It is fair and accurate to say that Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder don’t like each other very much. The two fighters have been at odds ever since their first encounter – an off-camera incident in Sheffield in April 2013 – with no sign of the animosity abating any time soon.
It is a rivalry that can only be ended by a decisive fight with an obvious winner. That is why the draw that the two men fought out in Los Angeles last year was such a let-down.
The controversial result, in which one judge gave the fight to Fury, another to Wilder, and the third scored it a draw, was seen as immensely unsatisfying by vast swathes of those in attendance and watching around the world. The fight left a bitter taste in the mouths of fighters and punters alike, with a rematch being called for, and even ‘demanded’ in some quarters, as soon as the very next day.
The most recent talk was of the second fight taking place at some point in 2020, but with Fury vs. Wilder – and with boxing in general for the matter – it is hard to really get a gauge on when any single given fight might occur. Fury, of course, has already been his own worst enemy in terms of denying himself a dream fight at the optimal time.
On the surface, it seems as though Fury has certainly learnt his lesson. The Brit is a changed man, who took a long look at himself in the mirror and made every effort to get into the shape of his life. While a draw against Deontay Wilder is not the pinnacle Fury was hoping for, it was a monumental turnaround all the same.
While Deontay Wilder is now past the 40-fight milestone in his career, he is still more than game enough to give Fury a proper fight. Indeed, even if Fury takes Wilder on in late 2020 – potentially after Wilder’s softening up through one or two warm-up fights – there would still be no detracting from the credibility of a victory, at long last, over Wilder.
Fury has already negotiated the first hurdle to the long-awaited rematch, doing so with utmost professionalism, and doing much to shorten his chances of success in future boxing odds markets. He cleared it with flying colours on Saturday night in Las Vegas, facing the then-undefeated Swede Otto Wallin.
While Fury was always odds-on to emerge victorious, and fancied by a ‘experts’ to end it in three, it was still a fight that could have derailed the momentum of Fury, and instead vaulted his underdog opponent in the box seat for the money match with Wilder.
It was a brutal and bloody affair, with Wallin giving just as good as he was getting throughout the contest. In the end Fury won on points unanimously, but not before suffering a final round scare when Wallin – who knew he was behind on points – threw everything he had at the Englishman.
The final round, however, will not be the part of the fight that most affects the Fury vs. Wilder rematch. That honour goes to the left hook swung by Wallin in the third round that rocked Fury, and opened up a gash above his right eye, which required an emergency hospital visit in order to close the wound. Unfortunately, this means that ‘Fury v Wilder 2’ is likely to be pushed back from the tentative February 2020 date that was being suggested.
According to promoter Frank Warren, the cut has the chance of being a serious problem if it doesn’t heal correctly and quickly. Warren is, of course, a man who has been around the boxing business forever, and he knows that it is not purely the chance of the cut reopening, that could cause a delay, having stated: “It’s not just the fight, it’s the training and sparring. He has to be 100% right”.
Naturally, across the entire history of boxing – and particularly since Michael Watson’s watershed, near-fatal bout in September 1991 – it isn’t uncommon to see a fighter who has to delay a match. Fight doctors now command more respect than ever, but there is a myriad of reasons that there can be a delay, especially in an age where image counts for more than many fight fans realise. For both medical and publicity reasons, Fury now faces the dilemma of how long he should postpone the rematch.
If the fight has not taken place by the middle of 2020, then the money associated with the entire phenomenon of ‘Fury v Wilder 2’ will go one of two ways. It could either see the purse and PPV buys rise drastically, as they did with the first clash of Holyfield and Tyson in 1996 (appropriately dubbed ‘Finally’), or it could see a reduction on the original estimated purse, as two fighters that are getting no younger come together in a second bout that would do extremely well to even emulate half the drama of the first.
The dilemma that rests with both camps has certainly not been helped by some of the noise coming out of the Wilder camp. Even before the injury picked up by Fury, Wilder had stated that he first wanted to take care of Luis Ortiz before moving on to Fury. Ortiz is a fighter currently ranked No. 6 (in the Transnational Boxing Rankings) in the heavyweight class, while Fury is at No. 2 and Wilder at No. 3 by comparison. However, the big-punching Cuban has seemingly emerged as a fighter that could knock ‘Fury v Wilder 2’ off track.
Then there is the little matter of the other major heavyweight rematch that is about to take place in Saudi Arabia on December 7. This sees the WBA, WBO, and IBF heavyweight champion, and No. 1 ranked heavyweight in the world, Andy Ruiz, take on No. 4 ranked Anthony Joshua in the second instalment of their rivalry. Wilder has recently said that the idea of being the unified heavyweight champion is something he thinks about often, noting that a fight with the winner of this rematch – with their belts and his WBC strap on the line – would create boxing history.
It is hard to say how much of this talk is mind games and showmanship, and how much is actually Wilder’s real point of view. Only one thing, however, is certain. Until this rematch of these two undefeated fighters actually takes place, and a clear winner is declared, the heavyweight boxing picture will always feel maddeningly incomplete.