Tyson Fury has been talking a good fight in Las Vegas this week. Fury has promised to come for a war, to engage his inner Raging Bull when he steps into the ring with Deontay Wilder on Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. It seems a crazy plan. Why, after all, change something that seemed to be working so well?
For such a big man – the Englishman stands at around 6ft 9in – Fury has always relied on his movement rather than his strength. Wilder, whom he challenges for the WBC heavyweight title, is all about power. So why put yourself in harm’s way? In one way, it smacks of over confidence.
“He couldn’t beat the Gypsy King on my worst night,” Fury said. “So, over a year later he ain’t got no chance, I’m going to slap him around the ring no problem.”
There is a compelling case for Fury. After all, when they first met in December 2018 in Los Angeles, Fury came into the bout on two low-key fights in more than three years, having lost around 10st (63.5kg) in the previous 10 months. That was supposed to be Fury fighting to get fit, not Fury training to fight. Surely there is improvement in him.
“Last time, he trained to lose all the weight,” Frank Warren, Fury’s promoter, said. “This time he has trained to fight.”
The new game plan is supposedly the reason he dropped Ben Davison as his trainer in at the end of last year and went to Javon “Sugarhill” Steward, the nephew of the late Emanuel Steward, legendary trainer of Thomas Hearns, Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko.
If Fury is telling the truth – and there is no real reason, other than politeness, to believe he is – he thinks he has to knock Wilder out, having felt he got a raw deal from the judges in Los Angeles. Davison was reluctant to let Fury be aggressive. When he landed well in the first fight, Davison’s instinct was to implore Fury to hold back, to not get greedy.
With Steward, Fury says there has been much more emphasis on balance, on putting his weight behind his shots. There has been much more sparring too and Fury admits that he has been hit more in sparring for this fight than ever before.
Things have not gone well before when he has decided to mix it. In 2013, he boxed the much smaller Steve Cunningham in his United States debut and seemed determined to put on an exciting fight for the fans. He ended up having to climb off the floor to win.
“Wanting to go head to head with him is a bold move, but we fight fire with fire,” Fury said. “When I went at him in the first fight, though, he could not contain me. If I start doing that in round one, then he will be gassed by round five and hanging on for dear life, if he even gets that far.
“If I’m stupid enough to get hit with [Wilder’s right hand], I deserve to lose. I hit the floor last time, but I showed that I’m truly a fighting man. If he can’t finish me, I’m going to eat him up.”
He got off the canvas twice in his first fight with Wilder, something that gives both a sense of comfort. It proves, in Fury’s mind, that he can take Wilder’s best punch. For Wilder, it shows him he can hurt Fury, if the chance presents itself.
We can expect a different Wilder this time too, possibly a more patient one. Go back to 2018 and he had no real idea of what Fury he was going to face. At the forefront of his mind, though, would have been Fury’s performance against Wladimir Klitschko, when he claimed the WBA, WBO and IBF titles in Germany in 2015.
Fury frustrated Klitschko that night with tactics sometimes so negative that the champion barely threw his right hand. Wilder was determined not to fall into the same trap and was too aggressive early on, wasting punches and energy, while leaving himself open to being counter-punched.
“I don’t believe anything Fury says,” Wilder said. “He is just trying to butter me up and use a lot of mind games. He did that in the first fight to try and steal rounds. I am not concerned with what I says, I am more focused on what he does. I am a man of action.
“I am planning for everything, but I think when coming forward doesn’t work for him, he will resort to what he knows. He may try to come forward at first, but once he feels my power, that will stop quickly.”
It sets up for an intriguing contest. Whatever he has said, Fury’s best hope lies in working off the backfoot. If he comes out swinging, he could end badly for him. Whichever way he fights, though, it seems unlikely that he can stay away from Wilder’s power for the full 12 rounds.