By: Kirk Jackson
This past weekend was a coronation for the “Gypsy King,” Tyson Fury (30-0-1, 21 KO’s), his legion of supporters and for detractors of Deontay Wilder (42-1-1, 41 KO’s).
Fury, executed his game-plan perfectly, providing life to what he and many others of the Fury camp prophesized leading into the rematch this past weekend.
“A big shout out to Deontay Wilder. He came here tonight and he manned up and he really did show the heart of a champion,” said Fury post-fight.
“I hit him with a clean right that dropped him and he got back up. He is a warrior. He will be back. He will be champion again. But I will say, the king has returned to the top of the throne!”
Yes, Fury has reclaimed his throne as the best heavyweight in the world, pummeling who was considered the other best heavyweight in the process. Although there is another great champion back over in the United Kingdom, unified WBA, WBO and IBF champion Anthony Joshua (23-1, 21 KO’s), the consensus heading into the significant fight this past weekend was Fury and Wilder were the two best fighters in the division.
Even in spite of the criticisms of Wilder’s technical abilities, as many fans, critics, fellow fighters have criticized Wilder often in the past for not resembling a classically trained pugilist. In wake of his defeat, a hailstorm of criticism has unleashed on Wilder, some detractors even questioning how he became world champion in the first place.
Fans, critics and writers from over the pond may want to keep in mind, the more they diminish the skills and greatness of Wilder, the more it takes away from Fury’s accomplishment. For those standing firm behind the assessment of Wilder cannot fight and is unskilled, this very same fighter dropped Fury twice in their first encounter. This very same fighter is an Olympic medalist and earned the praise of legendary trainer Emanuel Steward, uncle of Fury’s current trainer Javan “SugarHill” Steward.
The late Steward was quoted as saying, “There’s one kid in America no one speaks of and that’s Deontay Wilder. He was on the Olympic Team (United States) he lost but he’s a big kid.”
“I’ve had the fortune of; he has trained with me before, he’s a big kid too, bigger than Wladimir (Klitschko) and he’s got good speed and power and best talent… and best talent is going to be Tyson (Fury) and Deontay Wilder.”
Funny how Steward predicted what would eventually unfold as reality with Fury and Wilder.
Leading into their first encounter and the rematch, Fury was painted as the sympathetic figure, due to his battles with mental health, depression and self-inflicted drug abuse. He battled back into fighting shape and dethroned another long-term champion/king in Wilder.
Fury is a deserving recipient for his triumphs and serves as an inspiration for many. He displayed class in victory, afterwards wishing a swift recovery and good health to Wilder.
It wasn’t that long ago Wilder sent inspiring words to Fury, when “The Gyspy King” battled depression and thoughts of suicide.
As Fury can attest to, the path to redemption is a long one. As ESPN analyst Andre Ward eloquently pointed out, paraphrasing, Wilder established his reign based on punching power and intimidation. And questioned when facing an opponent who isn’t afraid and can find a way to negate the power, what’s the next option?
For Wilder, people are needed across the team, who will be honest, who will point out and work on deficiencies – even at this late stage in the game (Wilder is 34-years-old). But due to this tall order, that task will be much more difficult.
Part of Wilder’s redemption story is figuring out if he realistically has a shot of defeating Fury in a potential third bout, because word around the campfire, is he will exercise the rematch clause prompting the trilogy.
According to terms of the two-fight contracts Wilder and Fury signed last year, Wilder is owed a third bout against Fury without any bouts for either boxer between their second and third encounters. Wilder has 30 days from Feb. 22 to exercise that contractual right.
When exactly and where is yet to be determined. Who will be a part of the Wilder team, is yet to be determined.
“My guess is knowing him like I do that he will absolutely want to rematch,” Jay Deas, Wilder’s head trainer and co-manager, said during the press conference. “And, I mean, these guys have put on two tremendous fights already. So, I certainly think that the public will want it. And I think we’ll want it. And I think Fury’s team will want it. And so, it seems a natural. So, I think that’s what you’ll see happen.
Crazy how the pendulum switches; now with this sense of doubt, this actually sets the stage for the ultimate comeback, because many experts believe Wilder will lose again and some like Ward and Max Kellerman believe “The Bronze Bomber” needs a tune-up or two before taking on Fury.
What makes this task so dire, is Wilder has to find a way to figure out the puzzle to a 6-feet-9, 273-pound technical mastermind who can punch. He has to contend with a fighter who is also willing to get physical, grimy and will use any means to secure victory; even battling out in the trenches as we witnessed this past weekend.
Fury timed Wilder, dissected him and brutalized the former WBC champion over the course of seven rounds. The hit behind the head causing knockdown during the third round, spelled doom and the beginning of the end for Wilder.
“When I woke up the next morning, I felt so many knots and bruises on the back of my head and neck,” Wilder said. “After the first knockdown, I turned over immediately to look at Kenny Bayless because he just made this speech about how he’s gonna take points from me and disqualify me if I hit in the back of the head and hit after the break. But I guess those rules just applied to me, and not my opponent, because he did it all night long and didn’t get penalized until it was too late.”
While Wilder states he doesn’t fault Fury for trying to get away with as much as he can to win a fight, this is the second time he is questioning the officiating of a referee when paired against Fury.
“I immediately turned around and opened my arms,” Wilder said, referring to what he said to Bayless following the first knockdown. “I was like, ‘What’s going on, bro? Are you serious? Did you see that?’ After that speech that you gave me, you’re supposed to protect the fighter. Fury was putting me in headlocks and still hitting me in the body, leaning over on me and still hitting me in the body. And due respect to him. He’s only doing what a fighter is supposed to do, fight and win. If you’re getting away with dirty tactics, then why not keep doing it? So, I understand that.”
“It’s up to the referee to be a man of his word. You come back here to Wilder’s locker room and you’re doing all this fancy talk, saying you’ve gotta abide by your rules. It just seems like I can’t get the right referee in the ring to save my life. One took too long to count and one allowed dirty tactics, and then took a point when it was too late, when it didn’t even matter no more. And Fury knew it. He knew it. He didn’t come to box. He came to fight dirty and the referee let him get away with it. But I congratulate him on his win and the accomplishment that he’s done. I’m very excited for him and moving on.”
It’s understandable for a fighter, for an athlete, facing defeat for the first time to question everything and to even look for excuses. Some excuses may have validity, but when it boils down to it, an excuse is just an excuse and the champion must find a way to adjust and overcome. While there are bitter grapes, Wilder did find time to praise Fury.
“Credit to Tyson Fury,” Wilder said in a post-fight interview. “I’m very happy for him and his accomplishment, and I wish him many congratulations. And it was a perfect game plan for Fury. But he didn’t come to box. He came to really, really, really make the fight as dirty as possible.”
For an athlete to have overcome so many obstacles to this point, looking at other variables aside from himself, would be doing a disservice to what he stands for. Wilder must look at himself and hold himself accountable. Not a heavy costume, not necessarily his corner for stopping the fight. That is when the true road to redemption can begin.
Wilder has many detractors against him anyway, this defeat can pave the way for true, honest reflection. Hip-hop legend Jay-Z is quoted as saying, “When the grass is cut, the snakes will show,” and this recent set-back can serve as a wake-up call for the Wilder camp.
How genuine this message from Floyd Mayweather may be in question, considering he is one of Wilder’s largest detractors, but Wilder can take positives from the message and gesture.
As it’s well documented, the opponent who handed him his first professional defeat, overcame a high-pile of adversity and is living his redemption story.
This is just another road block and if Wilder wants to continue his story and continue his path to becoming the greatest of all-time or the greatest he can be, he must hold himself accountable, dust himself off like his heavyweight contemporaries (Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua, Andy Ruiz) and re-create his redemption story.