? Fury in their first encounter showed he has the nous to evade Wilder’s bingo right hand and also the superior footwork to counteract the Alabaman’s speed between the ropes.
With sizeable reach advantage also, the former champion can use his height advantage to box behind the jab and stay out of trouble. That will be the plan in any event.
There are two factors here; Wilder knows that Fury is perhaps the better boxer, but he also retains the knowledge that he has put down his oft-eccentric and capricious opponent twice already.
Fury meanwhile, has his customary unorthodox, unconventional and at times awkward style to fall back on, but has not in recent years at least fully stopped a fighter with an example of explosive power. The Briton knows also he has been hurt by Wilder, for all his taunts. It is also worth noting that in Fury’s last fight back in September, Otto Wallin went the distance, whilst also bloodying Fury’s nose – or eye at least.
The outcome of 2018’s encounter would have fetched you odds of 33/1, so could we see a repeat scenario here? That is always possible, but in the back of Wilder’s mind, if he did again find himself well down on the scorecards, he may this time have no chance for a comeback. That could prompt a potentially explosive and rapid outcome in Las Vegas. Don’t blink on Sunday morning. You might miss it.
Deontay Wilder defends his WBC World Heavyweight title against Tyson Fury on Saturday night in Las Vegas, Nevada, with ring walks at approximately 04:30 on Sunday morning UK time.
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