year ago Tyson Fury’s weight had ballooned to nearly 29 stone after his licence to box had been withdrawn and he had vacated his three world heavyweight titles. Twelve months later and he is poised to complete a remarkable return to the top and set up a mouthwatering clash with the sport’s superstar, Anthony Joshua.
Fury has not faced a proper test since producing the best performance of his career to beat Wladimir Klitschko in Germany in 2015, but he has looked surprisingly sharp against two vastly inferior opponents in his two comeback fights this year and, being only 30, should still have plenty of rounds left in the tank.
With Fury’s training camps going well, he looks in far better shape both physically and mentally than many were expecting and, while few fighters polarise public opinion in the same way as the Englishman, his skills inside the ring should not be called into question.
His opponent, Deontay Wilder, won the WBC title in 2015 to become the first American heavyweight champion in nearly a decade and has cut a swathe through this division, winning 39 of his 40 professional fights inside the distance. The fight will feature a fascinating clash of styles. Will the boxer beat the puncher?
Fury has a two-inch advantage in height and reach over Wilder and is expected to weigh in around two-stone heavier for this contest. He is unlikely to surprise tactically and will attempt to use his physical attributes and long jab to keep Wilder at distance not only in the early stages but throughout the contest.
It’s clear from a bookmakers’ perspective who is most likely to finish the bout early, with Fury a best-priced 100/1 to win in the first round and 12/1 to be victorious in the first six rounds, while the biggest price about Wilder winning before any fighter has sat on his stool is 33/1. He is just 4/1 to taste glory in the first half of the fight.
There will be plenty of punters backing Wilder to strike early, with the unbeaten American failing to stop only one of his opponents. However, the vast majority of his bouts have been against shorter men with shorter reaches and, while he will have undoubtedly sparred with some giants in the build-up to this, it is not hard to envisage that he might take a few rounds to size up the man in the opposite corner.
Wilder does not have the acumen to outskill Fury but the power he possesses means he will pose a threat at every moment in every round, and it is interesting to note that the American is shortest in price to win the fight during rounds 5-8 (round five 20/1, round six 16/1, round seven 16/1 and round eight 20/1).
If the fight is to finish during this period, Wilder is again the man most likely to have his hands raised in the centre of the ring, but it also might be worth noting that he has looked most under threat of losing during this period, barely surviving a seventh-round onslaught in his last fight with Luis Ortiz.
If Wilder has not found a way past Fury’s stiff jab and is finding him elusive to hit, he could start to be feeling desperate as the fight enters the latter stages.
Fight to the finish
It’s in the final three rounds that the prices of these two men to win begin to converge with Wilder priced at 10/1 to win in rounds 10-12 and Fury available at around 16/1.
Wilder has been forced to fight just six times past round seven since he turned professional in 2008, but those have all come during his last eight bouts. That suggests that the higher he progresses up boxing’s foodchain, the longer he is taking to put away his opponents and the harder he is finding it to unleash his power.
However, that is as it should be and in a fully focused Fury, Wilder faces easily his biggest test in the ring. Fury will be expecting to take this fight to the scorecards and it is only the worry of a tight call and the prospect of a hometown decision that could force him out of his comfort zone late on.
Fury was a 4/1 underdog when he beat Klitschko to become heavyweight champion in 2015 and is again the outsider here to complete a sensational comeback. Odds of 11/8 about a Fury win provides superb value given that his boxing ability is on a different level to Wilder, while Fury to win on points at 5/2 is also a must play.
It’s hard to imagine the American will win this fight on points if it were to go the distance but he must always be feared, and fans of the American should probably be tempted by the 4/1 about him winning between rounds 7-12.
“If it goes the distance then it belongs to Tyson Fury,” Lewis said. “If it’s a short fight it will belong to Deontay Wilder.”
“The only thing against him is he’d had a long lay-off (of almost three years), and he’s not boxed anywhere near the class he needs to now,” McDermott, the last fighter said to have beaten Fury, told Press Association Sport.
“If he’d had another two fights, a bit of a step-up in class – but I still think he’s going to win on points.
“Fury’s not a renowned knockout specialist like (Anthony) Joshua or Wilder, but his boxing skills are too good for both of them.