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SugarHill Steward and Team Fury load up for another round against Deontay Wilder

Fury’s got his idol’s endorsement as the best heavyweight.  (Photo by Bradley Collyer/PA Images via Getty Images)
Fighters Network

It struck an emotional chord for a moment when his name was broached. Javan “SugarHill” Steward had to catch himself when he heard that somewhere, Emanuel Steward, Hill’s uncle and renowned deceased Hall of Fame trainer, must have been smiling when Tyson Fury destroyed Deontay Wilder in seven rounds back on February 22, 2020 for the Ring and WBC heavyweight championship.

SugarHill sure had a lot to be proud of in Wilder-Fury II, using many of the tenets Steward had conveyed to him through time, like when Fury used his 273 pounds on the smaller Wilder as a body rest, wearing the former WBC titlist down, and eventually wearing him out at 1:39 of the seventh round.

SugarHill did a masterful job in training Fury (30-0-1, 21 knockouts) for the fight, and it looks like Team Fury may be using the same game plan for Fury-Wilder III on July 24, at the T-Mobile Arena.

Wilder (42-1-1, 41 KOs) weighed a career-high  231 pounds. Fury was 16½ pounds heavier than the first fight and the 273 was the third-highest he’s ever weighed for a fight (KO 4 Sefer Seferi, June 9, 2018 276 pounds; KO 4 Joey Abell, Feb. 15, 2014 274 pounds).

Steward’s plan worked the first time. Why fix a scheme that isn’t broken? Steward was masterful in putting that strategy together.

“The game plan in the second fight was to use the jab, box him and control and keep coming at him, be aggressive and something that I’m used to and raised around with Emanual,” Steward said. “This fight will be pretty much be the same thing. The one big difference is we’ve had more time to work together, and he is very much a different Tyson Fury.

“He’s going around 280, and spoke about going up to 300, but it’s not that important. What is important is that Tyson is able to move and function properly. We want Tyson to improve and he has. This is a far better Tyson Fury than before.

“I have to see if Deontay is able to do anything different. I have to fair and I can’t say he’ll do the same thing as he’s done before. He has Malik Scott training him and we have to plan for the worst. I don’t know what he’s going to do exactly—we’re just making sure that everything is working right over here.”

The question that hovers over Wilder entering this third installment is whether or not Wilder is open to change. He is stubborn. He blamed his trainer, Mark Breland, the 1984 U.S. Olympic welterweight gold medalist, who wisely threw in the towel to end the second fight.

After the second fight, multiple sources in and around Wilder’s team revealed that “The Bronze Bomber” didn’t listen to Breland’s instructions to stay with the jab, and circle left, and Wilder did not help himself by allowing his fiancée, Telli Swift, to stay with him in their hotel suite during the week leading up to the fight, compounded by a heavy pad work session the night before the fight back in the studio section of the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Wilder claimed he had no legs.

In truth, he may have knocked his own legs out from underneath him.

Three sources close to Wilder said the same exact thing: “Deontay just doesn’t listen to what he’s told; he does what he wants to do.”

Numerous trainers said the same thing when they were told about the fiancée and the pad routine the night before the fight: “No wonder he had no legs.”

According to CompuBox stats, Fury landed 82-267 (31%) total punches, to Wilder’s 34-141 (24%). Fury also connected on more jabs, 24-107 (22%) to Wilder’s 16-86 (19%). The telling difference came in the power: Fury connected on 40 more power shots, 58-160 (36.3%), than Wilder’s 18-55 (32.7%) power connect rate.

In the first fight, Wilder moved far better, and used his jab more often. Wilder landed 25 jabs through the initial seven rounds of the first encounter, according to CompuBox stats, and threw his jab 159 times—18 more times than his total punch output (141) in the rematch. Wilder landed 36 total punches and threw 249 punches through the first seven rounds—which is over 100 more than he threw in the rematch.

“Deontay thinks he’s better, than what he looked like (against Fury in the rematch),” one source stated. “That just may be it. That’s his best. He really can’t blame anyone but himself. He’s still not willing to do that. Mark Breland knows boxing and cared about Deontay. For some reason, Deontay didn’t see that.”

Someone who does believe Wilder can change and develop more of his boxing skills is Steward.

“I would have to say yes, Deontay can change,” Steward said. “He signed for the fight. He’ll show up for the fight, and he’s willing to do things different in his training, and he hasn’t even spoken to Tyson, which is a far different Deontay Wilder than we saw before.”

This could be a far different Deontay Wilder. Now he has the world doubting him. He’s the one embarrassed, because he’s always been on top. He’s the one who used to roll over everyone he’s faced. He’s blamed his trainer, the boxing world, a suit of armor and a half a dozen other things for the debacle the last time he faced Fury.

Wilder is faced with a crossroads fight.

Fury has everything to lose, because Fury has everything.

“That’s fair to say, and Deontay may be more daring, and Tyson really beat Deontay the first time, and Deontay could be more dangerous,” Steward said. “We have to prepared for everything. Tyson is excited for this. He’s going to take the same approach as before.

“Tyson is extremely confident and I remember the night before the fight, we knew we put the work in and we were ready. Tyson and I were laughing at everybody to ourselves. We knew. Tyson knew.”

The night before the rematch in February 2020, Fury accepted a media guest to his suite to accept an award. He was as calm and peaceful as someone about to go on a family picnic. Wilder was off doing heavy pad work.

“I have a responsibility to train my fighters like Emanuel trained me to,” Steward said. “Tyson is training in the heat and nothing right now will bother him. We’ll plan on something different from Deontay. Tyson couldn’t wait for this, and he couldn’t wait for this the day he found out he would have to fight Deontay a third time.

“Here we are now right where we’re supposed to be.”

Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been working for Ring Magazine/ since October 1997 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on twitter @JSantoliquito.


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