Tyson Fury vs Deontay Wilder III
Deontay Wilder can knock out any man alive. He’s had 19 rounds to try against Tyson Fury and hasn’t done it. Actually, I suppose maybe he kinda did the one time, but it somehow didn’t end the fight. If that shot didn’t put Fury away, what can?
I don’t “hate” Wilder the way some people do. I enjoy watching any guy who can punch this ferociously hard, who is never truly out of a fight. But Fury didn’t just pick-and-peck and box around him in the rematch, he took the fight to him and kicked his ass. That’s just a fact. And I worry that Wilder has revealed himself a fighter who simply can’t handle real adversity. Fury asks big questions of opponents, and Deontay has just not had the answers. Maybe Malik Scott has fixed some of Deontay’s approach and they have a great game plan and the big man goes out there and wipes Tyson out — even if Malik has fixed nothing and is, as some suspect, just the right “yes” man for the moment, Wilder always has the punch. But I don’t think he can beat Tyson Fury. He got a Fury operating at maybe 65-70 percent capacity in 2018 and didn’t beat him. He definitely didn’t in 2020. I don’t think he does in 2021, either. And I think Tyson will more or less repeat what he did last time out. Fury TKO-8
I’m going to spare you all the suspense and just start by saying I’m picking Tyson Fury to win this fight. I’m sure there are plenty of ways to view this trilogy match, but I generally like to keep things as simple as possible which leads me to two standout points: 1) Fury clearly outboxed Wilder in their first fight; and 2) Fury clearly outfought Wilder in their second fight. If Wilder can neither outbox nor outfight Fury, what exactly is his path to victory?
Yes, it’s possible that Wilder detonates an explosive right hand on Fury to abruptly end the fight, but Wilder did in fact land his power on Fury the first time around and Fury still managed to survive. So omitting the much-discussed ‘puncher’s chance’ - which I won’t completely dismiss as a legitimate chance for Wilder - I think Wilder is going to have a hard time finding success here. The even bigger problem for Wilder is that he still can’t box going backwards and with Fury’s trainer saying he intends to come in even heavier for this rematch, I think their game plan is going to be to put Wilder on his heels and make him deal with both size and pressure from the start, which I expect will quickly take a toll on Wilder’s toothpick legs. Wilder’s state of mind has been peculiar even since losing to Fury, so I’m quite interested to see how he takes this next beating. Fury TKO-7
Patrick L. Stumberg
It’s hard to overstate just how thoroughly Fury figured Wilder out. Not only would he have won their first fight with competent judging, he entered the rematch with an entirely different approach and kicked his ass from pillar to post. There’s not a single version of Wilder we’ve seen that can consistently beat Fury at this point; unless he and Malik Scott cooked up something special, Fury’s going to embarrass him again.
And no, he and Scott didn’t cook up something special. Wilder’s 40 fights into his pro career and has spent the last 19 months soaking in delusion that Scott seems more than happy to enable. He is what he is: a uniquely gifted puncher content to waste said gifts by throwing five punches a round and neglecting all but the most basic of technique. This last as long as Fury wants it to and not a second more. Fury TKO-6
And the staff winner is...
Tyson Fury (3-0)!
Frank Sanchez vs Efe Ajagba
I don’t think Ajagba can out-box Sanchez, nor should he really try. I think he can KO just about anyone, and I’ve seen Sanchez get a little lackadaisical in some fights, a little ahead of himself when ahead on the cards. Against Nagy Aguilera and Julian Fernandez and the scrappy Joey Dawejko, you can get away with that. Against Efe Ajagba, you might find yourself on the canvas right quick. I’m picking Ajagba, but not with great confidence; if Sanchez establishes his terms early he could really win every round in this fight. I think he’ll be up and get caught. Ajagba TKO-8
If I’m being honest, this fight is probably the toughest call for me out of the bunch from this weekend’s action, and a fight that I genuinely think could go either way. The betting odds would seem to reflect that sentiment as well. Neither fighter is all too flashy but both pack good power and are pretty evenly matched so far as I can tell. Ajagba has shown some vulnerabilities in the past, but I think he’s tried to learn from his mistakes to become a more responsible fighter, and I think he’ll need that because he’s going up against Sanchez who’s obviously a well-schooled fighter out of Cuba.
It could very well be that the amateur experience of Sanchez carries him through this fight, but I’m confident that Sanchez will at least be comfortable playing the boxer role in this fight, allowing Ajagba to come to him while looking to land his counters. And while I’d normally probably pick the well-schooled Cuban in these types of fights, I just have a hunch that Ajagba’s power will be a difference maker here. I’ll roll the dice on the marginal underdog. Ajagba TKO-6
Patrick L. Stumberg
To Ajagba’s credit, he’s an exponentially better fighter than when he went to war with Iago Kiladze in 2019; he’s faster, sharper, and more adept with his jab. Unfortunately, he’s still got a handful of key issues that Kay Koroma hasn’t hammered out of him, namely a tendency to compromise his reach advantage by stepping in with his punches and not protecting his face with his free hand. A seven-inch reach advantage isn’t much good when you’re offering your chin on a silver platter, and while Sanchez isn’t the most ferocious puncher in the world, he’s got enough speed and power to decisively punish those defensive lapses.
Ajagba is definitely the more likely of the two to land a one-hitter quitter, but I don’t see him keeping Sanchez out of the pocket for any extended period of time. Expect Sanchez’s fluidity and rapid-fire punching to carry the day in a largely close-quarters battle. Sanchez UD-10
And the staff winner is...
Efe Ajagba (2-1)!
Robert Helenius vs Adam Kownacki II
Adam Kownacki needs to have changed a lot. Maybe he has, but maybe even if he has, Robert Helenius is just a bad style matchup for him. Kownacki is a good, fun fighter — and so was Chris Arreola, the guy he’s been compared to many times. We’ve seen Kownacki struggle in other fights, too; Charles Martin gave him a decent fight, even Rodney Hernandez won a couple rounds by all reports of that fight in 2015. I’m going with the big Finn, but again not with much confidence. If Kownacki has a smarter approach this time, his pressure could wear Helenius out. But I’m going with Helenius landing a game-changer and just taking over, pretty much as he did last time. Helenius TKO-7
What a big win that was for Robert Helenius when he stopped Adam Kownacki the first time they met. To be honest, you could really tell how much that win was vindicating for the fighter and a genuine feel-good moment. Kownacki is a good fighter, but I honestly think this is just a poor style matchup for him. Kownacki throws a lot of punches but his defense isn’t so great and he’ll be once again facing a fighter with the height, reach, and power to give him problems. Generally speaking, my feelings about immediate rematches depend on how things transpired in the first meeting, and in this instance I have difficulty believing Kownacki has reinvented his approach enough to turn things around here. I expect Kownacki to more or less come to do more of the same, and I think he’ll get more or less the same results. Helenius TKO-9
Patrick L. Stumberg
Helenius’ knockout in their first meeting wasn’t a freak, one-off fluke. Even the announcers had picked up on Kownacki’s defensive lapses, but “Babyface” kept Helenius from exploiting them by pressuring the big man until he focused exclusively on withstanding the onslaught instead of returning fire. The climactic moment came when Helenius finally found the opportunity to punch with Kownacki and caught him clean, taking full advantage of Kownacki’s tendency to let his head get ahead of his hips when throwing. It was a calculated and, above all, replicable feat; if this instant rematch was actually, you know, instant, I’d give “The Nordic Nightmare” a very real chance to stop Kownacki again.
Unfortunately for Helenius, Kownacki’s had nearly two years to make adjustments, and considering how much success he was having beforehand, he really doesn’t need much tweaking. So long as he stays a bit more measured with his pressure and doesn’t give Helenius any opportunities to utilize his reach, I like him to wear Helenius down against the ropes until the aging Finn wilts. Kownacki TKO-9