By: Sean Crose
He may have gotten beaten up all around by Tyson Fury in their highly anticipated rematch last winter, but former WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder has not let himself fall apart. Rising heavyweight Raphael Akpejiori, who has been taken under Wilder’s wing, has had promising things to say about his mentor. “Right now he is in amazing physical shape,” Sky News quotes Akpejiori as saying of Wilder, “that I can tell you for sure. You will see a completely different Deontay, mentally and physically in the ring, when that bell rings again for that third fight. That I can tell you.”
Although nothing official has been set, Wilder is expected to step inside the ring with Fury a third time within the next several months – possibly on December 19th. The first time the two men met was in 2018. That fight ended in a draw after the impossibly hard hitting Wilder dropped his man in the final round – only to see Fury beat the count. The second match, which went down this past February, was an entirely different affair. Now trained by Sugar Hill Steward, Fury dominated Wilder, whose corner tossed in the towel in round seven. According to his protege, though, Wilder has not been deterred by the experience.
“He’s extremely confident,” Akpejiori is quoted as saying. “He’s very excited about that third fight. I can tell you for sure that he’s very hungry, and he’s trying to get back into the ring as soon as possible. He’s in great spirits, excited to get back to fight Tyson Fury.” Although Fury might well be the prohibitive favorite leading into a third fight, Wilder unquestionably has fight ending power. Provided he and his team have a winning strategy, it’s not out of the question that Wilder could still pull out the win.
“He will beat Fury if he sticks to the game plan from his coaching staff,” said Akpejiori, “and I know that he has all the physical tools.” The question now is when the fight will be signed. Although a December 19th date is widely being discussed, nothing has been officially announced. With that in mind, both fighters have reportedly been keeping in shape. Like Fury, Wilder has never been known to lack confidence. As he possibly steps up to face the only man to beat him, it appears the former titlist not only still has self belief, but has the belief of those around him, as well.
“Based on what I know,” said Akpejiori, “the only person that can beat Deontay right now, is Deontay.”