“The decision is a split decision draw!!!”
A large portion of the crowd in Los Angeles didn’t like it. Millions of fans viewing on television around the world didn’t like it. The vast majority of media stationed ringside didn’t agree with it. However, when all was said and done, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury had fought to a draw and Wilder retained his WBC heavyweight title at the Staples Centre on December 1, 2018.
Fury, who is rated No. 1 by The Ring, was dropped twice in separate rounds, the ninth and the 12th, but appeared to have won almost everything else that night. When Wilder detonated his right hand flush, the damage could be measured on the Richter scale but Fury, unlike every other Wilder opponent, had found his feet and finished the fight standing.
However, the draw was a killer blow for the enigmatic Englishman and prevented him from joining the elite club of Muhammad Ali, George Foreman and Vitali Klitschko, former heavyweight champions who had reclaimed titles following significant (and in Foreman’s case massive) layoffs. Many wondered if Fury would ever get over it. Would his mental health decline? Would he balloon up in weight again? Would he turn to booze and recreational drugs? Would we ever see him in a boxing ring after such a gut-wrenching setback?
“I’m an ambassador for mental health and I take a positive from every negative,” Fury told The Ring on Monday. “The first fight was a negative in hindsight, but it was a positive in life. It was a positive because I came back from the brink of no return. After three years out of the ring, I was back to my best and I beat the current WBC heavyweight champion. I didn’t get it on the scorecards, but it was a victory in my mind.
“Deontay Wilder now has to get back in the ring with ‘The Gypsy King’ for a second ass-whipping and I’m looking forward to handing him one. I’m gonna open a can of whup ass on this guy! I’m more active, I’ve had two years of activity, this is my sixth fight back and I’ll be ready.”
The rematch takes place at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on February 22. This will be Fury’s third consecutive bout in Sin City, following on from a second-round blast out of the unheralded Tom Schwarz in June and a gory 12-round decision over Otto Wallin in September. This time, however, it’s serious business and there have been major structural changes in camp, including a change of trainer and some physical and mental drills that you may have to read twice.
“I have changed a few things and that’s well-known in boxing circles,” said Fury, who split from coach Ben Davison last month. “I’ve brought in some new technicians, including (head-trainer Javan) ‘Sugar’ Hill. I had a big beautiful cake and all I needed to add was a little sugar.
“Also, I’ve brought in a Japanese sensei to help me with my senses and reactions. I’m actually training blindfolded 60-percent of the time to get my senses working as they should. After the long layoff, I was told that the senses don’t wake up properly with just time. You have to feel and sense things coming rather than seeing them sometimes. Also, we’ve gone back to old-school techniques, we’re doing the Scottish highland block throws for improving power. People may say it doesn’t work, but I’m a big believer in conditioning and it really does. I feel the power improving and you need to lift at an awkward angle – it’s not easy.”
So, all Fury has to do now is employ Morpheus from The Matrix and he’s good to go. But regardless of what changes he makes, can the former champion take away Wilder’s devastating right-hand shot completely? Can Fury neutralize the most dangerous punch in world boxing the same way he did Wladimir Klitschko’s left jab in November 2015? Wilder only needs one right hand, as evidenced by his ruthless 2019 knockouts over Dominic Breazeale (KO 1) and Luis Ortiz (KO 7).
“Can I take his right hand away?” Fury repeated, obviously aghast by the line of questioning. “That’s like asking Mr. Kipling (U.K. cake brand) if he can bake cakes. I’m a master boxer, so of course I can. Wilder doesn’t have a jab to set the right hand up. I’ll have much faster reactions this time and I’m going to give him the best boxing lesson he’s ever had. I’m going to take him back to school and I’m going to make Deontay Wilder say ‘no mas’ in front of the world.
“He has power and no boxing ability. He knocked Breazeale out in a round – great performance – but it didn’t bring him on any because it was a one-round knockout and he’s done that many times before. We knew what (Luis) Ortiz was gonna do [in the rematch], outbox him until he blows out. He held his feet and got knocked out. Wilder was losing every round on the cards and pulled out that lucky shot, but his luck is running out. He will not be scoring any KO with that right against me – no way Jose!”
As well as the WBC belt and Fury’s lineal status, the vacant Ring Magazine heavyweight championship will also be at stake in Wilder-Fury 2. Fury was the last fighter to hold that title, and while it was stripped from him due to inactivity in early 2018, the unbeaten 31-year-old is very eager to win it back.
“It would mean the world to me,” Fury said in earnest. “I’d be only the second heavyweight in history to [win] The Ring Magazine championship twice, behind Muhammad Ali (Note: Floyd Patterson also achieved this feat in 1960). It’s a very prestigious belt, it’s been around for a long, long time and I’ll proudly hold it high in victory on February 22. That would be a great achievement for me, and it would bring the lineal and Ring titles back together again.”
With Anthony Joshua having regained his IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight titles with a revenge win over one-hit wonder Andy Ruiz in December, the division is back to where it was this time last year. There are three kings and the boxing world is collectively praying for only one. Fury, who insists that his remaining time in the sport will be limited, offered a very short and direct hitlist.
“I want to beat Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua – that’s it,” he said when asked what dragons are left to slay. “If I beat Wilder and Joshua, I’ve cemented myself as the greatest heavyweight champion of my generation and that’s all a man can achieve.
“On February 22, I will smash Deontay Wilder into submission. I’m going to knock him out and then Joshua is all that’s left. But I’m also interested in becoming a blockbuster star in WrestleMania and fighting the UFC heavyweight champion in a crossover match. We’re only interested in massive events, historic events, game-changing events.”
When it comes to Tyson Fury – you can always expect the unexpected.
The Ring would like to extend thanks and appreciation to Melissa Takimoglu of MeltPR for her assistance in making this interview possible. You can follow MeltPR on Twitter: @MeltPR
Tom Gray is Associate Editor for Ring Magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing