MAKE no mistake about it, Deontay Wilder was devastated by his defeat to Tyson Fury earlier this year. It was more than just losing his WBC heavyweight title and unbeaten record. It was the humbling and devastating manner in which it occurred. Wilder was manhandled and humiliated, his pride hurt on several levels. The only way for Wilder to get redemption would be to have a go at Fury again. But would taking the fight sooner rather than later diminish his chances?
There was never a doubt that Wilder would invoke the rematch clause for a third fight. Even at the short end of a 60-40 split it would have been foolish to risk such an enormous payday by taking a tune-up or two in the interim. After all it is a business, one in which all fighters should cash in whenever they can.
There is this prevailing feeling that Wilder is now damaged goods. Boxing is the ultimate what have you done for me lately sport? Just one devastating defeat can totally change the perception of a fighter, shatter his confidence and turn a swagger into false bravado. That is where Wilder finds himself now.
To defeat Fury the next time they meet Wilder will have to come to grips with what happened last time. Easier said than done. The convenient thing – at least in the short term – is to buy into the excuses and hope one of them resonates. Initially, Wilder blamed trainer Mark Breland for stopping the fight when he threw the towel. Deontay was even considering firing Breland for what he perceived as a betrayal. Whether it was adverse publicity, an affection for Breland who has been with him from the start of his career, the realisation that his trainer actually made the right call, or another reason, Wilder reconsidered. Breland remains, but it will be interesting to see if it is in the same capacity.
The guess here is that Wilder will keep Breland and co-trainer Jay Deas, but bring someone else in to head the team. It will probably be another trainer with big name recognition. Early in Wilder’s championship reign, I asked him about Breland. “He is the perfect trainer for me,” responded Deontay. “He is quiet and soft spoken, but gets his points across.” The confidence factor extends to others on the team as well.
After the fight rumours surfaced about foul play from Fury and there being an issue with his gloves. It’s a claim that lacks substance. Wilder has not publicly commented on that, hopefully he hasn’t bought in. As George Foreman said many years following his defeat to Muhammad Ali in Zaire, “I was picking excuses out of the air.”
Only many years later was Foreman able to accept the loss to Ali. Mentally cleared of the defeat, the second coming of Foreman made history by becoming the oldest man in history to win the world heavyweight championship. Before the coronavirus hit and put everything on hold, Wilder was scheduled to have his trilogy fight with Fury in July. Considering the manner in which Fury defeated him the date seemed a little too soon for Wilder. Promoter Bob Arum is tentatively rescheduling for October. For Wilder, it’s as they say, “every little bit helps.” The extra time might allow him to put the last fight into perspective, devise a new strategy, and mentally clear himself of some of the baggage that is undoubtedly consuming him at this time. Most importantly – at least from the American’s perspective – is the possibility that Fury might lose his edge in the interim. And that would appear to be Wilder’s best chance to reverse his fortunes.