Tyson Fury vs. Deontay Wilder 3: A Head-to-Toe Breakdown
It's a heavyweight rivalry for a new generation.
Not only has the fistic series between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder meandered into boxing's heady trilogy neighborhood, but the dramas and backstories surrounding it are worthy of a prime-time soap opera.
The two first met in December 2018, in Fury's third fight since returning from a two-plus-year hiatus during which he ballooned past 300 pounds and battled both alcoholism and depression. He rose from two knockdowns to secure a draw in a match many thought he'd won on the scorecards, then fought twice more before beating Wilder into a seventh-round corner surrender in a rematch in February 2020.
Wilder split with longtime trainer Mark Breland after the loss, the first of his career, and set about on a tour of excuses. He blamed a heavy ring-walk outfit for sapping his legs, he also claimed referee Kenny Bayless was biased in his officiating, and he suggested Breland himself was a double agent secretly working for Team Fury as well.
The third fight was initially pushed aside in favor of a Fury duel with English rival Anthony Joshua, but Wilder earned a ruling from an arbitrator that mandated he get the third date before Fury and Joshua squared off.
The trilogy fight was set for June 24 but was postponed when Fury tested positive for COVID-19.
The fight will top a pay-per-view card from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas that's set to begin on Saturday at 9 p.m. ET and will be distributed by both Fox Sports and ESPN+.
The B/R combat sports team took a head-to-toe look at each principle as an early primer for a weekend extravaganza. Take a look at what we came up with and drop a thought or two of your own in the comments.
What You Need to Know
What: Tyson Fury vs. Deontay Wilder 3
Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas
When: October 9
TV: ESPN+ PPV and Fox Sports PPV
What's At Stake: The same blinged-out green belt that was up for grabs in 2018 and 2020 is on the line again for Fury and Wilder. The two fighters have combined to possess the WBC heavyweight title for each of the 2,453 days since Wilder snatched it from then-champ Bermane Stiverne a few minutes away at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
But more so than the jewelry, it's about revenge for Wilder and legacy for Fury. The former was a 10-defense champion before Fury humbled him in their rematch, while the now-champ has a chance to establish himself as the division's clear-cut top man in the aftermath of countryman Anthony Joshua's loss.
Tyson Fury's Tale of the Tape
Nickname: "Gypsy King"
Record: 30-0-1, 21 KOs
Weight: 273 pounds*
All stats per BoxRec.com.
*Official weight at last fight in February 2020.
Deontay Wilder's Tale of the Tape
Nickname: "Bronze Bomber"
Record: 42-1-1, 41 KOs
Weight: 231 pounds*
All stats per BoxRec.com.
*Official weight at last fight in February 2020.
To suggest Fury is a unique individual is an understatement.
He's a 6'9" heavyweight who's regularly fought beyond 250 pounds, which would typically mean a lumbering fighter who plods forward while using mammoth size as an advantage.
Instead, his ring intelligence surely ranks among the best in the sport, allowing him to play the aggressor, lay in wait as a counterpuncher or utilize movement to create angles and outmaneuver his foes.
He boxed in the initial meeting with Wilder while trying to avoid his opponent's vaunted power shots, then transformed into a stalking puncher in the rematch while forcing the then-champ into retreat mode.
As for Wilder, who's no shrimp at 6'7" and around 220 pounds, he's most often been a come-forward stalker looking to land a right hand that helped him KO every foe before Fury. Only Stiverne lasted the distance in his first 40 fights, and he was vaporized in a single round in a return bout 34 months later.
New trainer Malik Scott, whom Wilder stopped in 96 seconds in 2014, lauds his new charge's subtle talents, including his ability to parry jabs in order to set up his right hand and use footwork to draw his foes into position for similarly decisive blows.
Feints to set up shots are also on the agenda for go-round No. 3, Scott told BoxingScene.
"This is not a hype job," he said. "I'm training the most dynamic, hardest puncher in the history of the sport, and he has a toolbox full of tools that he hasn't been using. Credit to Tyson Fury.
"He has a lot of s--t going on, but he's a hell of a dance partner in all of this. A hell of a dance fighter. Tyson Fury isn't a good fighter, Tyson Fury is a very, very, very good fighter. But the Deontay Wilder that I'm training, he can make this the easiest fight of his career."
Maybe so, but we won't believe it until we see it.
The images are difficult to forget.
Wilder was beaten to the canvas in the third and fifth rounds, then pounded until his corner team surrendered him and ended the fight in the seventh.
They're the most decisive sequences of the rivalry.
Still, to suggest Fury is the power puncher in this fight is ludicrous.
He's scored KOs in 21 of his 30 pro wins (70 percent) but has gone the distance in four of his last seven fights. That run includes his initial title win over 12 rounds against Wladimir Klitschko in 2015, a 10-rounder against Francesco Pianeta in 2018, the first fight with Wilder later that year and another 12-rounder with Otto Wallin in 2019.
And the KOs he has scored tend to be more a product of sustained action than explosions.
Meanwhile, Wilder's power comes highly regarded.
The aforementioned stoppages of every man he's fought aside from Fury are one thing (97.56 percent), but authorities no less respected than former 140-pound champ Regis Prograis and high-profile promoter Lou DiBella suggest he's among the most devastating punchers the big-man division has ever seen.
"The hardest puncher in boxing history," Prograis said, via worldboxingnews.net.
DiBella, who helped steer Wilder's early career, lists his former client in elite company.
"[Deontay Wilder has] arguably the most incredible one-punch power ever," he said. "Up there with Mike Tyson, George Foreman, Earnie Shavers.
"The hardest punchers in heavyweight history."
For Wilder, the best defense has been a devastating offense.
That said, the former champ has stressed at least cursory defense during workouts with Scott that have been posted to social media.
He rarely took extensive damage in his pre-Fury fights, using a pawing jab—not to mention a pterodactyl-like 83" reach—to establish distance while moving around the ring on his back foot.
Opponents tend to be wary of his power as they approach, limiting their offensive vigor and allowing him to explore opportunities for counter shots.
Fury's defense is helped by his freakish physical dimensions, but he also utilizes footwork and feints that leave foes unable to time him accurately. Slipping shots and rolling his shoulders to avoid blows keeps him out of harm's way as well, as does pivoting out of the way of punches or ducking them entirely.
The Gypsy King was dropped by a right hand from Neven Pajkic in 2011 and another from former cruiserweight title claimant Steve Cunningham two years later.
He rose at five when Wilder dropped him with a right to the temple in Round 9 of their first fight, then got to his feet at nine when Wilder's right-hand-to-left-hook combination floored him again three rounds later.
Tyson Fury's X-Factor: Once Victorious, Twice Motivated?
Fury's performance in the second fight with Wilder is beyond reproach.
He was in fighting shape and ultra-motivated, and he employed the perfect strategy to take away Wilder's biggest advantage—using aggression to force the American to move backward and defend rather than use his power.
But given Fury's history, can he do it again?
The mammoth Brit's title win over Klitschko was greeted by a precipitous personal and professional downfall.
And given that the rematch win over Wilder was expected to lead to an all-British showdown with Joshua, it'd be no stretch to suggest being forced to fight a man he's already whipped might yield less than a prime specimen in fight No. 3.
If he's right, it's hard to imagine him losing. But if he's not, it becomes a struggle.
Deontay Wilder's X-Factor: New Fighter or New Costume?
Usually a microphone hunter in the run-up to big fights, Wilder has gone taciturn in the advance toward Fury III, allowing Scott to handle the verbal lifting while he cranks up the headphones and drifts.
And the aforementioned social media posts show at least some evidence of subtleties he's not displayed before while relying exclusively on freakish power to secure his wins.
But is it real, or does the division's ex-emperor really have no clothes?
The gap between Fury and Wilder has been vast in many of the rounds in their two fights, with the now-champ winning seven and eight (of 12) on two cards in the opener and all but one round (of six) across three cards in the return bout.
It'll take a phenomenal turnaround with Scott to get it close enough for Wilder to win one.
Wilder said it himself in the buildup to the second fight.
Given the ex-champ's power, Fury has to be perfect for every minute of 12 rounds, while Wilder need only be perfect for a few seconds to land his money shot.
The problem for the Alabama native, though, is that the Englishman is perfectly capable of perfection.
He beat Wilder from the first bell to the last bell in their second fight, leaving his foe with no competitive answer from the moment he was stricken by a shot to the ear in the second round.
It reduced a 10-defense world champion to an overmatched sparring partner.
The beating left Wilder grasping at straws for reasons and prompted him to transform his corner team. But changing costumes and lead trainers won't fix the fundamental flaws, the overreliance on power and the advantages in size, reach and technique that Fury has had since the moment they first engaged.
Can Wilder land a shot to change his career trajectory again?
Of course, but unless he lands it early and often enough on Saturday, the end result won't change.
Prediction: Fury wins by TKO, Round 8