The Friday Faceup

Promo courtesy of Top Rank Inc and WBC.

Two weeks ago Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk changed the heavyweight landscape in a boxing masterclass defeating Anthony Joshua. In so doing he derailed, maybe permanently, the fight the whole world supposedly wanted to see, an all British showdown between Joshua and Tyson ‘The Gypsy King’ Fury. At the time they collectively held all the world sanctioning body belts.

A mere 14 days later in Las Vegas, Nevada in the early hours of Sunday morning (UK time) Fury will defend his WBC ‘world’ title. The third fight with USA’s Deontay Wilder will not define Fury’s legacy but will go a long way to securing it should he repeat his spectacular win of February 2020.

Through boxing history trilogy fights for a world heavyweight title are as rare as hens teeth. This will be only the fifth time – the others are almost legendary in the annals of the sport – Patterson v Johansson at the turn of the 1950/60’s, Ali v Frazier and Ali v Norton in the 70’s and, Holyfield v Bowe in the 1990’s. In all those cases the previous meetings were split 1:1 going into the third fight, and fueled by controversy or convincing victories each way, giving a thirst for a third fight. On Saturday the only controversy is how the fight has come about and what it derailed in the process.

Deontay Wilder was simply blown away by Fury in the second fight, and, arguably lost nine rounds in their first meeting. We should now know who the dominant fighter is and the matter should be dead in the water. However, by Wilder exercising his right to an immediate rematch and a US court deeming it his legal entitlement, we now have the fight that no one outside of Tuscaloosa, Alabama (Wilder’s hometown) wanted.

What we do have is a meeting on paper between an undefeated fighter in Fury (30-0-1, 21 KO’s) and a challenger with a 42-1-1 (41 KO’s) record and fueled by a sense of injustice. That can be a lethal cocktail that will intoxicate fight fans to buy the fight available in the UK on BT Box Office.

This is the archetypal boxer v puncher confrontation. Fury has shown over the 17 completed rounds between the two that he is without doubt the superior boxer. Wilder, in poleaxing Fury twice in the first fight that he is the puncher.

The American should be able to box. After all he is an Olympic bronze medalist. But, in meeting Fury he is facing a boxing master who has the 6ft 9in frame to match. Usyk aside, the Gypsy King is the standout boxer in the division, his abilities are multi-dimensional – able to box at distance and pick off his opponent with strong jabs and counters or step into the pocket and bomb away. The manner in which he immediately took the fight to Wilder in last years rematch from the opening bell shows he is willing to surprise too. His tactical nous is without peer amongst the big guys.

Wilder by contrast lacks the fundamentals that have elevated him to such a high status. The self confessed ‘Bronze Bomber’ is though a power punching freak, he possesses the single devastating punch power to render any heavyweight prostrate. His 99% KO record is phenomenal and only one man has never been KO’d by him in the professional ranks. That man is Tyson Fury.

The 35 year old American enters this contest highly competitive but as a big underdog. His excuses after the second Fury fight were almost laughable, one of which was being weighed down by his robe pre-fight ! Psychologically his mind would have been scrambled after his first and stoppage defeat. He has though had 20 months to re-group and get in the right mindset with only one man (Fury) on his mind. The opening rounds will be riveting to see how Wilder approaches the fight. He will know he can’t outbox Fury so does he risk all in trying to bomb him out from the first bell ? Will he have learnt from Joshua’s caution of two weeks prior ? The consensus is that this is Alabamian’s only route to victory.

How will Fury approach the fight ? Buoyed by his personality and supreme confidence in bombing out Wilder in fight two, will he adopt the same tactic as last time out ? Simply walking across the ring from the opening bell and dominating the fight. Or, will he exercise more caution this time knowing a firefight is Wilder’s only chance of success. We could conceivably see a boxing masterclass similar to his victory over Wladimir Klitschko what now seems all those years ago.

The Undisputed thinks we’ll see something between the two. Despite Fury’s usual pre-fight braggadacio we expect him to meet his opponent ring centre but not in the relentless and wreckless manner shown in Fight 2. We think Wilder will storm out to temper Fury’s initial advance and force him to adopt a more cautious approach in the opening round. We expect the fight to extend to six rounds, maybe with knockdowns of both fighters, but then the taller champion to end the contest around the eighth round to repeat his emphatic victory of 2020 and end the argument for good.

Elsewhere, on the banks on the River Mersey in Liverpool, England a quality domestic dust up takes place between former WBO ‘world’ light-middleweight champion Liam Smith (29-3-1, 16 KO’s) and Olympian Anthony Fowler (15-1-0, 12 KO’s). The latter, at 30 is the younger man by three years and although not fought at this high level as a professional will look to force the pace. This is a pick-ems fight and in a rocking Echo Arena may go the distance with many ebbs and flows. Look for the younger man to just do enough to finish the contest the victor. The contest is promoted by Matchroom Boxing and available on DAZN.

Finally, on BT Sport as a precursor to the Fury-Wilder contest there’s a quality match up in Birmingham, England for the British, Commonwealth and European super-bantamweight belts. The Queensberry Promotion pits Brad Foster (14-0-2, 5 KO’s)against Jason Cunningham (29-6-0, 6 KO’s) for all the marbles. Look for the slicker Foster to add the European title to his two belts, most likely on a points decision.

Enjoy what is a loaded fight weekend.

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