Opinion Highlight 3

The key questions ahead of the Tyson Fury vs Deontay Wilder rematch

Tyson Fury cuts
The cut bleeds profusely as Fury fights Wallin REUTERS
John Dennen considers some of the key questions as Tyson Fury sets his rematch with Deontay Wilder for February 22 in at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas

How big is this fight?

It is huge. There are three big names in heavyweight boxing right now and in this fight two of them are combining. Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury fought over a year ago for the WBC heavyweight title. That was a major event then but resulting in a controversial draw generated a furore afterwards, thus drawing even more attention to the rematch. Furthermore, in another breakthrough, Fox Sports and ESPN, the two biggest broadcasters in America, will work together for their first joint boxing pay-per-view. With their muscle behind it that too can be expected to bring in a vast audience

How hard was the fight to make?

You’d think after boxing once before it would straightforward to put together a second deal for a rematch. But Fury was early into a comeback when he took the Wilder fight first time around and he emerged with great credit. It set him up for a lucrative deal with promotional powerhouse Top Rank. To make this rematch the two most powerful men in boxing, Fury’s promoter Bob Arum and Wilder’s representative Al Haymon had to set aside their commercial rivalry to work together. That it has happened now has huge implications for making future super-fights.

John Fury on Tyson Fury
Fury needs his cut to heal before he can fight Wilder Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Why did the rematch take so long?

Bob Arum, a veteran promoter, is a master at building fights. He decided that Fury’s rematch with Wilder would be bigger if they gave it time. With Top Rank, Fury fought twice in Las Vegas and toured American media studios, while Wilder fought in both Brooklyn and Las Vegas. It also meant that the bout was big enough to bring the Fox and ESPN networks together. It was a risk to wait so long, one of them could have lost for instance or the relevant parties could have failed to close the deal. But now that it is indeed happening, it looks to be a promotional masterstroke.

Will Fury’s cut heal in time?

The biggest risk to this fight taking place, or taking place as soon as February 22, was the terrible cut that Tyson Fury picked up in his last bout against Otto Wallin. That was dangerous. Fury had to contend with it during the fight itself and with it occurring only in September, the cut had to be given time to heal up. He should though be fit to fight, but it will have curtailed the amount of sparring he could do in camp and could potentially re-open during the contest with Wilder.

Does Fury have enough time with his new trainer?

Fury only linked up with Ben Davison for his comeback in 2018. Davison helped him get back in shape and as a team they performed well against Wilder first time around. Fury’s performance in his last outing against Wallin was shakier and did attract criticism. Fury however made a surprise decision to make a major change, replacing Davison in his corner with Javan ‘Sugar’ Hill, the heir to Manny Steward at the Kronk gym. They will need to gel, devise the gameplan together and Fury will have to stick to his new trainer’s instructions. It’s an unusual move to make so close to such a big fight. But if anyone can thrive in chaos it is surely Tyson Fury.

Can Wilder knock him out?

Deontay Wilder can knock anyone out. He served notice of that in 2019. He iced Dominic Breazeale and in November despite largely being outboxed by Luis Ortiz, Wilder had such confidence in his power he was content to bide his time, waiting to set up his shot. He did just that and knocked Ortiz cold. Either punch could have been knockout of the year. The intrigue though is that in his fight against Fury, Wilder put the Briton down, heavily. And yet Tyson still rose to continue outboxing him. Wilder knows he can hurt Fury, but Fury will believe he can take Deontay’s best shot. The psychological balance is fascinating and hard to predict. It could play out in either man’s favour.

What does this mean for the heavyweight division?

Anthony Joshua ought to be an interested onlooker. In December he avenged a loss to Andy Ruiz to reclaim the other three major heavyweight titles. That was enough to return him to the top of the division in Boxing News’ estimation but if Wilder-Fury produces a clear winner that man will challenge him for supremacy as the world’s leading heavyweight. The obvious thing to happen next would be for Joshua to fight the victor for the undisputed championship. Joshua has engaged with negotiations with Wilder’s team before, which failed. It is hard to be optimistic that those wouldn’t collapse again, but if Fury wins in February, a fight with Joshua might be easier to make. Only time will tell, but either way Wilder-Fury is a tremendous way to kick off 2020.

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