Deontay Wilder sees changes in Tyson Fury's camp as a sign of weakness

Kevin IoleCombat columnist
Yahoo Sports
Deontay Wilder, left, and Tyson Fury face off for photographers during a news conference for their upcoming WBC heavyweight championship boxing match, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)
Deontay Wilder, left, and Tyson Fury face off for photographers during a news conference for their upcoming WBC heavyweight championship boxing match, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

LAS VEGAS — Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder have looked at the same set of facts and come up with radically different opinions.

Fury remains unbeaten, and heads into his rematch for the WBC and lineal heavyweight title on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena against Wilder with a 29-0-1 record and 20 knockouts.

When the bell rings, though, he’ll have the third different trainer in his corner in his last five fights.

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Javan “Sugarhill” Steward, the nephew of the late legendary trainer Emanuel Steward, has taken over as Fury’s lead trainer from Ben Davison, who worked in Fury’s corner for the first fight with Wilder on Dec. 1, 2018, as well as for his 2019 bouts with Tom Schwarz and Otto Wallin.

Fury and Davison remain friends, and Fury credits Davison for having helped him through some of his lowest days, when he was battling mental health issues and contemplating suicide. 

But Fury looked at his performance against Wilder and, to a lesser degree, against Schwarz and Wallin, and wasn’t satisfied.

“I am a winner and that is what I have done all my life and that’s what I intend to do on Saturday night,” Fury said. “I fought that first fight against Wilder and I didn’t win. I got a draw, so what I did wasn’t good enough. I’m not satisfied with a draw. I am putting myself through all of this to win, to prove I am the best, and not to get a draw. So what do you do when something isn’t good enough and doesn’t work? You make a change.”

Since he first stepped into a boxing ring in October 2005, when he was a 19-year-old waiter and beer truck delivery driver, the only thing Wilder has changed has been his socks and underwear. 

Jay Deas was his trainer on his first day and will be, Wilder said, his trainer on the day he walks away from the sport. Mark Breland has been the assistant all that time. Damarius “Coach Cuz” Hill is also a long-time member of the squad and owns the New Era Gym where Wilder trains.

Wilder looks at the changes Fury made almost as a sign of weakness, and dropped a hilarious malaprop in the process.

“If it’s broken, why fix it?” he said.

Tyson Fury and his trainer Javon "SugarHill" Steward attend a news conference for Fury-Wilder II on Wednesday in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)
Tyson Fury and his trainer Javon "SugarHill" Steward attend a news conference for Fury-Wilder II on Wednesday in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

Wilder is the Pittsburgh Steelers of employing trainers. The Steelers, after years of changing coaches, hired Chuck Noll in 1969 and he remained their coach until he retired in 1991. Bill Cowher took over in 1992 and stayed as coach until 2007, when Mike Tomlin replaced him.

The Cleveland Browns, by contrast, have had four head coaches since 2018.

That kind of turnover mystifies Wilder and is counterproductive in his view.

“He has a lot of things going on,” Wilder said of Fury. “It’s nothing to hide in the dark, especially dealing with his camp and different things like that. That’s why you see a lot of nervous energy from him bringing people in, changing up so many different things. You already know what the saying or the phrase is? If it’s broken, why fix it?”

OK, so he meant if it’s not broken, why fix it, but his point is taken.

Fury, though, has had a relationship with Steward for nearly 10 years. Fury’s cousin, former middleweight title-holder Andy Lee, was trained and managed by Emanuel Steward at the Kronk Gym in Detroit. In 2010, Fury spent several months at Kronk working with Emanuel and became acquainted with his nephew.

He was known as Javan Hill at the time, but changed his name to Steward out of respect because he said Emanuel was a father figure to him.

Javan Steward stepped into a difficult situation because if things go radically wrong, much of the blame is going to go onto his shoulders.

But he said he just continued the work that his uncle began with Fury in 2010.

“Emanuel saw something in Tyson and he spent a lot of time with him, and I have just kind of taken what he’s done and continued to work on that,” Javan Steward said.

In 2012 as he was in Austria in training camp with then-heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, Emanuel gave an interview less than four months before his death in which he raved about both Fury and Wilder.

“There’s one kid in America that no one speaks of, and that’s Deontay Wilder,” Emanuel Steward said on June 20, 2012. “He was on the Olympic team … and I had the fortune that he came and trained with me, too. He’s a big kid. He’s bigger than Wladimir, too, but he’s got good speed and power. 

“I think the best talents are going to be Tyson and Deontay Wilder.”

More than seven years after his death, Steward seems omniscient, as he correctly predicted the identity of the two best heavyweights.

They will battle for supremacy in the division on Saturday, each with his own way of doing business but both with the same goal.

“It’s all about going out and getting the job done and getting that ‘W’ and getting back home safely to your family,” Wilder said. “The way I choose to do things works for me. The people who have been with me know me and I know them and they are going to be the people who are with me when this ride comes to an end. That’s who I am.

“If he’s so confident, why does he have to change so many things up? New trainer, new cutman, a [nutritionist], all these things he’s done changed. He wouldn’t need to make them changes if he really felt he won that fight and if he was confident in what he’s doing. But if he feels that’s what is best for him, then he should do it. I know my way works for me.”

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