Heavyweight legends pick the winner of Deontay Wilder vs. Tyson Fury title fight

Kevin IoleCombat columnist
Yahoo Sports
Tyson Fury (L) and Deontay Wilder face off, Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018, during a boxing news conference in New York. The pair are slated to square off in a world heavyweight title showdown in Los Angeles on Dec, 1. (AP)
Tyson Fury (L) and Deontay Wilder face off, Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018, during a boxing news conference in New York. The pair are slated to square off in a world heavyweight title showdown in Los Angeles on Dec, 1. (AP)

Gerry Cooney was once in Deontay Wilder’s shoes. In 1982, Cooney was 25-0 with 22 knockouts and coming off a devastating first-round stoppage of future Hall of Famer Ken Norton.

On June 11, 1982, the popular slugger met heavyweight champion Larry Holmes for the title in one of the most contentious bouts in years.

Cooney was the slugger who had left a trail of broken bodies in his wake, including Ron Lyle and Jimmy Young. Cooney gave Holmes a run for his money, but was stopped in the 13th round of a scheduled 15-rounder.

The affable heavyweight fought only five more times after that, going 3-2, before retiring. He’s now a boxing analyst for SiriusXM and was one of many current and former heavyweights surveyed for his pick on Saturday’s heavyweight title fight at Staples Center in Los Angeles between Wilder and lineal champion Tyson Fury.

[Related: Will Anthony Joshua fight the winner of Fury-Wilder?]

Cooney didn’t equivocate as many of his peers did. He’s a Wilder man.

“I love Tyson Fury,” Cooney said. “I think he’s a remarkable self-promoter, and he did a great job with Wladimir Klitschko, using his feints and throwing Klitschko off his game plan. Deontay is a different kind of fighter, though. Fury fights at 30 miles per hour. Deontay fights at 100 miles per hour. So, when Deontay catches Fury and gets ahold of him, I think it’s going to be over.

“I admire Fury, but I think he’s barking up the wrong tree with this fight. I think the bottom line is that Deontay is a whole different type of beast. He comes in aggressive and finishes his opponents. I hate to pick, but somebody has to lose. I’m picking Deontay by knockout and I think it ends inside of four or five rounds.”

George Foreman, who defeated Cooney in what would be Cooney’s final bout, also predicts a Wilder victory.

While Big George thinks Fury’s height will cause Wilder trouble, he thinks the WBC champion will find a way to overcome that.

“I am a big fan of Deontay Wilder and I was impressed with Tyson Fury and how he avoided the big shots against Wladimir Klitschko,” Foreman said. “I can see him going 12 rounds with Wilder because of his height and reach. The great thing about this fight is that we’re all talking about it. I think Wilder wins a close decision.”

Tyson Fury (R) dethroned Wladimir Klitschko in a 12-round decision to become world heavyweight champion. (Getty Images)
Tyson Fury (R) dethroned Wladimir Klitschko in a 12-round decision to become world heavyweight champion. (Getty Images)

Riddick Bowe, who defeated Evander Holyfield in an epic battle on Nov. 13, 1992, is another on the Wilder bandwagon.

A 2015 inductee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, Bowe took Wilder assuming Wilder has the necessary intensity.

“If Wilder comes out and means business, then he should beat Fury with ease,” Bowe said. “My prediction is Wilder by knockout!”

Holyfield, Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson were all more equivocal. All three Hall of Famers saw a path to victory for each man.

Tyson noted Fury’s history of overcoming depression and mental illness that had him on the brink of suicide, and said that toughness will be a factor in Saturday’s match.

“Although Wilder’s punch is strong, nothing can compare to the mental strength Fury has shown, both in and out of the ring,” Tyson said. “It’ll be a close call, but I think Fury’s got a true fighting chance.”

Lewis, who dominated Tyson in a mega-bout in 2002, said the fight favors Fury the longer it goes.

“If it goes the distance, then it belongs to Tyson Fury,” said Lewis, who will be the lead boxing analyst on Fox when it begins its partnership with the Premier Boxing Champions on Dec 22. “If it’s a short fight, it will belong to Deontay Wilder. This is an epic and most-unpredictable showdown. I can’t wait for this fight.”

Holyfield also saw opportunities for each.

“It’s a great fight,” Holyfield said. “Fury’s got a lot of skills. He’s awkward and he has long arms. He has good reflexes and is a strong counter-puncher. Deontay needs to be first and he can’t wait on Tyson. Tyson’s always been the bigger fighter. In fighting Deontay, it’s the same case. If things get difficult, he’s [Fury] got more experience and a lot of tricks. I think with Deontay’s power, he might be able to end it early, but if Tyson can frustrate him and it goes the distance, then it could go his way.”

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