Boxing

Tyson Fury ready for Deontay Wilder test

Boxers Deontay Wilder, left, and Tyson Fury exchange words as they face each other at a news conference in Los Angeles on Wednesday
Andy Watters

WBC Heavyweight Championship of the World: Deontay Wilder v Tyson Fury (tonight, Staples Centre, Los Angeles, live on BT Sport and BBC 5Live)

IN September last year I watched on almost in pity as a grossly overweight Tyson Fury struggle to manage a fast-ish walking pace on a treadmill at St Paul’s ABC in Belfast.

Since becoming lineal heavyweight champion of the world just under two years previously Fury had been gripped by serious mental health issues that had led him to surrender his WBO and WBA titles and saw him descend into a battle with alcohol and substance abuse.

Rivers of sweat cascaded off his flabby torso as he laboured through the first training session of a will-I-won’t-I comeback.

“I haven't decided if I am coming back yet to get a bit of fat off,” panted the ‘Gypsy King’.

“Well, five stone, so more than a bit, a lot.”

Tonight Fury, a little older, a lot wiser and around 10-stone lighter, takes on fearsome WBC champion Deontay Wilder at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles in arguably the fight of the year and certainly the biggest heavyweight rumble since he dethroned Wladimir Klitschko back in 2015.

Having pledged to spend his multi-million dollar purse on housing for the homeless, Fury stands on the brink of finishing a famous story of sporting and personal redemption.

But to win tonight he’ll have to weather a brutal storm from the ‘Bronze Bomber’ who will rain down powerful salvos from both hands, but particularly from his right hand. Wilder is unorthodox and ungainly at times but, with 39KO wins in 40 fights, he is devastatingly effective.

“The promotion has been amazing and I thank God for Tyson Fury because I have had to promote all of my old opponents. They were too scared to say what they would do,” said Wilder.

“This event is big for me, all the guys before brought something to the table to take me to the next level.

“A lot of people doubted me before I fought a certain calibre of fighter. (Past opponent Luis) Ortiz changed that and Fury will do the same for me. I want you to witness greatness.”

Fury is a master boxer in comparison. Irish fight fans will recall the night he fought Martin Rogan for the Irish heavyweight title and stopped ‘Rogie’ after boxing most of the five rounds in a southpaw stance.

He might well adopt southpaw tactics tonight to try to nullify Wilder’s booming straight right but he will switch to orthodox too as he goes back and then tie up Wilder if he is pinned on the ropes. Wilder will look to take the steam out of him early on by working his body and, if he slows him up, he will fancy his chances of ending the fight with a spectacular stoppage.

“Wilder punches hard but he didn't fight anyone until he'd had 30 fights,” said Fury.

“You can only knock out who's in front of you but if you're matched easily you get to 100-0.

“People are afraid before they get in there, like with Mike Tyson. They were just looking for a comfy place on the canvas.

“If I can’t beat Deontay Wilder then I'm not very good, simple as that. If I can’t beat Wilder I'm not the man I think I am. If I win a close fight I'll class it as a loss because it's not enough for me.

“How are you going to be considered a great if you can't beat a bum who throws windmills?”

If Fury can stay on his toes he has the ability to box his way to a points win.

If he can’t, then Wilder undoubtedly has the power to finish this early. The former Irish heavyweight champion has had just two low level fights in three years and stamina is very likely to be an issue as the fight wears on.

You can’t rule out Fury, but for that reason Wilder gets the nod to win tonight with a stoppage in the second half of the fight.

 

Fighters have their say:

Wayne McCullough (former featherweight world champion)

After seeing Fury in camp, he has a bigger chance than most people think. If he can frustrate Wilder in the first few rounds he might get himself into the fight.

Wilder is going to be looking for the KO and he’s going to come with both hands blazing. I think the first few rounds of the fight will determine the winner.

Niall Kelly (Irish heavyweight)

It’s a fascinating fight, boxer v puncher. My heart says Fury, my head says Wilder. Fury’s inactivity is the only reason. It is relevant.

Luke Jackson (featherweight contender)

I really want Fury to win. I just hope the long lay-off hasn’t affected him too much. Wilder is a very dangerous man and one punch from him can put you to sleep.

I just feel Tyson Fury is on another level and hopefully he can box a great fight and get the win not only for himself but for everyone around the world that suffers from mental illness.

Steven Ward (Celtic light-heavyweight champ)

Fury is the far superior boxer but Wilder is unpredictable. I don't think he knows what he is going to throw half the time but he is a serious puncher. First few rounds I think Fury will have to be careful and just watch he doesn't get caught with one. If that goes to plan I fancy Fury to win on points.

Conrad Cummings (middleweight titlist)

I am rooting for Tyson as I’m a fan of his. He’s a very entertaining fighter but he has been out of the ring a long time (last two fights were poor opposition for his standard) so it’s hard to say how good Tyson still is.

A couple years ago he could have out-boxed and out-foxed Wilder but I think now Wilder is too big, powerful and dangerous and one of his bombs will land sooner rather than later.

Ciaran McVarnock (unbeaten lightweight)

I think Fury will win on points. I don't think he has the power to knock Wilder out but he certainly has the skill to give him a boxing lesson. I do think Fury will go through a few scares in the fight when he will get caught. I think he will survive and win the fight on points.

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