Deontay Wilder’s only hope vs. Tyson Fury is one big punch

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If any fighter in history has had a puncher’s chance – and only a puncher’s chance – it’s Deontay Wilder against Tyson Fury on Saturday.

Wilder, who lost his heavyweight title when Fury brutally stopped him in seven rounds 19-plus months ago, is saying the right things. Training has gone well, he’s gone back to the fundamentals, he’s in sync with his new trainer, he’s in a good frame of mind and so on.

All that might be true. Here’s Wilder’s problem, though: Fury remains the better and bigger fighter, a fact that can get lost in all the pre-fight hype. That’s a difficult one-two punch to overcome.

And Fury already has demonstrated his dominance over the former champion, which could be a factor in the upcoming fight. The beating Wilder took in February of last year was thorough. I presume his body has healed but I wonder about his mind.

What is he going to be thinking when he’s face to face with the man who dismantled him the last time they were in the ring?

Heavyweight history tells us that it’s possible for Wilder to turn the tables. Joe Louis was beaten up by Max Schmeling at 22 but annihilated him the rematch. Floyd Patterson went down seven times in a KO loss to Ingemar Johansson only to stop the Swede in their subsequent two fights. Lennox Lewis avenged his two knockout losses with stoppages of his own. And, most recently, Anthony Joshua defeated Andy Ruiz Jr. after losing by knockout in their first fight.

And let’s not forget: Wilder put Fury down twice in their first meeting, a draw in December 2018. He knows he can fight Fury on roughly even terms because he has already done it.

However, none of these examples is parallel to the challenge Wilder faces on Saturday.

  • Louis had 11 subsequent bouts to regain his confidence and mature as a fighter before facing Schmeling again. Wilder is getting directly back into the ring with Fury.

  • Patterson, a small heavyweight, was hurt and couldn’t recover in the first fight with the bigger Johansson. He was a far more talented fighter than his rival, which became obvious in their second and third fights. Wilder isn’t as talented as Fury.

  • Lewis wasn’t beaten up in his losses to Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman; he got caught with one deciding blow against both of them. Wilder took a prolonged pounding.

  • Joshua won the rematch with Ruiz by boxing carefully. Wilder couldn’t do that against Fury.

  • And while we can’t dismiss the first meeting between Fury and Wilder it’s important to point out that Fury was in the process of returning from a 2½-year layoff and used a less-effective strategy. In the first fight, he boxed. In the rematch, he used his size to bully Wilder. You can bet Fury will be aggressive again.

All this is why I believe the fight on Saturday could resemble the second George Foreman-Joe Frazier or Sonny Liston-Floyd Patterson fights. Foreman knocked out Frazier in two rounds in the first fight, five in the second. And Liston put Patterson away in the first round twice.

Frazier and Patterson simply didn’t match up well with their nemeses. Foreman was too big and strong for his fellow power puncher. And Patterson was always going to have problems with Liston’s combination of ability and physical superiority.

I feel Fury, like Foreman and Liston, has the tools and now the blue print to dominate Wilder no matter how many times they fight. He’ll use his 40-pound weight advantage by taking the fight to Wilder and denying the era’s biggest puncher the distance he needs to land big shots.

Now, it’s important to add something here: Wilder’s power is no joke. There’s a reason that he has 41 knockouts in 44 fights and it’s not just the level of opposition. The reality is that he could take out Fury with the right punch at any moment.

And I won’t be shocked if it happens. I’ve seen good big men go to sleep too many times.

Which leads me back to the first sentence in this column. Wilder has a puncher’s chance to regain a portion of the heavyweight championship at T-Mobile Arena. That’s another way of saying that he’s a longshot to beat a much better fighter.

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