LAS VEGAS -- Long the lifeblood of the viability of crossover boxing, the heavyweight division within the sport adds a certain unique gravitas to a pay-per-view championship fight that produces nostalgic feels for the days when the sport was still front-page news.
While big heavyweight bouts have popped up from time to time, including the division's last great superfight between Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson some 18 years ago, even that fight was more about the pairing of two celebrities than the presentation of two prime fighters promising a competitive fight.
Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury have an opportunity to remind casuals fans just how great a super-sized duel with historical implications can be entering Saturday's rematch at the MGM Grand Garden Arena (ESPN+/Fox PPV, 9 p.m. ET) when they attempt to recreate the magic from their disputed split draw 14 months ago.
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Like their 2018 first meeting, both fighters enter as unbeaten champions with Wilder making the 11th defense of his WBC belt and Fury retaining the mythical title of lineal king for having still been the man who beat the man going back to his 2015 upset of then-recognized champion Wladimir Klitschko.
"This is the biggest thing in the heavyweight division in a long, long, long time and I believe we are setting an example here that the best should fight each other in all weight divisions," Fury told CBS Sports on Thursday. "Hopefully after this, the best will start to fight each other."
Fury-Wilder II not only brings together rival networks to share in the promotion and production of the PPV broadcast -- something only previously seen in Lewis-Tyson and 2015's Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao clash -- it unites rival promoters and teams who have done more to prevent the biggest fights from happening over the last decade than help.
The reason is certainly because of the money at stake and the potential for an instant trilogy bout should Saturday's loser activate the rematch clause. But also because of how thrilling the first fight was with Fury, in the midst of an improbable comeback from depression and excess, rising twice from the canvas to seemingly outbox Wilder until the judges were unable to declare a winner.
In this renaissance heavyweight era, these two giants of contrasting styles and equally charismatic abilities on the microphone have an opportunity to revive the division and sport at the highest level should their second fight succeed financially and deliver a similar level of entertainment.
While the promotional build to the rematch lacked the bombast of the first fight as Fury took on a more serious tone, the two let loose at Wednesday's press conference featuring multiple shoves and constant trash talk.
"As you can see leading up to this fight, we were very cordial and nice and respectable but this is the time," Wilder told CBS Sports. "All of the emotion and preparation for this fight is coming together. We wanted to express ourselves and show that we mean what we have said leading up to this fight."
Most of the pre-fight talk has surroundedfocused on being more offensive, which Wilder has largely dismissed (including Fury's prediction of a second-round knockout).
"It's laughable. I already consider his hands as pillows and he ain't put nobody to sleep," Wilder said. "He don't have power as a fighter. You would think to be a big man over 250 pounds he brings power to the table. He's a great boxer but he don't have no power. For him to say he will knock me out in the second round, that's just the build up for the promotion."
Fury was absolute when asked for a response, saying, "When I've got pillow-fisted hands and he gets knocked out by a guy who can't punch, that's going to look pretty damn ugly on his record."
Wilder does admit that the two are perfect for each other both inside the ring and out. And for all of the talk about how Fury plans on changing in order to sway the judges (or remove the need for them altogether), not enough has been said about whether Wilder can improve from his efforts in the first bout.
"The most important thing I need to change is being patient," Wilder said. "I tried to knock him out and I forced it. I tried to do something I normally do anyway. This is what got me to this point and this is my notoriety of being a heavyweight which is knocking people out. The first fight, I feel like I had so much attention on me. It was a star-studded event and I wanted to give [the fans] something to take home, which is a knockout, and I forced it. This time around I will be very, very patient and set traps and allow him to come in and execute him by allowing him to make mistakes."
Fury has referred to Wilder as one-dimensional at every turn and said if he's stupid enough to get hit with the right hand of the "Bronze Bomber" than he deserves to lose. He also brought up his ability to come back and rise in the final round after Wilder floored him with a two-punch combination as reason to believe he can endure anything Wilder throws his way.
"I hit the floor last time, but I showed that I'm truly a fighting man," Fury said. "If he can't finish me, I'm going to eat him up."
Wilder believes that just about everything Fury has said in recent months is a lie except for one.
"He said that you have to nail him [to the canvas] to beat him," Wilder said. "Well, I brought my nails and hammer from Alabama and I'm ready to hammer away to keep him sealed on that canvas. We always say that we are willing to die in the ring and it's just a term we use to let people know we aren't going to give up and that's what I'm going to do."
While this may feel like a one-fight card, there will still be three undercard bouts to wet the appetite of fight fans before Wilder and Fury make the walk to the ring on Saturday night. A pair of heavyweights meet in the co-feature in an IBF title eliminator as Charles Martin takes on Gerald Washington. Plus, WBO super bantamweight champion Emanuel Navarette puts his title on the line against Jeo Santisima.
Tale of the Tape
|Fighter||Deontay Wilder||Tyson Fury|
42-0-1, 41 KOs
29-0-1, 20 KOs
Luis Ortiz (TKO10/KO7, 2018/2019), Bermane Stiverne (UD12/KO1, 2015/2017), Dominic Breazeale (KO1, 2019)
Wladimir Klitschko (UD12, 2015), Dereck Chisora (UD12/TKO10, 2011/2014), Steve Cunningham (KO7, 2013)
What's at stake
Wilder's WBC title and Fury's lineal crown are the tangible jewels in play, along with the winner knowing he'll get the higher end of the negotiated 60/40 split for a third fight that Saturday's loser has 30 days to accept. There are much deeper prizes at stake, however, that go beyond maintaining an unbeaten record.
It can be argued that the winner of Wilder-Fury 2 will be considered in the court of public opinion as the recognized heavyweight champion of the moment. Although England's Anthony Joshua still holds three of the division's four alphabet titles, the way he crumbled in an upset knockout loss to Andy Ruiz Jr. in 2019 only to play it safe in outboxing him in the rematch has certainly robbed from AJ's rockstar luster.
Should the PPV be the kind of success that promoters and television executives on both sides are hoping, the winner could also get catapulted to the level of true breakout star across all sports and beyond.
Although Canelo Alvarez has taken the reigns from Floyd Mayweather as boxing's true PPV king, his inability to speak English has held him back from becoming a truly mainstream star in the U.S. As far as casual fans are concerned, the winner could be the new face of the sport.
Who has the edge?
1. Power: The question here isn't whether Wilder is a bigger puncher than Fury, it's more a question at this point. As hyperbolic as that sounds, Wilder's track record speaks otherwise. Although Fury has claimed he will go for the KO, Wilder has described his power as "pillow fists." Either way, everything Wilder touches, he typically destroys. Edge: Wilder
2. Speed: Fury isn't just freakishly quick for a man his size when it comes to hand and foot speed, he's a problem for every single heavyweight in the world. Fury has become so adept at using his quick jab purposely as a light slap to opponents in order to throw off their rhythm. He's also the master at disarming foes through regular feinting. Wilder is no slouch in the speed department, as well, which represents an underrated source of his tremendous power. Edge: Fury
3. Technique: Fury takes home this category by a country mile and regularly holds that advantage over each of his opponents. Even though Wilder's fight IQ and ability to set traps remains underrated, he's still so raw by nature and relies on the combination of patience and crippling power to win fights. Like Fury showed in their first meeting, he has the ability to bank multiple sets of rounds against Wilder simply by relying on his ability to hit and not be hit. How long he can keep that up remains the biggest question. Edge: Fury
4. Defense: Wilder is much more responsible defensively than he gets credit, using his athleticism and size just as much as the threat of his punching power to avoid big shots. But he won't hold the same advantages in length against Fury that he's used to and as far as comparing their defensive skills, Fury is an outright master at slipping shots or moving with them to lessen the impact. Edge: Fury
5. Intangibles: Normally this is a category that is hard to best Wilder on considering his power regularly rescues him from potential decision defeats and looms over the fight at all times thanks to his impressive conditioning. But the true intangible in this fight is mental toughness and the ability to persevere. From that standpoint, both Fury and Wilder compare evenly, which goes a long way in making this rematch a pick 'em fight. It also means the possibility of a second thriller between these two is more of a guarantee than a hope. Edge: Even
Who will win Wilder vs. Fury 2, how long will the fight last, and which best bet pays 9-2? Visit SportsLine now to see Peter Kahn's best bets, all from the fight game insider who called Wilder knocking out Dominic Breazeale in the first round at 22-1.