John A. MacDonald analyses WBC champion Tyson Fury’s keys to victory against bitter rival Deontay Wilder in Saturday’s huge heavyweight title fight at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Tyson Fury outboxed Deontay Wilder for large portions of their first encounter and beat the American up in the rematch. Going into the final part of their trilogy, the Gypsy King appears to be able to win this bout any which way he chooses.
Historically, this is a dangerous position for Fury to be in. The Englishman has always produced his best performances when he felt that his opponent posed a threat, but when he believed that the man in the opposite corner was not on his level, he turned in undisciplined showings. It may be eight years ago, but his victory over Steven Cunningham is testament to this. The former cruiserweight champion is six inches shorter than Fury and was 44lbs lighter on the night. It appeared that the Gypsy King could not fathom a way in which he would not be victorious and that was reflected in his boxing. Cunningham had not merely come along to make up the numbers and made his intentions known by scoring a heavy knockdown in the second round.
Rather than regrouping and using his physical advantages and skills to regain control of the bout, Fury engaged in a foul-filled brawl, having a point deducted in fifth stanza for a deliberate headbutt. Ultimately, his tactics proved successful as he secured the stoppage in the seventh frame, but he made the fight far harder for himself than it needed to be.
A more recent example of Fury overlooking his opponent came against Otto Wallin, who he faced in between the first two Wilder clashes. A horrific cut which required 47 stiches undeniably hampered Fury, but I feel complacency played a factor in the bout being far more competitive than anticipated. Another cause for concern is that Fury did not want to take on the ‘Bronze Bomber’ for a third time. This wasn’t to avoid Wilder, but after the emphatic manner in which Fury won their second encounter, he felt he had nothing left to prove.
When the contractual time frame for the trilogy bout to take place had expired, Fury felt he was free to enter negotiations for a bout with Anthony Joshua to crown an undisputed champion in the heavyweight division. Wilder, the American’s lawyer and, most importantly, a judge all disagreed, forcing Fury to take on his old rival for a final time.
When the prospect of a £100m showdown with AJ was still on the table, it may have been enough to focus Fury’s mind to ensure there were no slip ups on Saturday night, but Oleksandr Usyk put paid to those plans. The Gypsy King must not allow factors outside the ring to hamper his performance inside it. After all, Wilder is the most dangerous puncher in the weight class and must be respected as such.
Watch The Weight.
Fury’s trainer, SugarHill Steward has mentioned in recent interviews that the WBC champion may weigh almost 300lbs for this fight, that would be the heaviest the Englishman has ever been in the ring. Bulking up to such an extent would inevitably dimmish some of the qualities which have made Fury so hard to beat, namely his hand speed and foot speed. Fury’s dominant display in the rematch proved that his physical dimensions allied with his unorthodox skillset lend themselves to a more aggressive style than the ‘Gypsy King’ has employed for the vast majority of his career, but if Fury is not as fast and nimble on his feet, a static target would be beneficial to Wilder.
In Ricky Gervais’ stand-up show Animals, he told the story of the daddy long-legs. According to Gervais, the insect has the deadliest poison known to man, but lacks the delivery system to administer it, rendering it harmless. It is of course a myth, but Fury’s tactics in the rematch transformed the ‘Bronze Bomber’ into the fable created: possessing the power to end the fight with a single shot, but unable to land it. That performance from Fury was close to flawless, there is no need to deviate from the blueprint set in that bout. The American’s best chance of winning the fight is by knockout, if Fury is too heavy, that may give Wilder the chance to find the necessary punch.
Wilder came into their second fight at a career-highest weight and did not look his usual explosive self from the opening bell. It proved to be a misguided decision on Wilder’s behalf, and I feel it would be for Fury, too. There is every chance that the statement from Steward was simple misdirection, and for Fury’s sake, I hope it was.
Kill The Hope.
As mentioned in Wilder’s Keys to Victory, belief has been pivotal to the American throughout his career and will be so again on Saturday. There will be frustrating periods in the contest for Wilder, whether Fury opts to box or seek-and-destroy. If the ‘Bronze Bomber’ is to prevail he will need to be certain that he can find the punch to end the fight. Fury must extinguish that hope.
The mental scars from the rematch will likely be more damaging to Wilder in the long run than the physical pain inflicted by Fury. If there is even a modicum of doubt in Wilder’s mind, it is up to the ‘Gypsy King’ to exacerbate it until it becomes all-consuming. If the champion opts to hit-and-move, he must stay mentally sharp to ensure his opponent is having no success whatsoever. If Wilder is missing by fine margins, his confidence in finding the necessary punch will grow. If the tactic is similar to that of the rematch, then Fury must assert his dominance from the opening bell by closing the distance and hurting the champion early and often. If Fury can win the psychological battle, he will be victorious in the physical one.
Main image: Ryan Hafey/Premier Boxing Champions.