It’s been a long and winding road, apologies to Mr. Lennon and McCartney.
It’s led WBC World Heavyweight Champion Tyson Fury and former WBC World Heavyweight Champion Deontay Wilder to the door of the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas for the third meeting in three years.
The last step on the journey before the ring walk was a step onto the scales. No public was permitted to attend, because COVID-19, but it was streamed live on FS1. The combatants were well aware of it.
Fury tipped the scales at a whopping 277 pounds, four pounds heavier than his last fight with Wilder and his all-time career high. The previous: 276 pounds against Sefer Sefari in June 2018.
Wilder weighed in at 238 pounds, a career-high over the previous mark of 231 pounds in his last fight against Fury. One thing’s for sure: his ring costume will weigh a LOT less than in 2020.
Fight analysis has been all over the map, providing a boxing Rorschach test for professional pundits and fervent fans alike. As it always does, it comes down to which version of Fury and which version of Wilder show up in the ring Saturday and what game plan each decides to employ.
What to read from the inkblot known as the weigh-in?
Fury was his customary bombastic self. No person on the planet has more confidence. Wilder fans (aka the Bomb Squad) catcalled Fury, who gave them the middle finger salute. He had plenty to say about his opponent.
Wilder has reached an equilibrium between the conspiracy theory blasts on social media of the last year and the cone of silence he entered as the trilogy fight was officially made after his winning legal judgment in June. Save for a slashing gesture across the throat on the scale and a single “BOMB SQZAAAAAAAADD” shout. Wilder demonstrated the cultivated calm seen over the last few weeks.
Without the customary throng of partisan fans in the arena, the temperature was cooled a bit. Nevertheless, protective barriers and plenty of security were present on stage to prevent the bad blood seen briefly at Tuesday’s final news conference from boiling over. No way would anyone involved let this bout get derailed at this point.
The Wilder View
Wilder is coming off his first professional loss, facing the man who took his title from him. The defeat was especially humiliating for Wilder, called by his cornerman Mark Breland. His road to redemption started by firing Breland and hiring friend and former opponent, Malik Scott. The delay getting to Saturday’s fight allowed Wilder more time to work with Scott and get to know him.
Scott’s training methods involve building muscle memory and reflex action by repeated drilling of specific skills. Time is an asset here. Time also heals, and Wilder needs this time to reconcile his emotional loss. If you take his demeanor at face value, he’s resolute and calm in his belief he knows what it takes this time to win.
Any flaws aside, Wilder has the most potent single punch in boxing today. His right hand can erase the scorecards in a flash. It came out to play in his first fight with Fury, but he rose like Lazarus from the canvas, the first to do so. The right hand was neutralized by Fury’s aggressive approach in the second fight. If Fury can deploy it Saturday, he always has a chance to win.
The other possible road to victory lies in Wilder using his reach and strength to jab, jab, jab at Fury. Scott teaches a long rangefinder jab, and if Wilder is in condition to chip away at Fury, he can prevail on the cards in a technical fight. It might not thrill fans, but it will return Wilder’s title to him, and his devoted Bomb Squad won’t care how he does it.
The Fury View
Fury has the extraordinary ability to deliver radically different game plans from fight to fight. Few people believed the Gypsy King when he said he would blast Wilder out of the ring in two rounds in their last fight. It took seven stunning rounds, but Fury was good to his word.
Fury’s strategy is rendered brilliant in hindsight. Adding on weight boosted his power without slowing him down in the ring. He was fit, focused, and beautifully prepared. While he didn’t deliver his promised second-round knockout, he delivered a wildly entertaining, if one-sided, fight. This time, Fury claims he’ll send Wilder home in three rounds.
Fury readily admits time out of the ring is not his friend. His well-documented mental health issues are kept at bay when he’s busy in the gym training. The coronavirus pandemic derailed everyone. If Fury’s mind isn’t right, or if his size is due more to a lack of work rather than an actual strategic choice, he will need to find a different way to win this time. Bigger heavyweights know how to crowd their smaller opponents with a smotherfest and wear them out. Power punchers lose their sting, and the bigger man prevails.
Prediction: The Fury formula works again in ten
Using Sugarhill Steward’s Kronk Gym approach to offense, Fury added the knockout punching to his existing skills, proved a winning formula in the second fight. He demoralized and humiliated the proud Alabaman champion.
Wilder went home and publicly licked his wounds, full of excuses and conspiracy theories that only his most devoted fans could believe.
Fury came in heavy in the last fight, but he still moved around the ring with ease. He can do the same Saturday, or he can use himself as a human barricade and lean on Wilder to wear him down.
Wilder’s weight could signal he’s coming in to burn hot and go for an early knockout as his best chance for the win.
Fury says he’s been living in Wilder’s head rent-free ever since then. He’s right. Every fight is won or lost in the mind before it’s made real in the ring. Fury is undefeated in fight leadups. He commands attention. Las Vegas is his second home. But there are far fewer British fans in Las Vegas this time due to pandemic restrictions. It will be more of a Wilder house, and his partisan fans are raising their voices.
Wilder, a man from humble beginnings, came to boxing at the late age of 20 and has learned the sport in full public view. Whether he’s successfully hit the reset button due to being humbled by Fury is an important question this fight will answer.
Wilder is a much better boxer than given credit, and his power is undeniable. But he can’t adjust on the fly in the ring. With Fury, he is defensively vulnerable.
Fury drew blood in the last bout. He doesn’t give him many chances to set up a knockout punch. It isn’t a secret where it comes from. Wilder has just one real way to win. Fury has choices.
After 19 rounds, Fury has won 18 of them. There’s no reason to think it will change on Saturday. Wilder will come much better prepared by Malik Scott. He won’t get blown out as quickly as Fury promises, so don’t put your hard-earned money on it. Bet the over for a start.
We can’t see Wilder affecting enough change otherwise. Fury will wear Wilder down. It could go all the way to the final bell, but we see Fury wearing Wilder down to the point of a late referee stoppage in round ten.
The only thing we can count on: Wilder’s corner won’t throw in the towel no matter how bad it gets. If Wilder goes out, it’s on his shield or with an assist from referee Russell Mora.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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