Gray Matter: Don’t get Furious, Tyson tames Wilder
Bomb Squad: “A group of people who have the job of preventing bombs from causing damage or injury.” – Cambridge Dictionary
When unbeaten WBC heavyweight champion of the world Deontay Wilder gets to the mic at the pre-fight press conference announcing his next title defense, he’ll burst eardrums with his famous jingle. The handsome 6-foot-7 knockout artist will bellow it for the fans. He’ll bark it at the cameras. He’ll use it to massage his own ego. He’ll use it to intimidate his next opponent.
Wilder, “The Bronze Bomber”, is a chilling puncher and the evidence for that is compelling. The Olympic bronze medalist from Beijing 2008 has switched off every man he’s faced as a professional. Only Bermane Stiverne managed to last the distance, when surrendering his title to Wilder in 2015, and he paid for that infringement via shuddering first-round knockout in last year’s rematch. And more impressively, in March, Wilder survived a vicious onslaught from Luis Ortiz before brutally halting the previously unbeaten Cuban in nine.
However, negotiations for a multi-million dollar superfight with Anthony Joshua came to nothing and Wilder’s momentum was lost.
Enter Tyson Fury. Two tune-up fights into his comeback, the enigmatic Englishman opted to call out Wilder for what many perceive to be a premature attempt to regain a world title. Indeed, there are fans who firmly believe that the challenger has no chance of victory against the Alabama native. The argument is that Fury is no longer what he was and that his two comeback fights have been a waste of everyone’s time.
Don’t be so hasty. Considering where he was at, Fury’s physical transformation and ring return have been remarkable. He was close to 400 pounds last year but weighed in officially at 258 for his 10-round victory over Francesco Pianeta last month. To put things in perspective, Fury has dropped a full junior welterweight fighter off his body in just over a year. It is therefore obvious that the Manchester man’s dedication has been rekindled, and his willingness to take on Wilder should be commended. There are those who say it’s a cash-out but, given the evidence, Fury has regained his fighting spirit and he’s looking to recapture a legacy lost.
So let’s look at form – what there is of it. In June, Fury’s first comeback opponent, Sefer Seferi, retired at the end of four rounds following an absolutely abysmal fight. Fury, weighing 276 pounds, turned his ring return into a pantomime with constant histrionics and clowning. Seferi offered no resistance whatsoever and you could count the amount of clean shots landed on your thumbs. In comparative terms, Fury was infinitely better against Pianeta: there was movement, there was effective switch-hitting, there was counter punching and Fury was defensively switched on. The major upside is the bout went the distance and those rounds were banked.
Fury, however, will still not be in what Archie Moore referred to as “fighting trim”, a level of conditioning which is only attained through sufficient ring activity and combat. However, another full training camp, with the motivation of a world title at the end of the rainbow, should bring Fury up several more levels ahead of the Wilder assignment.
BUT, HE’S STILL NOT WHAT HE WAS!
I hear you, but does he need to be? At his best, Fury left Wladimir Klitschko so befuddled after 12 rounds that the legendary Ukrainian was probably putting his socks over his shoes for weeks afterwards. Forget the nonsense that Klitschko didn’t throw any punches. Fury’s game plan was to take away his opponent’s jab and make him reluctant to throw the back hand.
The following is an extract from a November 2015 interview that I conducted with Fury, before the fight, for this publication:
“(Klitschko) is so accustomed to winning everything with that jab and stepping back. What happens when he can’t do that because he’s out of range? When he can’t hit the target with the left, he won’t have the confidence to release the right. Then what? He’s an Emanuel Steward fighter and I know how he thinks. Klitschko likes to touch his man with the jab and follow with the right, but if he can’t land the left, there is no right.”
I spoke to Fury on the Monday after his win over Klitschko. His first words were, “What did I f__king tell you?” Considering what he accomplished, that pre-fight interview remains one of the most remarkable I have ever conducted. In the business of boxing writing, you’ll struggle to convince a fighter to give you a hint of a game plan. Fury laid his out in full, then executed it to the letter. If you know a single thing about the subtleties of this sport – you should find that anecdote astonishing.
And Wilder – quick of foot, big puncher, great athlete that he is – is no Wladimir Klitschko.
I stated recently that the 30-year-old Fury is a polarizing figure. There’s real love and hate out there for him and not much in between. If you can’t stand him, that’s fine. If you don’t like how he fights, that’s fine. If you dream of the day he gets punched out of his boots, then I get that. But the bottom line is, Fury has an excellent boxing brain which is bolstered by formidable dimensions and unique athleticism for a man of his size. If you’re a detractor, you can stomp your feet, get mad and spit all over your screen as you type 280 characters of hate on Twitter. That doesn’t change the fact that the man knows how to box.
I’ll be picking Fury to lift Wilder’s WBC title. That’s not unusual because nine times out of 10, I’ll take boxer over puncher. With that said, I’m tuned in enough to know that one flush shot from Wilder could end the night at any time. It’s finding it that’ll be the problem. In this fight, it’s Fury who is the “Bombsquad”. He must defuse “The Bronze Bomber” over 36 minutes and it’s a question of beating the clock. Can Fury score a stoppage? I doubt it, although it’ll be interesting to see how Wilder copes in clinches. The champion, like myself, missed leg day and those skinny pins will be burning after a few clinches with a 260-pound man.
It’s a heavyweight fight that divides opinion and that’s the beauty of it. The buildup will appeal to the masses, but I’m more interested to see what happens when the drama coalesces in the ring.
Tom Gray is Associate Editor for Ring Magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing
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