Let me be the first to admit that, despite my reservations about the quality of the two fighters, Saturday night’s tilt between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder was hella entertaining. Styles make fights as they say, but this was actually a case of both fighters trying to force from themselves skills they were not known for. Wilder, at least early on, actually tried to box, and Fury, who has often been more of a hugger than a fighter, came forward and let his hands go. There was also enormous courage on display. Fury was in trouble multiple times and Wilder seemed to be wobbled for almost the entirety of the fight.
All that being said, context still matters, folks.
The drama was built-in because the two guys are more or less evenly matched. But there are levels to this shit. The reason they are so closely matched is because neither is all that good. While Wilder has always been an extremely dangerous puncher, he is, to put it more than kindly, not much of a boxer. He has almost no defensive skills, poor footwork, and last Saturday night, his bulked up (if still chiseled) frame was more than those scrawny legs of his were able to support when that weak defense of his predictably let him down. Of course, the right hand was still a weapon, and it found a home against Fury’s noggin well enough to drop the Gypsy King twice in the fourth. Still, Wilder’s inability to adjust was once again what did him in against a much bigger man who could get up from his best shot.
Even when Wilder knocked Fury to the canvas twice, Fury still looked fresher at the beginning of the following round.
Despite being the clearly fitter fighter (Fury’s physique is akin to a melted candle), Wilder simply expends too much energy with his wild (no pun intended) swinging style. So, when Wilder puts a man down, he needs them to stay down. Fury would not stay down, and therefore, Wilder was not going to be able to stay up.
Now, on the other side of the ledger, Fury is a very smart fighter. You could see it in the way he went to the canvas both times in the fourth. Oh yeah, his tower was buzzed for sure, but at least on the first knockdown, it looked like Fury went down to avoid the more punishing blow sure to follow. And when Fury was hurt, he relied on his smarts as much as his courage to get out of trouble.
The 277 pound Brit knew how to hold and how to lean on the smaller Wilder to not only gain a chance to catch his breath, but to also use his largeness to tire Wilder, and, eventually, discourage him.
All that being said, Fury got flattened twice by a guy who has only one weapon to look out for, and amateurish boxing skills with which to deliver that weapon. To put it another way, Fury only had to avoid one type of punch from a fighter he was, after two previous bouts, completely familiar with, and still, he couldn’t do it.
Which is why I found it so peculiar when I saw boxing Twitter light up with a lot of “this is the greatest fight I’ve ever seen!” posts. It reminded me of the time a guy I used to know told me that ‘Tombstone’ is “one of the top five greatest Westerns ever made! To which I replied, “Yeah, if all you’ve seen in your life is five Westerns.”
Maybe it’s good that Ali and Frazier have shuffled off this mortal coil, because the excessive social media hyperbole was full of ye olde cliched “epic proportions.” Hell, if Muhammad and Smokin’ Joe could see this nonsense from their crypts, they surely put their coffins on the spin cycle.
And again, when it comes to entertainment and courage, Fury and Wilder was a lot of fun. Although, as always, for us watching from the safety of our couches and recliners, that’s easy to say. We weren’t in the ring getting our brains beat in. In fact, what Wilder will probably end up missing most after this fight was the presence of Mark Breland in his corner. Because, clearly, his corner was not going to look out for him in the bout no matter how much trouble he got into, lest they end up in the unemployment line as Breland did. It’s hard to look at the finish of that fight and not think that there’s a real chance that Wilder will never be the same due to the punishment he accepted. Wilder needed to be saved from himself, and there wasn’t anyone on his team willing to do it.
But I digress, because the truth of the matter is, if you take away all the trappings of boxing (the rules, the ring, the gloves, etc.), what you were basically left with was a really good bar fight. Those late night scraps after “one too many” will get the blood pumping. I get it, and I am not immune. Fury-Wilder 3 raised my temp some too. But never, not even once, did the thought cross my mind that these two deeply flawed fighters were doing anything in the ring that was not defined by what they lacked as opposed to what they had.
And hey. I like a sloppy Joe as much as the next guy. But I know the difference between a sloppy Joe and a great steak.
This? This was a sloppy Joe.