VERDICT: If Wilder finds his range it will be a savage and draining fight for Fury because 36 minutes is a long, long time to survive. Fury did it last time, just - he can do it again, just.
Steve Bunce delivers his knockout verdict on this weekend's huge rematch between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury. Check out the latest odds for the fight here.
The big question about the Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury rematch in Las Vegas on February 22nd is simple: Who can improve from the first fight, the controversial draw in December 2018.
The first fight
In the first fight Fury appeared to have done enough to be a comfortable winner, surviving a knockdown in the ninth and heavy knockdown in the last round. Wilder missed too often, Fury countered too easily. The three officials were evenly split - one for Wilder, one for Fury and the British judge voted it a draw. The final scores meant that without one of the two knockdowns, Fury would have won the WBC title that night on points.
Both boxers have promised a better version in Las Vegas, both have talked boldly about a knockout win and have each claimed that they have solved the puzzle. Wilder admits to mistakes made, Fury regrets not taking opportunities and their joint conviction might just make this scrap a classic. It is clear that both will enter the ring with a different head on for a very different fight.
“I don’t need anytime to work him out - I worked him out last time, dropped him twice. I will just pick up where I stopped last time,” said Wilder, who is unbeaten in 43 fights and has stopped, blasted, dropped or knocked out 41 of the 42 men he has so far beaten. He only needs the tiniest of openings, a second of relaxation in real time by an opponent and his right hand will connect to separate a boxer from his senses and his dream.
“I beat him the first time, I will beat him easily this time - I know what he has, have taken his best shot and got up. I will get to him this time, he knows it, I know it,” insisted Fury, who has never lost in 30 professional fights. Fury has talked about going “toe-to-toe”, talked about going for an early finish, but this is surely just part of the relentless hype.
In the first fight Fury did very little wrong, he moved with ease, made Wilder miss, countered and was always alert to Wilder’s ability to suddenly end the fight. The two knockdowns were not his fault, Wilder simply found a bit of range and down went Fury. Wilder has dropped his 43 opponents over 50 times - he hits you clean, you go over.
Wilder has made some very satisfying comments about his planned improvements for the rematch. He has promised to set his feet more, not over-reach with his right hand, use the jab, find his left hook and in general be patient. It is a smooth cocktail of adjustments that, if applied well, would certainly be enough to tip the scales of debate firmly in his favour.
Fury's change of trainer
Fury has switched trainers during the last six weeks, parting with Ben Davison, the man credited with saving not just his boxing career but his life, and has now joined with Javan Sugarhill Steward. Davison was in the corner for five fights, more importantly he made Fury fall back in love with boxing - in 2016 and 2017 Fury was a fat, broken, drunk, casual drug user and lost to our sport. Davidson’s departure was a shock. They each insist they are still good friends.
Fury believes that Steward, the nephew and protege of the iconic Manny, the man who built the Kronk gym in Detroit, will give him an aggressive edge. The thinking is probably correct, but it is also dangerous.
“Is he really going to come out and try to knock me out?” Wilder said. “Is he crazy?”
Fury, meanwhile, remains convinced that he can hurt Wilder, that he hurt him in the first fight and that he can do it again. He is probably right, but there are different ways to go about beating a man; opting to test Wilder’s chin at the same time as taking his best punches would not be my preferred method. The notion that Fury can “fight fire with fire” is misplaced and that is because of Wilder’s extraordinary power, and not a negative reflection on Fury’s own ability to knock out men.
How Fury wins
In the rematch Fury will need to be as mobile as he was in Los Angeles and there is definitely scope for him to get a bit closer, let his right hand go with some more venom without standing and offering an easy target. Wilder will need to be so much sharper, more focused and also get busier earlier: in Los Angeles I gave Fury five of the first six rounds, but Wilder was slowly, inevitably getting closer.
Fury has promised to be a bit heavier, but weight will not be a factor in this fight. Fury was always going to be be bulkier than Wilder; this is not a fight that will be decided by grappling. There is also a bit of fuss about the cut Fury suffered last September when he beat Otto Wallin in Las Vegas. It was a truly ugly gash over his right eye and required 47 stitches to close it. Wilder will not waste his time trying to open it because with the same energy and accuracy he could hit Fury on the chin and drop him for ten.
If Fury dances, jabs, finds the gaps in Wilder’s often random defence and waits for the right-hand slots and does not go desperately in search of Wilder, then he can win on points again. Wilder has to be a lot smarter this time and he can be a lot smarter. If Wilder finds his range it will be a savage and draining fight for Fury because 36 minutes is a long, long time to survive. Fury did it last time, just - he can do it again, just.