By Jake Donovan
Through all the screaming, shoving and taunting in the buildup to the titanic heavyweight encounter between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury came a source of familiarity in an otherwise disposable part of any heavyweight fight: the official weigh-in.
Friday’s festivities—which included a mob of fans and media, as well as a host of past heavyweight champs and contenders—marked just the latest occasion where Wilder will give away a significant amount of weight to an opponent. The defending titlist checked in at a near career-lightest 212.5 pounds, a full 44 pounds less than Fury who tipped the scales at a fighting ready 256.5 pounds.
The two will finally collide on Saturday night, airing live on Showtime Pay-Per-View (9:00pm ET/6:00pm PT) from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. In fact, it will mark the first time since Wednesday’s wild pre-fight press conference where they will literally stand face-to-face, as the two were kept at a considerable distance on Friday.
It was a wise decision given their numerous shoving matches and near-riot offerings any time they’ve shared a stage over the course of the past two months. Fury did his best to taunt the defending titlist, but Wilder—donning his signature pre-fight mask during the weigh-in and all the way through his on-stage interview with Showtime’s Steve Farhood—refused to take the bait, saving his energy for when he will actually get paid to punch.
“Talk is cheap; tomorrow is time,” Wilder insisted in explaining his decision to not entertain Fury’s tactics. “Action speaks louder than words. Come tomorrow, I can’t wait to unleash everything I’ve kept inside of me.”
All of Fury’s talking was limited to the comments he hurled at Wilder while the two were far separated on stage. The unbeaten Brit left without conducting an interview.
Wilder (40-0, 39KOs) attempts the 8th defense of the heavyweight strap he acquired in a Jan. ’15 decision win over Bermane Stiverne. The bout marked the lone time that the 33-year old has been extended the distance, having since scored seven straight knockouts, including a one-round drubbing of Stiverne in their Nov. ’17 rematch.
A win inside the distance on Saturday will earn Wilder a significant piece of boxing history, tying Larry Holmes and Tommy Burns for the most consecutive knockouts (eight) in heavyweight title fights.
Fury (27-0, 19KOs) enters his first official title fight since his massive Nov. ’15 upset win over Wladimir Klitschko in Nov. ’15. The feat earned the 6’9” Brit a slew of alphabet titles along with the World (lineal) championship, although never making a single defense as he spent the next two years combatting mental health issues and drug and alcohol addiction.
A celebrated ring return came this past June, with Fury halting Sefer Seferi in four rounds. A follow-up points win over Francesco Pianeta in August was a forgettable affair, in fact memorable only in it setting the stage for Saturday’s showdown. Wilder was ringside for the affair, joining Fury in the ring in revealing to the world their plans to eventually collide.
Should the upset occur, it will make Fury the first Brit to win a title fight on U.S. soil in more than 15 years. The last to do so was Lennox Lewis, in the final fight of his Hall-of-Fame career and in this very venue when he rallied to stop Vitali Klitschko on cuts after six rounds of heavyweight warfare in June ’03.
Jarrett Hurd headlines the preliminary portion of the evening, as the unbeaten and unified 154-pound titlist fights for the first time since his Fight-of-the-Year-level split decision win over Erislandy Lara this past April. He attempts the third defense of at least one title as he faces Australia’s Jason Welborn in the evening’s chief support.
Hurd (22-0, 15KOs) checked in at a career lightest 152.6 pounds, while Welborn (24-6, 7KOs)—fighting for the first time both for a major title and in the United States—was slightly lighter at 152.5 pounds.
Their title clash marks the lone non-heavyweight entry of the four-fight bill.
Luis Ortiz (29-1, 25KOs) looks to win his second straight following a heartbreaking 10th round knockout loss to Wilder this past May. The once-beaten Cuban southpaw faces Pennsylvania’s Travis Kauffman in a scheduled 10-round affair.
Neither will ever be mistaken for bodybuilders, but both carry their frames particularly well in the ring. Ortiz weighed 241 pounds—the same weight for his last bout, also at Staples Center in scoring a 2nd round knockout of Razvan Cojanu in July—while Kauffman tipped the scales at 229 pounds, his lightest weight in eight years.
Opening the show, 2016 Olympic Silver medalist Joe Joyce (6-0, 6KOs) takes on Newark, NJ’s Joe Hanks (23-2, 15KOs) in a scheduled 10-round bout.
England’s Joyce checked in at 262 pounds, just one pound lighter than his U.S. debut exactly two months ago when he knocked out Iago Kiladze in five rounds this past September. Hanks weighed 247.5 pounds, the lightest he’s weighed since returning to the ring in 2017 following a 2-½ year break. He’s won two straight in his current comeback.