By: Jake Donovan
With two more stops to go in their three-city press tour in as many days, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury have already dipped deep into the promotional well to hype up their December 1 Showtime Pay-Per-View heavyweight title fight in Los Angeles.
The pair of colossal heavyweights met at BT Sport headquarters in London on Monday, with the session landing on the 43rd anniversary of the historic “Thrilla in Manila,” the unforgettable rubber match between late, legendary Hall of Fame heavyweights Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier.
Photo Credit: Mark Robinson/Showtime
Much of Monday’s session bore resemblance to the theatrics offered by Ali and Frazier in the buildup to their own fights, complete with Wilder and Fury threatening to throw down on stage at the back end of the 30-minute long press conference. The moment was reminiscent—if not a scripted replica—of Ali and Frazier taking off their sport jackets on the set of the Dick Cavett Show prior to their less-heralded second fight in 1974.
Thankfully, it didn’t devolve into the wrestling match that came of Ali and Frazier’s ABC in-studio fight week segment with Howard Cosell. At least not yet.
Civility was never promised nor expected between the two mouths that roar, despite the best efforts of the BT Sport team to restore order. In fact, Fury saw fit to take issue with his being introduced as the challenger to Wilder’s alphabet heavyweight title.
“I am no challenger for no man. I am the lineal champion of the word,” Fury insisted the moment ahead of the first question asked, referring to the World champion status he gained following his Nov. ’15 upset win over exiting lineal king Wladimir Klitschko. “That means I’m the very best. The elite champion. It’s two champions colliding, this is equal rights, champion versus champion. So rephrase your question and let’s start all over.”
That’s all it took to kick things off into high gear, despite the fact that the matchup functionally sells itself.
“It’s been a long time since the heavyweight division has had two champions like this, two champions at the top of their game and willing to fight each other,” noted Lou DiBella, Wilder’s promoter. “This isn’t rocket since. (Shelly Finkel) spent a lot of time trying to make a fight with another fighter from this country (unbeaten, unified heavyweight titlist Anthony Joshua) who didn’t want to fight.
“There was an opportunity – when that man came back and got himself in shape, Shelly and Frank (Warren) got together like that to make this fight happen. The winner of this fight on December 1 will be the best heavyweight in the world.”
In fact, their fight—which has been more than two years in the making—was first announced as official following Fury’s win over Francesco Pianeta on August 18 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Wilder was on hand for the Showtime-televied event, meeting Fury in the ring afterward to reveal their fight which at the time didn’t have a firm date or location.
With those issues worked out, the festivities have already begun. Still, there is official business to be handled once the fight begins on December 1. Naturally, both have predicted a knockout finish—an ending at least one side has experienced nearly every time out.
“I believe every word that I say. When I say I’m going to knock a man out and tell him where and how he may lay, it comes to pass,” insists Wilder (40-0, 39KOs), who—following his 1st round knockout of Bermane Stiverne in their rematch last November—can claim to have knocked out every opponent he has faced as a pro. “I’m all about devastating knockouts, that’s what I do. There’s no pressure on me. You just need to be there to witness it.”
The 2008 Olympic Bronze medalist will attempt the 7th defense of the title he won in a 12-round decision over Stiverne in Jan. ’15. It was the only time the fighting pride of Tuscaloosa, Alabama has been extended the distance in the pro ranks, getting his knockout fix in their aforementioned rematch.
Wilder has since registered arguably the most significant win of his career to date, rallying to knock out previously unbeaten Luis Ortiz this past March in Brooklyn. The bout came four weeks prior to Joshua’s eventual title unification points win over Joseph Parker, with Wilder naturally calling out the winner but only seeing his rivalry with Joshua limited to negotiating through the press and without an actual fight to show for it.
The concern over lining up a suitable Plan B was resolved once Fury and his team decided they were ready for a return to glory.
Fury (27-0, 19KOs) hadn’t fought for more than two years following his points win over Kltischko, having spent much of that time battling drug and alcohol addiction and mental health issues. The 6’9” Irish traveler—who was born and raised in England—returned to the ring this past June, stopping Sefer Seferi in four rounds before returning two months later, apparently carrying Pianeta in their largely forgettable ten round affair in August.
It was enough for Fury and his team to believe it was time to return to the championship level. With Joshua already locked into face Alexander Povetkin—whom he stopped in seven rounds last month—came the decision to pursue the best available heavyweight.
Now that he has Wilder in his crosshairs, Fury has already begun the type of head games that worked on Klitschko both in and out of the ring.
“The only thing I’m interested in is smashing Deontay Wilder’s teeth in. That’s it,” promised Fury, although he seems to be quite dug in regarding the promotional aspect of the event. “We’re here to see the biggest fight between the two best heavyweights of this generation. No 15 stone man on the planet can beat me.
“I will gladly prove what I’ve always know. I will smash his teeth in. Seven days a week, twice on Sunday – if we fought 30 times, I’d win 30 times. You ain’t ready for me. You never have been and never will be. All your knockout power and 10 men in the ring with you can’t beat Tyson Fury. I’m gonna make you f*** yourself.”
The comment came with an apology from BT Sport for the coarse language, but was quickly dismissed by its intended target.
“The antics you’re trying here, it’s not gonna work with me,” Wilder insisted. “I’m not Klitschko, this is Deontay Wilder.”
From there, the theatrics only continued to grow.
“Can we have a little spar now?,” Fury said, coming from behind his assigned seat to challenge Wilder to square off. “Let’s have a little tickle. Come on. Let me feel this power of the Alabama slammer. Come on. Let’s have a little body spar. I wanna feel it.”
Wilder did his best to play up to the moment, if only to remind his opponent where his own train of thought resides two months ahead of fight night.
“This is no game at this point,” Wilder replied. “This is real. As you see, we at the press conference. This is a real fight. We’re announcing this fight is on. So at this point in time, my mindset is on (fight night). You’re gonna feel every power you need to feel.”
Fury would feel a brief sample, although it can be argued that Wilder’s shove to his chest was more to keep the two at bay than for anything to actually pop off in the moment.
“You’re gonna feel everything you need to feel. Let’s do it. Let’s do it. Let’s make it happen. Let’s make it happen. Let’s make it happen. It’s getting real, baby.”
Perhaps not real enough to his challenger.
“My wife pushes harder than that, you little b*tch,” Fury shouted, as the two were immediately separated. “That was nothing. That’s pathetic. I wanna feel the power.
“You never even had the nuts to hit me, did ya? I wanna feel it. I don’t play games, dosser. I wanna play. Come on!”
Regardless of how real or manufactured the animosity is between Wilder and Fury, it’s clear that they are giving the boxing world plenty to talk about.
“It’s the fight that everyone is talking about, the fight that everyone wants to see,” Stephen Espinoza, president of Showtime Sports and Event Programming touted. “It’s a fight that has captivated America and will captivate America.”
All parties involved will have the chance to further validate that statement when everyone touches down in New York for Tuesday’s gathering.