Deontay Wilder will put his WBC heavyweight title on the line against Manchester’s Tyson Fury on Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in a replay of their epic split draw in December 2018.
The much-anticipated rematch of two unbeaten giants with 71 professional wins between them, the two best fighters today in boxing’s prestige division, has been called the most important heavyweight championship fight since the second meeting between Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield in 1999 – and this time the promotional bluster just might be true.
Here’s a look at how the two best fighters in boxing’s prestige division compare in five key categories.
Evidence of Wilder’s “Alabama country power”, as he’s termed it, can be plainly seen in a survey of his ledger, with all but two of the Olympic bronze medalist’s 43 professional victories ending inside the distance. He’s shown time and again that he is boxing’s most devastating puncher and is more than content to sit back and wait for an opening for his show-stopping right hand.
Fury, with 20 stoppages in 30 fights, is not a knockout merchant at the world-class level – with apologies to Tom Schwarz – but there’s underrated punching power at the foundation of his reputation as a slick and awkward boxer.
Stamina and durability
Wilder’s has been knocked down once as a professional, when he was floored early by the journeyman Harold Sconiers before rallying for a fourth-round knockout – but that was 30 fights and nearly 10 years ago. He’s shown a granite chin since graduating to the top flight, most notably in his first fight with Ortiz, when he appeared to be saved by the bell under a hail of punches at the end of the seventh round before winning by knockout. Early questions about his ability to go deep into fights have been shelved.
Fury’s whiskers came under inquiry when he was knocked down in the second round of a 2013 meeting with blown-up cruiserweight Steve Cunningham before rallying for a seventh-round stoppage. But any remaining doubts were dispelled when he twice came off the floor after eating Wilder’s hardest blows. He’s proven his post-comeback match-fitness in navigating dangerous waters in recent 12-round fights with Wilder and Otto Wallin.
Technically, Fury is the finest boxer in the heavyweight division today and he showed it for lengthy stretches of the first fight. He can operate out of a southpaw or orthodox stance, boxes beautifully off the back foot and uses a shifty diet of feints and shoulder rolls to make himself hard to find. Most observers (including one ringside judge) felt Fury did more than enough to win after boxing Wilder’s ears off, even though the two heavy knockdowns he suffered gave it the feel of a just result.
Wilder’s boxing has long been the target of criticism and there’s very little from their first encounter to suggest he will be able to outbox Fury and win on points. He can’t afford to sit back and wait for an opening, even if it was very nearly enough before. That means game-planning for a knockout, which will demand more activity from Wilder than 15 months ago.
Wilder first walked into a boxing gym three days before his 21st birthday and fought a scant 35 times as an amateur. That crash course lends some context to his technical shortcomings. But the WBC heavyweight champion has made 10 title defenses – one more than Mike Tyson (against, frankly, a similar level of opposition) and Joe Frazier (OK, maybe not). He’s been down on the scorecards in a number of fights during his reign, but never seems to lose self-belief in his heat-seeking right hand.
Fury, who descends from Traveller stock with all the fighting heritage that entails, will be the first to tell you that he went through more difficult opposition on the way up. His boxing ability bears that out, but this will mark only his second world title fight since ending Wladimir Klitschko’s decade-long title reign with a dull but effective display in Düsseldorf five years ago, only to surrender all the belts during a 31-month layoff.
Even though Wilder came within a hair of finishing Fury in the final round of their first meeting, it’s the American who needs to make the crucial adjustments for Saturday’s sequel after getting outboxed for rounds at a time. Wilder has shown he can do it in rematches before, showing better in second meetings with Ortiz and Bermane Stiverne.
Fury knows how to use every inch of his 6ft 9in frame to keep his opponent uncertain. He’s exhibited a frustrating tendency to fight up or down to his opposition through the years – but there’s no overlooking the task afoot, which will demand his unwavering concentration from the opening bell.