Okay, heavyweight boxing, here it is. Here is your chance. Youve got our attention.
Youve found two legitimate stars, fine fighters and compelling characters who are the perfect foil for each other.
Youve got the right matchup, with an historically explosive knockout master up against a defensive wizard who knows how to hurl leather of his own.
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Youve got a pair of undefeateds who have, either by circumstance or design, developed a blistering seam of acrimony and beef between themselves.
In short, youre giving us the heavyweight fight weve waited 20 years for, and, in return, youre getting a chance to throw things back to a time when the big guys ruled the fight game and were among the biggest stars in sports.
Were rooting for you. Now, just dont mess it up.
Who are you putting your on? @Tyson_Fury is the *slightest* of favorites over the @BronzeBomber going into Saturday night.
Buy #WilderFury2 PPV: https://t.co/auWEj0MpeHpic.twitter.com/yowBxgsN1w
— FOX Sports: PBC (@PBConFOX) February 20, 2020
When Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury step into the ring at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday (9 p.m. ET; order now on FOX pay-per-view), it will be 447 days since they first did battle in a remarkable draw in Los Angeles and a virtual eternity since there was a heavyweight bout America cared this much about.
Wilder, the outrageously powerful, concrete-fisted Alabaman, was behind on the scorecards going into the final round of the first duel before sending Fury tumbling with a crushing one-two that looked set to turn the lights out at Staples Center.
However, Fury did the unthinkable by opening his eyes fully at the count of five, forcing his way back to his feet, and hearing something most Wilder opponents dont the bell to end the fight. Many thought he had done more than enough in the earlier rounds to get the decision, but it was ruled a draw.
Everyone thought it was over. Until it wasn’t. @BronzeBomber and @Tyson_Fury look back at the EPIC 12th Round from their first fight with @heyitsmarcosv.
Will anyone go down and stay down tomorrow night? #WilderFury2pic.twitter.com/M8a5RjPANt
— FOX Sports: PBC (@PBConFOX) February 21, 2020
I know I won, and Wilder knows I won, Fury said. He needed to knock me out in the last round to win and he couldnt do it. Forget about the judges, we both know who the better man was and it will be again.
Wilder and Fury shoved each other angrily at the press conference on Wednesday, leading to the laughable ruling from the Nevada State Athletic Commission that they would be banned from conducting the traditional face-off after Fridays weigh in.
If anything, it only increases the anticipation. The pair have talked a lot in the lead up to Saturday and in some ways have talked the clash, for Wilders WBC belt, into a greater sense of relevance. Super Bowl ads were part of a big promotional push, with the fight a collaboration between rival promoters Bob Arum and Al Haymon.
We won’t see this again until tomorrow night!
The NSAC has barred both fighters from facing off at the weigh-in after their press conference shoving match.
Watch the #WilderFury2 weigh-ins today at 6pm ET/3pm PT, live on @FS1. pic.twitter.com/SZVIbFo6FN
— FOX Sports: PBC (@PBConFOX) February 21, 2020
Some of the chatter has been questionable. Wilder has spoken of wishing to have a body on my record. Fury, who takes clowning to a whole new level, talked of how a vital part of his fight preparations was to perform a certain act on his wife.
When I knock you out, go do stand-up comedy, Wilder told him. You got a future there.
None of it has reduced the buzz. The modern world has a voracious appetite for hype and will accept and maybe enjoy even the most outrageous comments in the name of promotion. And for boxing, there lies the simmering, tantalizing potential that this could be the one, the fight that breaks the sport back into the mainstream.
We talk about the golden age of the heavyweight division, The Athletics Lance Pugmire told me. Well, this is a golden opportunity to get back there, or close to it. The division felt like it fell asleep for a long time. Now, you have this perfect mix: two larger-than-life figures, great fighters, who matchup in a way that guarantees a great battle.
I have had some interactions with each man. Before the money and the bombast, in 2008, I covered Wilder at the Beijing Olympics, back when he was a complete unknown only three years into boxing. As the United States team floundered amid tension between the coaching staff and the fighters, Wilder kept his mouth shut and his guard up, and came away with the teams only medal, a bronze.
He was quietly spoken back then, none of the trash talk or screams or entourage. He was shy almost, having gotten into boxing to help pay for his infant daughters medical treatment, and didnt know what the future held.
After his quarterfinal win, Wilder walked through the media interview area, and had to step around his opponent Mohammad Arjaoui, who he had just beaten via controversial countback. Arjaoui, while trying to explain his loss to hordes of Moroccan journalists, was howling with anguish, tears streaming down his face.
He okay? questioned Wilder, to an official. You can only wonder what hype value the Wilder of today might extract from having reduced a rival to such a state.
“This time around he’ll have the same game plan, but added patience and composure… We’ll see the best Deontay Wilder that we’ve ever seen in this fight.”@ShowtimeShawnP on adjustments @BronzeBomber will make in #WilderFury2pic.twitter.com/Xe59t3RDMZ
— FOX Sports: PBC (@PBConFOX) February 21, 2020
As for Fury, even when he beat Wladimir Klitschko in 2015 to become champion, his life was understated, to say the least.
No private jets and five-figure suits back then after winning the title in Germany his group drove through the Netherlands and Belgium in order to take a passenger ferry home, as it was more financially expedient than flying.
Fury had agreed to an interview with me at the ferry terminal. The only problem was, he had mistakenly thought he was leaving from the same Belgian city that hed arrived at a week earlier.
And so, as his scheduled boat ride departed 60 miles away, bemused onlookers on a rainy afternoon at Zeebrugge ferry port were treated to the sight of a giant man with three title belts trying frantically to rebook his trip home.
None of them seemed to know who he was. Even in Belgium, they probably do now.
“Deontay Wilder’s got mental issues at the moment because he’s hit me with his best two punches, it put me down and I got back up. That psychologically has to have an affect on him.”@Tyson_Fury believes he’s in the @BronzeBomber’s head #WilderFury2pic.twitter.com/4404chwByZ
— FOX Sports: PBC (@PBConFOX) February 20, 2020
As fight night approaches, there is already talk of a trilogy clash next year, and the way Wilder and Fury have taken over the heavyweight landscape has pushed Anthony Joshua, who seemed set to rule the division, aside.
Joshua looms as a mouthwatering opponent for whoever wins this weekend, but for now, it is all about these two the ones, who, after all this time, are making us care about the heavyweights again.
They are both unapologetic. Wilder is fearlessly loud and revels in the reality that being able to render a human unconscious more effectively than anyone else alive gives you a certain kind of aura. Fury is willfully outlandish, from his clothes to his comments, permanently goofy outside the ring but utterly focused within it.
It is a fight boxing deserves, one we were waiting for even when we didnt know it. It has that special feel to it, the one heavyweight fights were missing for far too long. Its here now.