In this corner with Russ Anber: Fury learned more from the first fight than Wilder

Russ Anber
03/03/2020 9:20am

GettyImages 1208430237Photos: Al Bello/Getty Images

Boxing's master of all trades Russ Anber reflects on Tyson Fury's spectacular victory against Deontay Wilder…

I worked with Deontay Wilder for over a period of 5 years and 18 fights as part of his team and in his corner – from the time he fought David Long in 2011 until one week before he beat Gerald Washington in February 2017.

And you know what? I wish I had done a preview article for Fury vs Wilder 2 because I have often said the way to beat Wilder was to stand up to him.

You see, he’s the bully who you have to push back, attack and put under pressure. And Fury followed that blueprint to a tee.

Obviously such tactics are easier said than done, but Fury had the size, the strength, the tenacity, the courage and the ability to execute that plan whereas the likes of Luis Ortiz, as good a boxer as he is, couldn’t do it.

Yes Ortiz won several rounds against Wilder, but he never truly committed, he never said: ‘right I’m going to blast this guy out of here’. Fury did and it was a masterclass performance without a doubt.

Crucially, Fury learned a lot more from the first fight than Wilder did. Way more. Normally in a rematch the guy who can adapt better and is the all-round better fighter usually wins.

I think people expected Wilder to pick up from where he left off in the last fight, but in fact it was Fury who picked up from where he left off. Remember, after he was knocked down in the 12th, he got back up and started taking the fight to Wilder and pummelling him. Of the two fighters, Fury closed out the show better and I think that gave him the confidence he needed for the second fight.

Second time around when Fury hurt Wilder he had to go after him. He couldn’t do what he did last time, which was hurt him and then retreat and box, hurt him and then box.

This time he had to go for it and he did, and from every early on too. He hurt Wilder and then he hurt him some more, giving Wilder no chance to recover. Fury pressed him and pressed him and pressed him and Wilder ended up looking like Bambi on ice. He looked uncoordinated and just couldn’t deal with the pressure of the big man coming forward.

In terms of the stoppage, Mark Breland absolutely did the right thing by throwing in the towel in round seven. It was only instinct and heart keeping Wilder up by that point. Mark might have even saved Wilder from that ‘body on the record’ which could have ended up being himself. Mark called it 100 per cent right.

Fury’s new approach and training regime were crucial. I was a little concerned before the fight that there may have been some dissension in his camp, what with so many changes being made to his team. But I know 'Sugar' Hill well, he’s a good friend of mine, and I always thought he was a good match for Fury. I’ve got a lot of respect for him.

All credit to 'Sugar' Hill and Fury. It was a great performance and I think it’s a wonderful result for boxing. The Brits are thrilled to bits that all the belts are now in the UK, a unification between Fury and Anthony Joshua is now on the cards and we had a fight in Wilder vs Fury 2 that not only lived up to the hype, but probably exceeded it! It’s rare for a rematch to be better than the original and this one was by far.

This fight also served as a message to people who run their mouth off. A beating can be a very humbling experience. All the bad talk that Wilder has come out with in the past – all that stuff to do with ‘I want a body on my record’ and so on - that stuff eventually comes back and bites you on the ass and boy when it bites it bites hard!

To be honest, I don't know where Wilder goes from here. When Anthony Joshua lost to Andy Ruiz at Madison Square Garden, he conducted himself with the utmost class and dignity. People hated on him, but nobody was able to say anything derogatory about the way he handled and accepted that defeat.

In this case though, with Wilder saying the fight shouldn't have been stopped, with him blaming his costume and so on, well, it’s not a good look for him. He’s blamed everyone except himself. Fighters in general have to accept more responsibility for their losses.

The costume was clearly something he didn’t go and buy in Walmart. In fact it was clearly something Wilder had put a lot of time, focus, thought and money into, so perhaps his focus was elsewhere rather than on the fight.

Can Wilder come back from this? Only time is going to tell. His ego has certainly taken a massive hit. Not showing up for the press conference I think tells us a lot. Fighters have suffered more crushing defeats than Wilder against Fury and have still showed up for the press conference. Instead it was Jay Deas who was forced to go out there and face the wrath and become the whipping boy because he tried to echo Wilder’s feeling that Mark shouldn’t have stopped the fight.

Something Wilder has to address is the fact that in recent fights he has been losing a lot of rounds. Let’s remove the Dominic Breazeale and Bermane Stiverne rematch from the equation – because they were blowouts – and let's start by looking at the Gerald Washington fight – Wilder probably lost the first three rounds there.

Against Ortiz in the first fight he lost maybe five or six rounds. Then he loses maybe ten rounds against Fury the first time around. Follow that with six against Ortiz in the rematch. Add the seven rounds he just lost to Fury and you’re looking at Wilder having lost more than 30 rounds over the course of his last five significant fights. That’s a big problem. He kept relying on his punch to bail him out, but that wasn't going to work forever.

This defeat was in the making for the last few years.

There was a lot of discussion about Wilder’s weight for the Fury rematch. He’s always come in light and been a light heavyweight. When I was with him the one thing he really did was spar. He liked to spar, roadwork wasn’t on the table - he didn’t really do it. I don’t know if the extra weight he had this time was a consequence of age and, at 34, his metabolism slowing down, or because he and his team felt they had to try and compete with Fury’s size. Did it affect the outcome of the fight? Who knows?

Another problem for Wilder, and also for Fury to be honest, is how do you sell a third Wilder vs Fury fight? The Wilder camp are exercising that rematch clause but how do you sell that fight? This second fight was as uncompetitive as it could have possibly been. Wilder showed heart to stay in there but he got pasted.

One thing is for sure and that’s that this performance has catapulted Fury to the top of the rankings in terms of heavyweights of recent times. He might be the most agile and athletically gifted ‘big’ heavyweight that we've seen since Lennox Lewis, who was certainly more agile and fluid than the Klitschkos.

The way Fury fights he could be a middleweight. He’s fluid, he throws the right punches, he’s got good balance on his feet. With Fury you get everything – weaving, bobbing, slipping, sliding, combinations, body punches. He’s a legit fighter. In fact, he and Lennox might be the two best guys of the big era of heavyweights. Riddick Bowe would be up there too I guess, but his peak was quite short.

The only problem with measuring greatness is you need great opponents. Right now, the heavyweight division is not filled with great opponents. Fury has completely demolished Wilder so right now a Joshua fight is the only fight out there for Fury that is going to generate big interest.

We’ll also have to see what happens with Oleksandr Usyk, of course, the Ukrainian former undisputed cruiserweight champion who I work with. Usyk is a unique talent, a great fighter and I can't wait for his fight against Dereck Chisora, who is not an easy fight at all. Chisora is a tough out as they say in baseball. If he fought Fury the difficulty factor for Usyk would be high – a big guy like that is meant to be slow, but Fury isn’t. He’s a problem for anybody, even a great fighter like Usyk.

However, as much as I want Usyk to get the Joshua fight or a Fury fight, in terms of the significance and momentous nature of getting an all-British fight for all the heavyweight titles, well, I really hope they can make that fight. I am speaking from experience here, but I don’t want British fight fans to miss out on what is a once in lifetime opportunity where two of their own fight for sport's greatest prize, the heavyweight championship of the world. We here in Montreal had this opportunity a few years back when both Jean Pascal and Lucian Bute were world champions. Due to poor decision making, Bute’s promoter declined to fight Jean and with that decision Montreal and all of Canada missed out on two world champions fighting each other. [When Pascal and Bute eventually fought in 2014 neither was a world champion any more]. it I can assure you that the possibility of that happening will never come again. I don’t want the sport to miss out on having these two guys – AJ and Fury - squaring off for the undisputed crown.

Russ Anber is on Twitter and Instagram @russanber.