The big fight: In Fury, Wilder faces true heavyweight equal
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Deontay Wilder has waited a decade for the chance to pick on somebody his own size.
Wilder (40-0, 39 KOs) is the most accomplished American heavyweight boxer of his era, a superb athlete with vicious punching power and a reckless streak. The Olympic medalist has stopped every man who ever stepped in the professional ring with him, following up his lone decision victory with a knockout in the first round of the rematch.
Yet even the 32-year-old Wilder agrees he had never fought anyone approaching his own stature — not in physical size, but in boxing achievement — until quite recently. He has built his career with sometimes confounding deliberateness, taking his time to learn the sport he only picked up as a 20-year-old after moving on from football and basketball in his native Alabama.
“Everybody has their appointed time,” Wilder said this week. “My time is now.”
When Wilder steps into the Staples Center ring to defend his WBC title against Britain’s Tyson Fury (27-0, 19 KOs) on Saturday night, he finally has the right opponent on the right stage at the right moment. Fury is the lineal champion of the heavyweight division, thanks to his shocking victory over Wladimir Klitschko in 2015, and his showdown with Wilder is probably the most important heavyweight bout since .
The pay-per-view Hollywood spotlight encapsulates everything Wilder has craved for years, even when he knew he wasn’t ready.
“So much emotion is running through my body right now,” Wilder said. “I was ready for this 10 weeks ago. We only went through a training camp because we didn’t want to get stale. I didn’t need it. I’ve been ready for so long.”
The 6-foot-7 American is actually the smaller man in this bout against the 6-foot-9 Fury, whose pure bulk obscures his nimble feet and excellent technique.
Punching up is a new feeling for Wilder, both inside and outside the ring, but he can’t wait to try it.
“This is bringing me close to my goal to be the one face, the one voice of the heavyweight division,” Wilder said. “America has needed a heavyweight champion like me for years. This is my time.”
Wilder took another big step toward his ultimate goal earlier this year when he came back from an early knockdown to stop highly regarded Luis Ortiz in an entertaining finish. When British three-belt champ Anthony Joshua refused his advances this summer, Wilder booked a bout with the resurgent Fury, whose career foundered amid drug abuse and depression after his victory over Klitschko.
Fury has enough fame and success in boxing-mad England to match up favorably outside the ring with Wilder, and the Manchester native sees this matchup in quite different terms.
“Wilder needs me, make no mistake,” Fury said. “He’s been champion since 2015, he’s made seven defenses, but he’s still unknown. So what do they need to do? Bring in a big-mouthed Brit, the best fighter in the world, and let him get his (tail) kicked. He’ll become known. He’ll get a good hiding from Tyson Fury, and he can rebuild himself. … Everyone will love the story, but he’s just not ready to get past me. This is too much for him.”
Fury has fought twice since his 2 ½-year ring hiatus, both times against overmatched foes. But he is reinvested in his career after moving his training base to California, and he radiates confidence as he resumes his pursuit of the title belts he lost during his absence.
Wilder sees Fury as a heavyweight whose record was even less impressive than his own before that shocking victory over the 39-year-old Klitschko.
“You only have confidence because Klitschko didn’t throw punches,” Wilder said to Fury during their final news conference.
Wilder and Fury seem almost certain to put on an entertaining show, and not just because of their compelling public appearances — the most recent of which ended with Fury ripping off his shirt after nearly coming to blows with Wilder on stage.
Wilder’s style is occasionally awkward, but he loves action and realizes his best chance to win every fight is with the knockout power in his heavy hands.
Fury is an excellent boxer who could frustrate Wilder for long stretches, yet he also loves to discard caution in favor of a good brawl.
“I’ve been looking for somebody to knock me out my whole life,” Fury said. “I haven’t found him yet. I don’t think I’ll find him Saturday night.”