Tyson Fury has never been one to underestimate his own ability, but the Mancunian giant known as the Gypsy King is positively brimming with confidence before Saturday night’s hotly anticipated rematch with Deontay Wilder for the American’s WBC heavyweight title on the Las Vegas strip.
Even as the odds have drifted in Wilder’s direction with the frigid desert wind at the MGM Grand sports book at the outset of fight week, the challenger’s self-assurance has seemed to redouble by the day as the return engagement with the fighter from Alabama draws nearer.
The conventional wisdom suggests that Fury would be well advised to reprise the tactics from their inconclusive first encounter, when he spent most of the evening boxing Wilder’s ears off with erratic feints, a stubbornly effective jab and deft upper-body movement belying his towering 6ft 9in frame. Even after suffering knockdowns in the ninth and 12th rounds – the latter of which left him seemingly unconscious on descent – the former heavyweight title-holder got off the deck each time to arguably get the better of the exchanges until the bell.
But Fury (29-0-1, 20 KOs) will never be a poster boy for adherence to convention, as a prizefighter or as a man, and spoke at length of his intent to deliver a decisive outcome on Saturday that flies in the face of fistic logic.
“Because it’s Las Vegas and I want to put on a show,” he said. “I want a knockout this time. I’d prefer to go down swinging than outboxing him and not getting the decision. That means I’ve lost. Draw equals loss to me. Rather than lose then I’ll go out swinging. I’m not getting an unfair decision this time. I’m going to make it so I’m in control and I take it out of anybody’s hand.”
Both Wilder (42-0-1, 41 KOs) and Fury have won two fights apiece in the 15 months since they settled for a white-knuckle split draw at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, staying on course for the blockbuster rematch even as Anthony Joshua, holder of the division’s other three belts which in another lifetime belonged to Fury (and which he never lost in the ring), surrendered and regained in a pair of outings with Andy Ruiz Jr.
Fury said the decision to change tactics for the rematch was made long ago, even before he replaced Ben Davison, the astute young trainer who marshalled his astonishing comeback from a personal abyss, with the Kronk Gym alumnus SugarHill Steward.
“Straightaway after the last result,” he said. “I knew coming back to America that I couldn’t come on a whim again and get a fair decision. Deontay Wilder is the only heavyweight champion America has had in a long time and he is the longest reigning since Muhammad Ali and they don’t want to let him go. But the Gypsy King is going to dethrone him, rip his heart out and feed it to him.”
Fury’s first fight with Wilder was all the more implausible as it came on the heels of his very public bout with addiction and bipolar disorder, a 31-month layoff when he surrendered all the belts he won from Wladimir Klitschko while swelling from 260lb to nearly 400lb. Since then he has become an improbable champion for mental illness and cuts a far more sympathetic figure in public life than when he made headlines for his archaic views on women and homosexuals – but he can still go blue when the promotion calls.
“I look at Wilder and I don’t see a tough fight,” he said. “I see a long-legged pussy that I’m going to break in. I am going to give him his first loss. That’s what I’m going to do to Deontay Wilder.”
Lowbrow broadsides are almost always in service of salesmanship for an event that is expected to do big business on both sides of the pond. But Fury’s unsparing dissection of Wilder’s ledger will no doubt make its way into the 34-year-old champion’s camp across town.
“People go on about his knockout power and him being the biggest puncher in heavyweight history but who you have fought counts,” he said. “Honestly, over here in America they call his level of opposition ‘tomato cans’. He has only had probably seven competitive fights, where people have actually tried to fight back. The rest were duck-egg dummies, only there to fall over.”
Fury, who turned 30 in August, pointed to the character-building fights he went through on the way up, citing his wins over John McDermott for the English title (in his eighth pro fight) and Dereck Chisora for the British and Commonwealth title (in his 15th) among others. That, he said, is where the 2008 Olympic bronze medallist is lacking.
“Over here fighters get built to 20-0 by beating opponents who don’t fight back,” he said. “Building your record up is not all that, it does not impress me because it has been done over here and places like Germany a million times. If you are fighting and knocking out real opposition that would impress me, but I look at Wilder’s resumé and he has fought a few former football players, a few has-beens and a load of bums.
“The only good man he has ever faced was me after three years out and I was as weak as a robin at 17st 11oz with two shoulders on me like coathangers, and he still could not beat me then.”