Classic clash of techniques

American Deontay Wilder and Briton Tyson Fury facing off on stage during their last press conference on Wednesday ahead of today's rematch for the WBC heavyweight world championship in Las Vegas, Nevada. After exchanging shoves, they hurled insults a
American Deontay Wilder and Briton Tyson Fury facing off on stage during their last press conference on Wednesday ahead of today's rematch for the WBC heavyweight world championship in Las Vegas, Nevada. After exchanging shoves, they hurled insults at each other. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Wilder's KO power v Fury's defensive style expected to generate over 2m pay-per-views

LAS VEGAS • The most-anticipated showdown in nearly two decades will transfix the boxing world in Las Vegas today, when unbeaten WBC champion Deontay Wilder faces Tyson Fury in a long-awaited rematch.

In what is the biggest heavyweight collision since Lennox Lewis bludgeoned Mike Tyson into submission in 2002, the duo go head-to-head 14 months after battling to a draw in Los Angeles.

At the centre of the action are two of heavyweight boxing's most charismatic and skilful protagonists, the hard-hitting American "Bronze Bomber" Wilder and Fury, the eccentric, self-styled "Gypsy King" from England.

Both men will be taking unbeaten records into the 12-round contest, with the 34-year-old Wilder looking to add Fury's name to a tally which reads 42-0 with one draw and 41 knockouts.

The fight is a classic clash of styles, pitting Wilder's devastating knockout power against the more elusive, mobile defensive style of Fury, 31.

Tickets for today's bout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas have been changing hands for up to US$11,000 (S$15,400).

Promoters have also predicted that the event could generate more than two million pay-per-view sales in the United States alone.

In their first fight in Los Angeles, Fury recovered from two knockdowns to claim a draw, miraculously climbing off the canvas in the 12th round to hang on for a share of the spoils.

Until that final knockdown, he had been on course to snatch victory, outfoxing Wilder with a defensive masterclass which had the American unleashing wild haymakers at thin air.

Fury (29-0-1, 20 knockouts) has spent the build-up to today's rematch promising to adopt a more aggressive approach, insisting he is targeting an early knockout.

"My own destiny lies within my own two fists," he said.

"I'll be letting them fly very aggressively.

"The mistake I made last time was not making him pay when he was hurt.

"This time when I get him hurt, I'll throw everything but the kitchen sink at him and he won't know what hit him."

But the British fighter is not renowned for raw knockout punching power. There are also question marks over his build-up.

He required more than 40 stitches to patch up a horrific cut over his right eye in a laboured victory over Otto Wallin in his last fight in September.

That was followed by a split with trainer Ben Davison, who had successfully guided his comeback in 2018 after a three-year hiatus spent battling depression, drink and drug problems.

Wilder's preparations for the rematch have rolled along relatively smoothly.

He demolished Dominic Breazeale in one round last May, and then scored a spectacular one-punch seventh-round knockout of Cuba's Luis Ortiz in November.

A relaxed-sounding Wilder is sceptical of Fury's vows to pursue a more aggressive game plan, and in any case doubts the Briton possesses the power to carry it out.

"I don't believe nothing Fury says at this moment in time," he said.

"He's just a tall big man that can move around the ring. And that's about it. As far as power, there's none there."

Meanwhile, the Nevada State Athletic Commission did not allow the fighters to stand toe-to-toe yesterday as is customary after a weigh-in.

The decision comes after the pair pushed each other on stage at the outset of a news conference at the MGM Grand on Wednesday.

After exchanging shoves, they shouted insults at each other that were more hostile than before.

As the event was winding down, it was announced that they would not face off again for pictures.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2020, with the headline 'Classic clash of techniques'. Print Edition | Subscribe