Just when you think that the heavyweight division in 2019 could not get any better, here we go again with the Deontay Wilder vs Tyson Fury rematch. Staged at the iconic Grand Garden Arena at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, we get to see who is going to elevate themselves to the top of the heavyweight mountain.
Anthony Joshua fans will disagree, but Wilder and Fury should be judged as the #1 and #2 ranked heavies due to AJ's slip up in June against Andy Ruiz Jr. Granted the nature and dominance of Joshua's performance in the rematch deserve massive respect, but the loss was by stoppage and dented AJ's standing among the 'Big Three'.
Co-promoted by Premier Boxing Champions and Top Rank, the card will be screened by ESPN and Showtime with BT Sports carrying the fight in the UK.
The respective paths that Wilder and Fury have taken since their epic first encounter in December 2018 could not be more different. Wilder has faced his mandatory contender Dominic Breazeale and fought a rematch with talented and dangerous Cuban Luis Ortiz while Fury fought two relatively unknown European heavyweights in what looked on paper to be undemanding matches.
His Las Vegas debut in June against Germany's Tom Schwarz, the #2 ranked WBO contender was heavily criticised due to Schwarz not having ever faced a top 15 contender let alone beaten one. The attendance at the Garden Arena was poor and at best Fury got to look exciting for the 2 rounds it lasted.
Three months later the 6 foot 9 inch Fury faced Sweden's Otto Wallen (20-0-0) in another match that grew disdain from certain corners. True, Bob Arum knew that Fury needed to grow a following or become better known in The USA but unknown foreign fighters might not have been the best way to achieve this.
Wallin threw away the script in the 3rd round and cut Fury's right eye so badly that he later required 47 stitches from a plastic surgeon. The cut was caused by a great left hand from the 29-year-old Swede so that meant that if the bout had been stopped due to the cut, Wallin would have been declared the winner and the first man to beat the now (29-0-1) former unified world champion from Manchester.
Of the two, Wilder's route to this rematch looks so much more beneficial to him than Fury's. The Breazeale showreel knockout doesn't mean so much in terms of preparation for the giant and fleet-footed Fury, but the 7 rounds against Ortiz showed patience and maturity that we haven't seen in Wilder before. Sure, the champion from Alabama lost all the rounds leading up to the finish but it was his punch delivery that showed us that he knows he has to fight in a more classical style to defeat the slick 'Gypsy King'. I think Wilder knew he could blast Ortiz out but waited and waited for the right moment to fire a perfectly straight right hand that detonated on the Cuban's forehead, sending him down to be counted out.
Wilder seems to have learned from the first Fury fight and doesn't want to let it go to the scorecards again. Most pundits believe that if it goes the full 12 rounds, Fury will be taking the title from the 34-year-old Wilder so I expect to see the same patient approach in the rematch. The champion won't be able to let it go too far into the second half of the fight so I see him looking to land that fast, straight down the pipe right-hand that he was practising all the way through the Ortiz rematch.
Tyson Fury is capable of outboxing any heavyweight in the world on his night. Remember that he came into the first Wilder fight with little quality preparation and all the baggage that his near 3 year encounters with alcohol, drugs, and mental health issues had left him with. Losing 140lbs of blubber also must have drained him and yet few observers would argue that he dominated the fight until Wilder scored the 9th and 12th round knockdowns.
Fury seems like a fighter who thrives in the midst of turmoil. Splitting from trainer Ben Davison with just over 10 weeks to go to the biggest fight of his career would set off alarm bells with anyone else but I think the change to Sugarhill Steward, a coach that he has known since his time at the famous Kronk Gym in Detroit back in 2010, will bring out the best in Fury. Sugarhill is the nephew of Hall of Fame trainer Emmanuel Steward who tipped the young Fury to go on to become a heavyweight champ one day.
I can see an in shape Fury doing a better job of outboxing Deontay, but we know that it only takes one decent right-hand from the WBC champ to change the course of the fight. One thing that I believe troubled Wilder mentally was Fury's ability to get up and come back strongly from the knockdowns, nobody before or after him have managed that. I think Fury has a stronger mind. That sounds strange considering Tyson has had those mental health issues and still does, but he appears to be too mentally strong for Wilder who puts on a strong front but looked fragile when Fury got up from the knockdowns in the first encounter.
Without any doubt, Wilder is one of the hardest hitting heavyweights in boxing history, but he is one-handed. That is not meant as a slight, but he doesn't inflict so much damage with the jab, left hook, or uppercut. This is why a master boxer like Fury can do so well, you only have to avoid the right-hand. Easier said than done of course but December 2018 was the blueprint. Now Fury has to complete what he started then.
Prediction: Fury to win on points.