In December 2018, the Boxing world focused its collective attention on the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA for one of the most anticipated World Heavyweight championship fights in recent memory. An encounter between two undefeated Heavyweights, who each held a claim to the World Heavyweight championship. The bout between WBC world champion Deontay Wilder and undefeated former Heavyweight world champion Tyson Fury.
Naturally, when discussing two undefeated Heavyweights, opinion is going to vary on a variety of factors. In this case, Tyson Fury the one time holder of the unified IBF/WBA/IBO/WBO crown had relinquished his crown shortly after defeating longtime champion Wladimir Klitschko in 2015 having never defended the championship. Fury’s decision prompted by several personal problems opened up opportunity in the division to determine who was the top fighter in the division. One fighter who won the WBC world championship in the same year as Fury won his crown would go on to establish his argument as the top man among the Heavyweights both among world champions and would be challengers.
After successfully defending his version of the World Heavyweight championship seven times and scoring knockouts in all seven of those defenses, Deontay Wilder had established himself not only as the longest-reigning active champion in the division, but also one of the most active fighters. This set the stage for Wilder to face a recently returned Fury, who some regarded as the lineal champion due to his having never been defeated for his crown.
While yours truly usually tends to stay out of those kind of debates in the interest of wanting to cover the sport objectively, it nevertheless created a healthy debate as to what would happen when the two men squared off for Wilder’s crown. As some readers may recall this observer’s coverage of that fight, this was a fight between a boxer/puncher in Fury against a fighter primarily known for his punching power and ability to score quick and often brutal knockouts in Wilder. Stylistically, this fight also had an element of a natural aggressor in Wilder against Fury who has been known as a fighter with an awkward, elusive style that often frustrates his opposition.
As I stated in my coverage of that fight, the challenge is to distinguish which fighter is more effective in a bout that was fought in the way this fight was. Fury’s awkwardness proved to be effective in making him an elusive target that Wilder had trouble finding consistently throughout the fight. This did not mean necessarily that Fury was able to stand out clearly in terms of overall activity in punches landed, but it created a scenario where though both fighters had periods of effectiveness, the story for some became what Wilder was unable to do offensively. When fights are fought in this way it can as I have often said over the years leave plenty open to interpretation as to who got the upper hand and this unfortunately creates a further conundrum for those who are tasked with the responsibility of scoring the fight.
In this observer’s eyes, despite my view being that Fury was overall the more effective of the two fighters based largely on how well he was able to execute a defensive approach and evade Wilder, there were several rounds throughout the course of the fight that could have been scored in Wilder’s favor based on overall activity and forcing the action. It was based on this that I ultimately arrived with a scorecard of eight rounds to four or 116-112 in points in Fury’s favor at the end of the twelve round world championship bout. It was in rounds nine and twelve however, that ultimately proved to be crucial in the official scoring of this fight. What I am referring to the knockdowns that Wilder was able to score of Fury.
The first of the knockdowns in round nine I felt helped Wilder narrow the gap on the scorecards, but I also felt it would not be enough on its own for him to retain his championship. The second knockdown in round twelve nearly put all aspects of the potential scoring to rest as a combination to the head of Fury concluded by a brutal left hook knocked Fury down and appeared to be out. To this day, I do not know how Fury managed to beat the count. Although Fury deserves all the credit for doing something that frankly should be viewed as “Miraculous”, there was a brief controversy that emerged following the knockdown as Referee Jack Reiss was criticized by many fans after the fight for taking several seconds after Fury had beat the count to evaluate his condition before allowing him to continue.
Readers will recall that I do not feel that the count of Reiss was long or that the time that he took to evaluate Fury somehow “Robbed” Wilder of a potential knockout win as some had alleged. I will repeat however, that Reiss, who is one of the best referees in the entire sport made a judgment call and perhaps a referee with lesser experience would not allow the fight to continue.
Despite my scorecard at the end of the fight, it is important to take these two knockdowns into the equation. Under the ten point must system that Professional Boxing is scored, the winner of a round where there are no knockdowns is usually scored 10-9. In an instance where there is one knockdown that does not end the fight, the round is scored 10-8, which is the equivalent of two rounds scored 10-9. When one factors into the equation that this fight featured two 10-8 rounds scored in favor of Wilder, that is equal to four rounds being scored 10-9. If one also factors into the equation that several of the rounds in this fight outside of rounds nine and twelve were based largely on interpretation as to who got the upper hand under circumstances that neither fighter was able to stand out as superior from the other, it is not hard to understand how there could be debates as to who won the fight.
The final verdict of a split decision draw taking all factors into the equation was also not hard to understand. It was clear in my eyes however, that the two knockdowns Wilder was able to score allowed him to retain his world championship in terms of narrowing the official scorecards where one judge had it even, while the two remaining judges were split in their scoring. Nevertheless, the result warranted a rematch.
After both fighters have been successful in two bouts each in maintaining their undefeated records and respective claims to the Heavyweight crown, the rematch will come on Saturday, February 22nd at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, NV. The question going into this fight, which will headline a jointly produced pay-per-view card by Fox Sports and ESPN in the United States, is what will be different the second time around?
In thinking of what potential adjustments that could be made, I feel it is crucial that Wilder shorten up his punches. In the first fight, there several instances throughout where he overthrew punches and this can be attributed to both Fury’s elusiveness and Wilder at times being overly aggressive. Although he was able to eventually land on Fury and score those crucial knockdowns that ultimately allowed him to retain his title with a draw, he must not assume that he will be able to do the same in the rematch.
Some may recall following his last title defense against Luis Ortiz in November of last year where in an interview with the Fox Sports broadcast team he eluded to not needing to win rounds due to having the punching power needed to an a fight at any time. Readers may recall in my coverage of that fight, I pointed out that a mentality of not needing to score points in order to win fights is a dangerous one to have. It is even more dangerous when facing a fighter of Tyson Fury’s skill set.
For Tyson Fury, one may argue that what he has suggested in interviews leading up to this fight in eluding that he will be more willing to engage with Wilder with the intention of possibly going for a knockout in this rematch could be the wrong strategy. Fury must remember what brought him to the top of the division once before by being tactical, elusive, and using his height and reach to his advantage. He must also keep in mind that Wilder has shown that he can knock him down and it will be interesting to see it he does attempt to implement a tactical strategy similar to what he was able to do in the first encounter if he can make adjustments to avoid getting caught by Wilder, particularly if this fight goes into the middle and late rounds.
Although Tyson Fury’s style may not always be crowd pleasing, he needs to do what is necessary for him to be successful in this fight even if that means potentially turning fans off by Boxing in a way that may not be the most entertaining to watch. If Fury attempts a completely different approach this time around with the intention of going toe to toe with Wilder, it could be a big mistake given Wilder’s punching power and his ability to score quick knockouts. The most interesting subplot of this rematch however, is that Tyson Fury chose to split with his trainer Ben Davison shortly before this fight and has enlisted the services of Javan Hill, better known within the sport as Sugar Hill, the nephew of the late legendary Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward. While it is not uncommon to see a fighter bring in a new trainer prior to a rematch, the obvious question will be what new tactics, if any will Sugar Hill try to implement into Tyson Fury’s offense. It is also logical to ask the question of whether the two have had enough time together to make significant changes ahead of this fight.
Opinions as to who will win the rematch between Wilder and Fury obviously vary, but an illustration of that can be seen in the current odds according to MyTopSportsbooks as seen below.
Tyson Fury to win on points / decision odds and percentages
The most-likely outcome in the rematch, according to most online sports betting sites reviewed here, is Fury outpointing Wilder on the cards at +138 (41.7% chance). That would have been the outcome of the first fight if Wilder had not put Fury on the mat late, salvaging a draw.
Tyson Fury to win by 2nd round KO odds and percentages
While Fury has predicted a second-round stoppage, the odds of him scoring a finish period are a long +450 (18.2% chance). The odds of it coming in round two, specifically, are +5000 (2%). As much as Fury controlled the early portions of the first fight, Wilder was never in real trouble.
Deontay Wilder to win on points / decision odds and percentages
Oddsmakers believe Wilder will need a knockout/stoppage to score a win. The odds of him being victorious on the cards are an incredible +1000 (9.1%), which is only about 5% higher than the fight ending in another draw. The reason why is two-fold: (1) Fury's jab is likely to rack up points and (2) Wilder has only earned one of his 42 career wins by decision.
While it is important to keep in mind that betting odds offer an educated guess as to what may or may not happen in a fight, in this case the odds do point to the conventional wisdom of many Boxing experts as to what is the best tactic for each fighter to win. Although Deontay Wilder has not scored a decision win since winning his world championship in January 2015 in his first fight against Bermane Stiverne, he has shown that he is capable of going into the middle and late rounds. There are many in the sport including this observer however, that believe that the odds of Wilder winning a decision in this fight is slim based largely on the style of Tyson Fury and Wilder’s own admission that he feels that he does not need to score points in order to win fights.
There is nevertheless a lot at stake for both fighters. Not only is Deontay Wilder’s WBC Heavyweight world championship on the line, but for the winner of this fight there is the obvious lucrative payday that looms with current unified IBF/WBA/WBO/IBO world champion Anthony Joshua in a fight that would fully unify the Heavyweight division. With anticipation at a high and with a lot to lose for both fighters, it is not hard to understand why this is a highly anticipated rematch. If that anticipation leads to an exciting battle between two of the top fighters the Heavyweight division has to offer, the division as well as the entire sport will be the benefactor no matter the outcome. We will see what happens when Wilder and Fury meet to settle their unfinished business in Las Vegas on Saturday, February 22nd.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
Wilder vs. Fury II takes place on Saturday, February 22nd at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas NV. The fight as well as a three bout undercard can be seen on a pay-per-view basis in the United States on Fox Sports/ESPN+ Pay-Per-View across cable/satellite providers for $79.99 as well as the Fox Sports and ESPN streaming apps. For more information on how to order through Fox Sports please visit:https://www.foxsports.com/boxing/pbc/pay-per-view-wilder-vs-fury-143. To order via ESPN+ PPV order through the ESPN+ section on the ESPN app or visit: https://plus.espn.com/wilder-fury-2 for more information. Both apps are carried on major streaming platforms such as Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, Android TV, mobile devices and tablets. Check your local listings internationally.
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