Big fight tomorrow night. Boxing is a sad imitation of what it once was. The glory days of the 60's and 70's continue to fade into our collective memories, becoming more romanticized with each passing day. I'm old enough to remember when a heavyweight championship fight stopped the earth on its axis. Ali/Frazier, Clay/Liston, Louis/Schmeling (well, lol, I don't remember that one, but you get my drift). It was an event!
Those days are a distant recollection now. The "Alphabet Boys," a division for seemingly every pound, and the pervasive "cult of personality" that puts style over substance have helped dilute the sport into something barely recognizable as "Boxing." So it's quite a feather in their caps that Deontay Wilder, the former champion and now challenger, and Tyson Fury, the current belt holder, have been able to turn the clock back to the good old days, and stage a fight that has captured the world's imagination. Even the most casual of fans has an opinion on this one and I suspect that the Pay Per View will turn in numbers that will make those impostors, the Paul brothers, drool with envy.
I won't spend too much time revisiting all that led up to this fight as the in-house shenanigans of the promoters, TV people, and the camps of Deontay, the recently vanquished AJ (Boy, did I call that one wrong, but in fairness, my first missed call on a fight in over 2 years), and Tyson have been covered ad nauseum. I'll just say that I think this is the fight most of us wanted.
What I do want to write about is this idea floating around out there that Wilder has little to no chance. With all due respect to the "Gypsy King" and his fans, that's nonsense; and for his sake, I sure hope Fury hasn't subscribed to this line of thought. I actually think Wilder will win - and here's why.
To say that Wilder is "a bit raw" would be like saying Usain Bolt "can run a little." I've been around boxing my whole life. I can't think of a more 'unfinished' fighter to ever ascend to the lofty title of Heavyweight Champion of the World, than Deontay Wilder. He telegraphs his punches, is incredibly awkward, and seems to have two left feet. He's clumsy and gets winded easily. However, while he is rough as hell around the edges - and maybe even in the middle - he is not untalented. "Raw" isn't the same thing as "untalented."
That's where his strength lies. You see, I think Tyson Fury is already as good as he can be. Fury can really box. He's evasive. He's slick. He's smart. He's 6' 9" and 277 lbs, but can't punch. That last part is weird, but it's true. Fury doesn't have world class power. I think this time around, that's going to be a problem. Why? Because I think Fury is going to find a very, very different Wilder in front of him at T-Mobile Arena tomorrow night in Las Vegas.
Wilder's upside is just so much bigger than Fury's. Deontay has the room - and the motivation - to improve. By all accounts, he is very hungry for this and reports out of his training camp are unanimous in that they agree he's never trained harder or smarter for a fight. Fury is already Fury. But Wilder can come in as a much different, much improved boxer.
Add that to his absurd power, and Deontay Wilder is in with a real chance. No one in the division hits harder. Few ever have! He's already knocked down Fury twice. He's hurt him several times. He came "this close" to knocking Fury out. (I'm still not sure how Tyson got up from that knockdown). Throw in some real skills with that punch, and you've got yourself one lethal combination.
Turning to Fury for a moment, I'm concerned about what I've heard coming out of his camp. There are a number of reports of Fury not training as hard as he did for the first two fights. He's a full 20 lbs heavier for this one. That's not overly concerning I guess, because when you're 6' 9" tall, 20 lbs isn't really a lot. Still, it's something to think about. Fury certainly doesn't have the physique of Wilder, but he didn't in the first two fights either. That being said, some fairly recent photos of Tyson reveal a build that looks a little "doughy" even by his standards.
Does this mean I'm convinced Wilder will win? No. One area of concern for me is Wilder's mental state. Has he recovered mentally from not just losing his first fight, but doing so in such a lopsided fashion? I mean, to be fair, Fury didn't just win; Fury beat up Deontay pretty badly and made it look easy at that. He shocked Wilder by doing something no other fighter had ever done against Deontay; he took the fight to him. Tyson showed no fear. Tyson confronted a bully and hit him square between the eyes, right smack on the nose. That's the classic way to deal with a bully.
But this time, the element of surprise gained by Fury has vanished. Wilder knows what to expect. Like I said, Fury is already who he is; is already as good as he will be. Deontay has the opportunity to present an entirely different fighter in front of Tyson tomorrow night. If he does so, and if he can still punch as before, Deontay Wilder can win.