We’ve spent all of 2018 waiting for the world’s two boxing heavyweights to stop dancing around each other and instead with each other. It’s not a surprise that the biggest potential unification bout in recent memory has been dripped with speculation and hesitation, but after Anthony Joshua dispatched Joseph Parker and Alexander Povetkin, boxing fans are long past impatient for him and Deontay Wilder to sign the dotted lines on a contract.
That’s why Wilder’s decision to take on Tyson Fury is much more interesting on the surface than oddsmakers have us believing. Seemingly tired of negotiating with Joshua’s camp back in England, the WBC titleholder figured that by fighting ‘the Gypsy King’, he would not only add some credibility to his record by defeating an undefeated fighter – one whom didn’t lose his titles in the ring – but prove something to Joshua by knocking out his fellow countryman.
Fury’s ‘redemption tour’ ramps up a few levels after two tune-up fights following a lengthy absence from boxing. Perhaps in an earlier time for the division – or for us on this side of the Atlantic, if he was American – his past behavior and discriminating comments would probably inspire a venomous gaze in a typical “good guy vs. bad guy” trope.
But in Fury’s eyes, addressing his demons (alcoholism, drug use and mental health issues) and a retroactive doping suspension means he’s a completely different man than the one who beat Wladimir Klitschko for the lineal championship three years ago. And with these rather orthodox styles between Wilder and Fury, the only thing we may think about is how these awkward approaches will clash in the ring.
Wilder had a real test in his last fight as Luis Ortiz probably hit him harder and squarer than any other opponent so far. Yet ‘King Kong’ had no real defense for Wilder’s power.
If anything, the Ortiz fight may have legitimized the champion’s rather unique style. Ortiz is far from the fleetest of foot, so when Wilder’s wide and overwhelming swings were coming, he was seemingly more focused on which punches landed from above, instead of the knockout uppercut that came from below.
That very style will be criticized forever. Not only because it’s not what we’re typically used to seeing from the sport’s best fighters, but because it has yet to topple any truly elite fighter. But there may not exactly be a son, let alone a father (shout out to the late, great ODB) to Wilder’s approach, meaning his entire 39-0 pro record may very well be the longest test run ever.
Fury’s own style is unique versus traditional contemporaries. He’s not the first “fat guy” (his own words) to reach the mountaintop, but you probably won’t expect a lot of movement from someone of his build if you hadn’t seen him fight before. Full of fakes and shoulder feints, you’re not supposed to get a good read on what punches he’s going to throw. And then the jabs come and keep coming until the glancing hook or short and quick uppercut jolts his adversary.
At this point, each guy is the best opponent the other has faced before. Wilder is in his prime, displaying stopping power and impressive athleticism while having some underrated stamina, as shown in the Ortiz fight. Previous long layoff aside, Fury’s not a knockout artist in the same way Wilder is, but he’s a massive human being who is quicker on his feet than a lot of fighters Wilder has faced. Both bombastic individuals are hunting for a date with Anthony Joshua for all the alphabet titles, bragging rights and cash a unification bout guarantees.
A Fury win would be the last thing most boxing fans and media wants, but it could serve as the biggest “I told you so” for detractors to Wilder’s form.
Meanwhile, a Wilder victory would be the latest “no more excuses” retort to the Joshua camp, and also a hell of a way for both champions to start their New Year’s resolutions for 2019.
Jason is the editor-in-chief here at TSFJ. In addition to a past life as a research analyst in advertising, television and online media, he spent seven seasons as the New York Beacon's beat writer for the New York Giants. Jason has written for Yardbarker, Dime Magazine, Decider, Awful Announcing and The Week. He is also a member of his high school's 4th period gym class floor hockey champions.