Expect the unexpected: Wilder vs Fury preview

Graham Houston
01/12/2018 3:34pm

Photo: Victor Decolongon / Stringer (Getty Images)

Anything could happen when Tyson Fury meets Deontay Wilder, but Graham Houston believes the outcome might rest on whether the Gypsy King can maintain the psychological dominance he showed on the press tour...

Sometimes things aren’t as clear-cut as they seem. At first glance, Deontay Wilder has to be considered a solid favourite to defeat Tyson Fury. Wilder has been an active fighter whereas Fury has been inactive. Fury didn’t exactly set the world on fire when he cruised through 10 dreary rounds against Francesco Pianeta, the German-based heavyweight whose record includes a KO defeat against trial horse Kevin Johnson. Wilder has scored what in America they call “highlight reel” KOs.

Yet when one analyses the fight closely, the obvious doesn’t seem quite as pronounced.

Fury has been outclassing Wilder in the press conferences leading up to their 1 December heavyweight title fight. The self-styled “Gypsy King” seems to have won over the Stateside fans. Astonishing as it may seem, Fury might actually have most of the crowd on his side when he faces Alabama’s “Bronze Bomber” at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

The Fury we’ve seen at the press conferences seems not only full of self-belief - although he has never lacked for confidence - but reinvigorated. He has left the UK to train at Big Bear Lake, east of Los Angeles, some 7,000 feet above sea level.

Fury has been sparring with heavyweight juggernaut Joe Joyce. It seems he is doing all the right things. Well, maybe not quite. Fury is now being trained by Ben Davison, who is a few years younger than the 30-year-old Fury.
This has raised eyebrows, especially as Peter Fury, Tyson’s uncle, did such a good job in preparing Tyson for his win over Wladimir Klitschko.

However, Fury isn’t one to do things by the book. He connects with Davison. Maybe Davison, who boxed as an amateur and seconded an under-par Billy Joe Saunders in a difficult fight against the Russian Artur Akavov, is the right fit for Fury at this stage of the big man’s career.

What we have to remember is that Fury is a unique boxer who also has an excellent understanding of the mechanics of the sport. He knows what he’s doing in the ring. If he’s comfortable with Davison, then perhaps that’s all that matters. In having a trainer younger than himself, and one with no big-fight experience, Fury is certainly departing from tradition. But Fury would never call himself a traditionalist.

Fury packed on an enormous amount of poundage in his near-three-year layoff but the weight has been coming off. He weighed 276lbs for the farcical affair with Sefer Seferi but was 258lbs for the win over Pianeta. When he weighs in for the fight with Wilder, Fury is likely to be close to the 247lbs he weighed for his upset win over Klitschko.

An in-shape, motivated Fury, his well-documented issues with depression seemingly overcome, is going to be a handful for anyone in the heavyweight
division, and that includes Wilder.

Although Wilder is the WBC champion, Fury considers himself a champion in his own right. He never lost the title in the ring. In Fury’s mind he is the true champion - the lineal champion. In Fury’s world, Wilder is the challenger. Like Wilder, Fury is undefeated. If either man has the so-called psychological advantage, it’s likely to be Fury.

Could there be a tenuous link with ring history here? There’s a possibility that the formidable Sonny Liston was unnerved by Muhammad Ali because he couldn’t intimidate the younger man and considered him, for want of a better word, crazy.

Fast-forward to 2018 and Wilder has shown signs of being rattled by Fury, who has ridiculed the WBC champion’s hair style, dress sense and “skinny legs”. He asserts that Wilder has a “glass jaw”. While the press conferences were fun for Fury, Wilder seemed to be building up a head of steam.

The impression one had of Wilder when the press tour ended was of a man who simply wants to go into the ring and knock his opponent out - and an undisciplined, wild-swinging Wilder is exactly what Fury wants. Wilder can punch, of course, with 39 KOs in his 40 wins.

However, landing a flush right hand on Fury might not so easy. It’s not just that Fury moves so well for such a huge man (6ft 9ins, around 250lbs). He can put doubt in an opponent’s mind. Fury feints, drops his hands and switches to southpaw. Fury even put his hands behind his back in the Klitschko fight in a “hit me if you can” manner.

If Wilder is hesitant to pull the trigger on his big right hand, Fury could take over the fight, popping away at his opponent and moving out of range.

There’s another possibility. Fury, who will have a weight advantage of around 30lbs and is two inches taller than Wilder, could decide to fight like a big man, take it to Wilder and try to impose his physical size. Fury’s promoter, Frank Warren, hinted at something like this when he said: “This won’t be the fight everyone expects.”

Wilder is the puncher in the fight, no question. However, Wilder can be hurt. Fury referenced Wilder getting knocked out in an amateur bout. Wilder was buzzed in his first fight with Bermane Stiverne and less severely in his bout with Eric Molina while he actually looked out on his feet in the seventh round
of his fight with Luis Ortiz last March.

True, Wilder rallied out to knock out the Cuban southpaw in the 10th round, but for a while it was touch and go. If Wilder can land a flush shot, he can probably knock Fury out. But Wilder needs to be accurate when throwing the right hand - if he misses, he’ll surely get countered.

One can envisage a number of scenarios: a KO win or points victory for either man, a short, explosive fight or a long-distance tactical boxing match.

Wilder’s demeanour at the press conferences suggested that Fury has got inside his head. If only for this reason, I edge towards Fury. One punch can change everything, of course, but I just have the feeling that Fury’s got
Wilder’s number.