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Wilder vs Fury 2: Tyson Fury avoiding controversy by not courting discussions of race for rematch

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Some have tried to lead racial discussion in the lead-up to Wilder-Fury 2, but so far Tyson Fury has avoided digging in on the topic.

Deontay Wilder v Tyson Fury II Press Conference - MGM Grand Garden Arena Photo by Bradley Collyer/PA Images via Getty Images

We in America — and especially, I think, in this age — don’t do a good job at focusing on positives.

It makes sense. Brains are wired to ponder negatives. Evolutionarily it makes sense to be on the lookout for danger signs, it helps keep us out of the mouths of the woolly mammoth.

The media also does better when they report on bad stuff; consumers lap it up. It is exciting, sensational and also allows for surges of schadenfreude buzz, or maybe a “There but for the grace of God go I” exhale.

In that vein, may I offer that I’ve been impressed by this element of the Wilder vs Fury 2 promotion: no one has played the racial angle.

Oh yes, it is a most effective way to get attention, playing the race card, putting forth a construct which tens of millions of people would respond to, and would find quite easy to process.

The black guy versus the white dude. Playing up that dynamic would be good for an easy uptick in attention and PPV buys. But when given the “oppurtunity” to run with that, the fighters, and especially Tyson Fury, said “No thanks, not gonna play that brand of ball.”

At the final main event press conference Wednesday, in Las Vegas, Andreas Hale of Sporting News asked a question.

“Deontay, the first fight, you went viral, you had the ‘To this day,’ you had the knockdowns,” Hale began. “This is Black History Month, are you looking to make a big moment in Black History come February 22nd?”

”Oh, my God. They picked the wrong day, they picked the wrong month for this to happen,” Wilder answered. “I’ve said that many times, and when I knock the ‘Gypsy Queen’ out, we’re gonna have a black history trivia question, and it’s gonna be spread all over the world, and they gonna be able to write it any type of way they want it.”

Hale followed up with Fury.

“Tyson, question for you. Do you think there’s any chance that Deontay can win a decision against you in this fight, or is the only path to victory a knockout?”

You have to ask Hale if there was any implication inserted in that query — like, are the judges pre-disposed against Wilder for some reason or reasons, maybe?

“You know, I’m not sure,” Fury said. “But I’m not really into this racial thing, with a black man versus a white man, and black history month, and I will refuse to go into any sort of thing about it. We are two human beings, two heavyweights at the top of our game. This is not a racial war, this is two heavyweight boxers going toe-to-toe, for all the jewels in heavyweight boxing. Nothing more, nothing less. I’d just like to clear that up nicely.”

Now, let’s take a look at this angle, from another angle. (And keep in mind I’m a white male, so this take will be filtered through my decades of experiencing the world, a world that’s miles away from someone who, perhaps, has dark skin, and thus has been stopped and frisked, or pulled over by a cop for the infraction of being black.)

Maybe it isn’t good that race isn’t much discussed as we take a look at this sequel. Maybe it should be on the table. No, not by being sensationalized, or to be used merely as a marketing scheme. But yeah, the three judges on Saturday will be light skinned. Maybe judge sets should be more varied, racially, ethnically, gender-wise. And maybe we do steer away from hard conversations about race too much, and maybe that’s why right now, one of the most important advisors to the President has a long history of espousing white supremacist ideals. Maybe because we have been too polite about it, because too much of the nation had believed the hype about us being an “exceptional nation” in ways that, in fact, we are not.

It comes out now and again, interestingly, quite often, in the sports and entertainment realm. It popped up when we heard about the Kobe Bryant tragedy. Bryant was and is an icon in the eyes of many, and many of his fans were beyond annoyed when they heard media pointing out that he’d been accused of rape. Mostly white press but no matter who brought it up, that person got slammed. Gayle King was driven to tears as she heard it from the pro-Kobe crew, who wondered why press had to disrespect his memory like that.

Yes, media can and will “go there” because they recognize “if it bleeds, it leads.” That Kobe case provides oodles of drama, enough to serve up more helpings, re-heated 17 years later. And Jason Whitlock at FOX, who does a talking head show with Marcellus Wiley, is more than happy to dig in and offer spin on race matters. He’s provoked debate when he’s said LeBron James is too rich and famous to experience racism, and he’s raised eyebrows by accusing Colin Kaepernick of being a civil rights activist just because he’s an “attention whore.”

On Wednesday, Whitlock tried to go the race route when he and Wiley had Fury on their show. The first fight had some racial elements present in the pre-fight build, he started to say. Fury broke in and said, “We’re all human beings, it doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, pink or green. We share the same blood, we are humans!” The live audience whooped and hollered their agreement. “This fight isn’t a racial war between blacks and whites.”

Good for Fury, for not taking any bait. I, too, applaud his “we’re all human beings” stance. But also, it’s not for me to say or even imply that this one or that shouldn’t bring up the issue of race. I have to recognize the filters I see through, and the advantage I have felt being Caucasian. Stories about how Michael Bloomberg has to properly answer his push to ramp up “stop and frisk” don’t hit me the same way as those who have been stopped and frisked because their skin tone is darker than mine.

Fury is right, we all are human beings, but too many people in power don’t stop and think and summon from their empathy reservoir the indignities that black and brown, and others deemed “different” or “less than” by large blocks of society deal with. Isn’t it maybe for Fury, with his white skin, to offer a “we are all the same” stance because he can drive a nice car around, and not get pulled over because a white cop thinks the car might be stolen?

It’s clear, this nation has far to go before all the people see race through the Fury lens — and more, much more, discussion will have to take place for us to advance meaningfully as a society that is really, truly color blind.