Our sport is unique. In the build-up to such a highly anticipated, highly charged contest, our thoughts and feelings flip-flop constantly between perceptions of the contest as new information is filtered down.
Team sports are so constant, so overwhelming in their frequency that any excitement for one fixture lasts nothing more than a week; today’s back pages are tomorrow’s fish and chip paper rings in deafening honesty amidst our throw-away culture.
The fight game allows you to soak it all in at your own pace. Twelve weeks of knowing that today, on December 1, we’d have a WBC world heavyweight contest between two unbeaten stars of the sport.
With knowledge comes contradictions. With time comes a change of thought. We aren’t rushed into making a split second call on the outcome based on limited information; it’s frustrating as it is enjoyable watching the days tick by before such an anticipated spectacle.
At yesterday’s weigh-in, more questions were formed of the tactics of both teams. Deontay Wilder’s record low weight as a professional leads us to believe he will look to utilise his speed in this fight, looking to catch Fury unawares with his unorthodox looping right hands. His power comes through his athleticism. I can’t envisage this drop in weight having a bearing on the devastation that right hand can cause.
Fury’s weight poses a question of his engine. Weighing just one and a half pounds lighter than his previous fight with Francesco Pianeta it’s clear that Fury - as well as Ben Davison - are happy with his size and engine when entering the latter stages of the fight. He’s looked lighter in photos towards the end of his camp; perhaps Fury has decided to keep some mass on at 256.5lbs in order to smother Wilder in the middle rounds, imposing his frame on the thin legs of the champion.
Speaking to a friend last night, we attempted to chew the fat of Saturday’s bout. He, like myself, came to the natural conclusion that this would go one of two ways.
”While Fury’s best bet is to play the long game, out-box and out-smart the often erratic Wilder, the fact remains that if the champion connects with that big right hand it could be over. Whether or not an inactive Fury, who hasn’t operated at this level for some time can avoid it, is questionable.”
Fine. You can’t really argue with this analysis. It’s one that the majority of the boxing world are counting on, however, playing devil’s advocate leads us to a myriad of outcomes.
Are we sleeping on Wilder’s boxing brain? In claiming the WBC strap against Bermane Stiverne in 2015, Wilder showcased a side that hadn’t been seen since the amateurs. Using his jab effectively, setting up a measured straight right, judging the distance; Wilder showed a maturity that wasn’t expected of him that night in Las Vegas. Sure, Stiverne’s smaller and bulkier frame allows this change in tactic. Deploying a similar approach against Fury is a bigger mountain to climb.
Are we sleeping on Fury’s power? The ‘Gypsy King’ has a 70% knockout ratio as a professional and has shown his chopping right hand to be a huge weapon earlier in his career. Taking Wilder late into the fight will force the champion to start taking risks, leaving his guard open to Fury combinations; his switch-hitting stance will force gaps in the questionable Wilder defence as was seen in his ride-or-die night with Ortiz.
What about cuts? Fury’s inactivity and self-damaging lifestyle is sure to take its toll or more than just his engine - his skin will have suffered greatly. Losing that tough, impenetrable skin that you develop as a fighter will open the challenger up to cuts; Freddie Roach may have more to offer in the corner than he once thought.
Will Fury fight in the pocket? We’ve all got memories of that night in Dusseldorf seeing Fury glide, slip and slide around the ring evading the artillery sparingly thrown at him by Klitschko. Standing in close with Wilder will be of huge advantage to Fury, enabling him to lean and smother the champion, putting every pound of that 256.5 frame on Wilder’s shoulders, sucking the life out of him late. Wilder also finds his range from a distance. Getting full leverage on those ranging right hands can only be found from length; Fury is capable of making it ugly if needs be.
What about sparring? We’ve all dismissed Fury’s two warm-up fights as nothing but cannon-fodder, however, with rumours of impressive durable spars against the likes of Joe Joyce, Lawrence Okolie and Guido Vanellio, Fury may have done all of his needed prep behind closed doors.
We could go on...
The problem we have in analysing this fight down to the finest detail is a credit to the matchmaking. It’s a true 50-50 contest in the most exciting division of them all. This fight can go either way, in a number of ways, and that’s why it has finally got the attention it deserves.
It’s time to put the bravado, the smack talk, the press tour, the analysis, the predictions to one side. To sit back, and enjoy one of the biggest and most important heavyweight contests for a number of years. The WBC champ against the lineal champion.
Ok. One more prediction.
Fury stops Wilder late.