The time is almost upon us. The long-awaited rematch between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury is nearly here, just over 16 months since their dramatic and controversial draw in Los Angeles.
Many felt that Fury came out on top in the first bout at the Staples Center, some even labelling the decision of a draw as a ‘robbery’.
You would imagine that then Fury is coming in as the clear favourite for the second fight, but some of the confidence in ‘The Gypsy King’ has waned among fight fans since that controversial draw in December 2018.
There are big question marks over whether Fury’s preparations for this fight have really given him with the tools to dismantle Wilder at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on 22nd February.
Here are five questions that the Mancunian needs to answer on fight night:
Has he improved since the first fight?
Fury has had two fights since that dramatic night in LA, producing wins against the previously unbeaten Tom Schwarz and Otto Wallin. Despite both ending in victory, they were two very different nights for Fury.
As expected, the 31-year-old dealt with the lesser-known Schwarz in two short rounds which, at the time, suggested he may be packing more a punch and quashing suggestions that he lacks power. However, his encounter with Wallin at the T-Mobile Arena last September didn’t quite go to plan.
What was expected to be another routine win turned into a bloody, 12-round war that left the Brit with a nasty-looking cut above the right eye. Although it definitely wasn’t a performance that would fill anyone with added confidence about Fury’s prospects against Wilder, there is not a massive amount that you can read into it.
Fury is someone that has risen to the occasion in the past. He produced two sub-par performances against Sefer Seferi and Franceso Pianneta in the lead-up to the first Wilder fight, but still managed to conjure up an excellent performance against the WBC heavyweight champion.
Fury also took on Wilder just two fights into his comeback from a near three-year lay-off and he’ll be hoping to be fitter and sharper for the rematch than he was for their first bout. It will be interesting to see if getting 14 more rounds under his belt enables Fury to show improved stamina in the later rounds; the lack of which ultimately proved to be his downfall in the first contest.
Has he been focused enough on boxing?
Since the clip of him remarkably rising from canvas after Wilder’s brutal 12th-round knockdown in their first fight went viral across the world, it’s safe to say that Fury has made the most of his new-found global fame. He’s brought out an autobiography, released a Christmas single with Robbie Williams and fought Braun Strowman in the WWE, which have all raised his profile [and boosted his bank balance), but equally raised questions over his commitment to boxing.
The lineal champion has always come across as someone who lives and breathes fighting but, due to the other commitments he’s taken on, has he left enough time to sharpen his skill-set in the gym ahead of this huge second fight against the 34-year-old from Alabama?
We recently saw Andy Ruiz Jr become distracted by the glitz, glamour and fame of reaching the summit of the heavyweight division after upsetting Anthony Joshua at Madison Square Garden last June – and how that then ultimately cost him in their December rematch.
You simply can’t afford to take your eye off the ball for a second in boxing, especially against fighters at the top end of the heavyweight division.
Is it possible that Fury has fallen into the same trap as Ruiz?
Is changing trainers a good idea?
Former coach Ben Davison played a huge part in pulling Fury back from the brink of disaster after his mental breakdown led him to the cusp of suicide and stepping on the scales at a whopping 385lbs. He also masterminded the game plan that so nearly got Fury the win against Wilder which would have put him back on top in the heavyweight division.
However, following an on-screen lambasting from Fury’s father John, Davison was ditched and has now been replaced by American Javan ‘Sugar Hill’ Steward, nephew of famous trainer Emmanuel Steward.
The lineal champion isn’t unfamiliar with Steward, having spent a month training with him in the famous Kronk gym in Detroit a decade ago. Andy Lee, Fury’s cousin and a former world middleweight champion who has spent time at Kronk, has also been involved in the camp although it’s not been obvious exactly what capacity that’s been in.
It’s undoubtedly a gamble to switch trainers so near to a big fight, especially when you consider how well Davison’s plan worked in the first Wilder bout and how radically different Steward’s coaching philosophies are to Davison’s. In an interview with iFL TV, Steward said: “He doesn’t want that again [going to the judges]. I wasn’t raised that way. Emanuel [Steward] always taught me ‘Get the knockout.’.”
The change in approach, coupled with the limited time Fury has had to work with his new trainer, will surely have added disruption to his preparations. After coming so close to a victory last time, did Fury really need to change his approach so drastically?
Is he really going to go for the knockout?
Although Fury is recognised as one of the best heavyweights in the world right now, he’s never really been known for the power in his punch. The best victories of his career have gone the distance rather than ended in vicious knockouts, much in contrast of his next opponent. In fact, only around 66% of his wins have come via KOs whereas Wilder has stopped 95% of his opponents, with every single one touching the canvas.
Despite this, Fury has been adamant in the build-up that he wants, not only to beat Wilder, but to knock him out as well. He’s even rumoured to be coming in much heavier than the first fight in an attempt to add more power to his arsenal.
As we know, many of Fury’s comments have to be taken with a rather large pinch of salt, but his decision to change up his camp suggests there may be some legitimacy to these claims. The risk is that the extra weight means he loses some of the movement that makes him so elusive and hard to hit and becomes a sitting duck for Wilder’s famous, straight right.
Will the cut above his eye come back to haunt him?
As mentioned, Fury picked up a hideous cut above his right eye that required 50 stitches after his last fight against Wallin. Without a massive amount of healing time having passed, the likelihood is that Wilder will target it and attempt to re-open it. The appointment of Jacob ‘Stitch’ Duran – one of the best and most well-known cutman in the game – suggests that there is still some nervousness in the Fury camp regarding the wound.
There’s no way of knowing how problematic this will be until fight night. There’s no word on if Fury has had any plastic surgery to speed up the healing process, but you would imagine everything has been done in order to patch it up and make sure that it doesn’t come back to haunt him.
It’s unquestionable, however, that Wilder will be targeting this. In fact, he only recently said that he is ‘looking forward to re-cutting’ Fury’s right eye. It certainly adds an extra dimension to the big night and something to monitor as the fight progresses.