LAS VEGAS, Nevada, October 6, 2021 – Except for vanquished former heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder, no one really wanted to see a trilogy fight between Wilder and WBC World Heavyweight Champion Tyson Fury. But it’s the fight we got after Wilder’s legal victory in June.
Four months later, it’s a fight gaining buzz by the second.
A quote attributed to various origins says, “Even bad pizza is still pretty good.” Also, “There is no moment in life that can’t be improved with pizza.”
Substitute the words “heavyweight fights” for “pizza,” and it’s equally valid. Fans have a healthy appetite for boxing that hasn’t been satisfied in a long time, and they’re chowing down on FuryWilder3. Whether it’s Wolfgang Puck or Little Caesars, they don’t much care.
Heavyweight championship fights have undeniable gravitational pull, mainly when the personalities involved are as polarizing as Fury and Wilder. Their fans are fervent. The predictions are resolute. The promoters defend their behavior. With 72 hours and change to go before the fight, FuryWilder#3 is starting to feel like pre-pandemic times.
Fury (30-0-1, 21 KOs) and Wilder (42-1-1, 41 KOs) arrived in Las Vegas via a tortured route, including the postponement of the original July 24 date due to Fury’s positive COVID-19 test. Neither has been in the ring since they last met in Las Vegas on February 22, 2020. But they had at it during the final pre-fight news conference at the MGM Grand Hotel, fueled by an apparent misunderstanding over the faceoff.
For the first time since their last fight, the traditional “Grand Arrivals” took place outdoors and late in the afternoon at the Toshiba Plaza outside the T-Mobile Arena on Tuesday of fight week. They were sparsely attended, not a great first impression.
But things heated up properly like a woodfired oven ready to cook the pizza to a bubbly crisp Wednesday. Fury and Wilder got into each other’s grills – verbally, at least. The auditory flint threw off plenty of sparks and lit the fire we’ve been waiting for. Friends, it’s time to decipher the smoke signals the pair sent up.
Wilder walked in with new trainer Malik Scott in bright red from head to toe (and that’s a lot of head to toe at 6-foot-7), topped with his sponsor’s headphones. MC Kate Abdo of Fox Sports feared another cone of silence from Wilder, but this time he was willing to engage as he emerged to make his case.
Fury isn’t anything less than Fury. Was any boxer better named from birth? He’s still allergic to shirts and exudes energy like a toddler after a nap. He paced the stage, wearing his custom printed suit and carrying the green belt Wilder once owned.
Wilder: ‘Get ready for war’
Wilder had much more to say than in their first news conference.
“I don’t have anything to prove. I’m in a great place and in a great state of mind. I have a lot of great people around me. This fight is about redemption, retaliation, and retribution,” said Wilder.
Wilder said the delay has been good for him, allowing him a full training camp with his new team. He said he avoided overtraining with small well-timed breaks.
“Many people thought I was down and out, but it wouldn’t be fair to the people around me to feel that way. My dedication has been focused every day. Saturday night is going to be a different fight. It’s rare that we get trilogies like this, and I truly believe this one is going down in history.”
Wilder called the outcome in the second fight, his only loss and only stoppage, a blessing in disguise. “My energy is like my mind. It’s very violent … Get ready for war. This is going to be an amazing fight on Saturday night. Prepare yourself for battle. As you see, I’m wearing my red outfit because I want it back in blood. I’m looking forward to it.”
Sound and Fury
It all sounded completely reasonable. Until Fury descended like an avenging defense attorney ripping apart the witness.
“Wilder is a weak person mentally, and I’m going to knock him out on Saturday night. I obliterated him in the rematch, and I see much more of the same in the third fight,” declared Fury as he held his WBC belt over his shoulder.
“If I only won (the second fight) because I cheated, what was the point of changing everything and doing all this other work? Can anybody answer that question? I know he can’t. He doesn’t have the brains to. No one can answer that question, can they? I’ve been in your face, bitch.
“Here’s another one. He says he wants to do bad things to me and hurt me. He’s got all these malice feelings and all this anger and aggression. For those who hold the hot coal with the intention of hurting somebody, they’re the ones who’s gonna get burned.
“I don’t want to hurt Deontay Wilder. I just want to beat him in a fight. He knows what he says is lies. He knows deep down in his soul he lost. He knows he’s lost the first time, he lost the second time, and that he’s going to lose the third time,” said Fury.
As the champion shouted “Retirement, dosser!” at Wilder, the American called out the “nervous energy” he saw in Fury’s pacing. They sparred over Fury’s change of trainers, Wilder’s change of trainers, and who’s the knockout artist between them.
When Fox Sports anchor Kate Abdo shut it down to stage the customary faceoff, Wilder rose to his feet as Fury’s promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank shouted “No! No! No!” from the front row. It got messy and ugly offstage over what was apparently a misunderstanding by late replacement Abdo for the televised news conference, but the fighters walked off to tangle another day.
Observers are choosing up sides based on their favorite fighter. Multiple embers from the MGM Grand Hotel stage touched off Boxing Twitter, with fans heatedly defending their favorite. Until Saturday, everyone’s right, and every opinion gets a hearing.
Sure, fans initially felt disappointed a proper unification fight got blown off the schedule. Then Anthony Joshua lost to mandatory challenger Oleksandr Usyk. Pizza is on the menu instead of steak and lobster, but we’re hungry. Pass the beer, and let’s eat.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science. Follow Gayle on social media at @PRProSanDiego.