THE HIT PARADE
Wilder and Fury Leave Joshua Far Behind
by Carlos Acevedo, Author of Sporting Blood: Tales From The Dark Side Of Boxing
No one can say for sure what will happen when Deontay Wilder defends his splinter of the heavyweight title against madcap Tyson Fury on December 1 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, but one thing is certain: the blowback will be far-reaching.
As with so many headline fights, Wilder-Fury is loaded with subplots, like a telenovela sponsored by Reyes. By sidestepping Anthony Joshua (along with his grinning promoter, Eddie Hearn) and fugazi cyber-negotiations whose veracity can never be proven one way or the other, Wilder and Fury teamed up for some pound-for-pound gamesmanship. They have also struck a blow for the lost art of taking risks. It is Joshua, the unified titleholder, recently given to pondering aloud about the possibility of defeat, who is left out of the picture, looking like a straggler in a potato-sack race. That Al Haymon, PBC puppet master, and Frank Warren, veteran U.K. promoter, could arrange Wilder-Fury in a finger-snap suggests that Eddie Hearn might be at cross-purposes regarding his Matchroom/DAZN cornerstone.
As for the fight itself, neither Wilder nor Fury has perfected his tradecraft. At times, they both resemble parodies of prizefighters in the ring, but, despite their often-ragged forms, they present strategic difficulties to the average plodding heavyweight. Whether they will trouble each other—athletic men as tall as NBA power forwards from a bygone era—is another question altogether.
If Deontay Wilder has failed to displace Hank Shocklee and Public Enemy from historical ownership of the tag “Bomb Squad,” it has not been for lack of trying. For all of his technical shortcomings, Wilder has ended most of his fights the same way and with the same paraphernalia materializing. Penlights, gauze, smelling salts, icebags, and butterfly strips—Wilder is the Amazon.com of heavyweights, with overkill choices for a shopping cart that has even doubled as a stretcher. His right hand—shot straight from the shoulder or hurled like a Molotov cocktail—is Red Cross material. Only Bermane Stiverne has stood up to it—until Stiverne rashly climbed the ringsteps for an ill-fated rematch and was atomized in less than a round.
Until recently, however, Wilder had earned a reputation as the Primo Carnera of the twenty-tens because of his shoddy opposition. With a 39-0 record, Wilder was no closer to proving his status than he was before he won the WBC heavyweight championship nearly four years ago. What Wilder needed after embarking on an undistinguished title reign was a notable win and that he finally achieved—in his last start, when he scored a rousing TKO over undefeated Luis “King Kong” Ortiz in March. Although Wilder was largely ineffective against Ortiz for eight rounds (dropping Ortiz in the fifth was his sole highlight until the explosive TKO ending) and was on the verge of being stopped, he showed guts, guile, and a killer instinct to go with his flashbomb power.
What Fury offers, strange as it seems, is the imitation of a difficult style (faux Ali with a dash of Apollo Creed), and this clumsy approximation is enough to befuddle most heavyweights, who rarely see feints, switch-hitting, and the use of angles from their peers. After more than two years of debauchery mixed with despondency, Fury returned to action less than six months ago with a pair of farces that left most observers slack-jawed. His sideshow against Sefer Seferi last June might have been expected; after all, Seferi was a Macedonian cruiserweight (outweighed by 66 pounds on fight night) with no business being anywhere near headline status. In the first round of their burlesque, Fury and Seferi were openly laughing; in the second, they were more interested in a riot that had broken out in the crowd; in the third, nothing happened; in the fourth, Seferi quit on his stool. For his part, Pianeta approached his showdown against Fury with an attitude more appropriate for a celebrity meet-and-greet. The result was a yawnsome shutout decision for “The Gypsy King.” In going through the motions against Seferi and Pianeta, Fury appeared downright lubberly and far less mobile than he did against Wladimir Klitschko in 2015. The fact remains that his two-and-a-half year auto-destruction spree, triggered by depression, has left Fury looking spent. Make no mistake, Team Wilder is banking on Fury having suffered irreversible damage from his season(s) in hell.
And the remaining subplots? Wilder-Fury will also be the first pay-per-view venture for the PBC, whose end game of multi-platform dominance culminated with a single new network, Fox, and an anti-climactic contract with Showtime, which had been airing Al Haymon specials exclusively for years. The new PBC is now banking on a model quickly facing obsolescence: P-P-V. Gone is the “free boxing” mantra (although it is unlikely that the PBC will issue self-congratulatory press releases announcing their new monetization strategy). In recent years, pay-per-view offerings not involving Floyd Mayweather, Jr., or Saul “Canelo” Alvarez have been bombs. Everyone involved in Wilder-Fury had better hope that pre-fight shenanigans will lead to the curious pressing “Buy” on their remote controls.
Another of the competing capitalist forces in boxing, DAZN, will also be affected by this fight. The outcome of Wilder-Fury may determine either a possible future opponent for Anthony Joshua, or just how far Eddie Hearn will go to put his interests in DAZN ahead of those of his fighter. It is a risk, certainly, for Joshua to tangle against either Wilder or Fury in hopes of being the undisputed heavyweight champion; by extension, it is also dangerous for Hearn and DAZN. But it was also a gamble for Frank Warren to match Fury with Wilder; the difference is, Warren understands the concept of reward.
Finally, and most important, perhaps, Wilder-Fury will establish the number one heavyweight in the world, something that likely comes as a surprise to Joshua boosters from pubs in Newquay all the way to Newcastle. Although Joshua sports his collection of alphabet soup bling as often as he dons his Beats headphones, the stinging truth is that his record is highlighted by wins over his countryman Dillian Whyte, Wladimir Klitschko (whom Fury had already beaten), late substitute Carlos Takam, timid Joseph Parker, and 39-year-old PED washout Alexander Povetkin. Having already won the publicity wars (admittedly never anything more than Pyrrhic in boxing), Wilder and Fury answer the bell in Los Angeles in search of authenticity. The ring, as always, is where you find it, and even now, in an age when fighters are more concerned with RTs than KOs, there are some willing to pursue it at their own peril. Click “Like” for the ones that remain.
Additional coverage of Wilder and Fury by Hannibal Boxing:
- The Dog Whisperer: Mark Breland Expects Deontay Wilder to Put the Bite on Tyson Fury, By Sean Nam
- The One-up: Deontay Wilder Talks Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua, and Eddie Hearn, By Sean Nam
- Tyson’s Gambit: The Perfect Storm of Wilder-Fury, By Frank Lotierzo
- Last Call: On Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder, By Oliver Goldstein
Fight to the Death: Who Killed Davey Moore?, By David Davis, Los Angeles Review of Books
Almost exactly a year after Benny Paret was fatally injured in the ring, Davey Moore died after losing his featherweight title to Sugar Ramos. In 1964, TV networks pulled the plug on regular boxing telecasts. David Davis looks back on the life and death of Moore for The Los Angeles Review of Books.
1993’s ‘Fan Man’ fight remains boxing’s most bizarre night, By Gilbert Manzano, Las Vegas Review-Journal
One of the strangest moments in boxing history occurred 25 years ago, when a daredevil paraglided into the ring during the heavyweight title rematch between Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield, sparking chaos. Gilbert Manzano relives this surreal event for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Vegas Lost: Teen working on turning his life around tragically murdered, By John Treano, 3 NEWS LAS VEGAS
Probably no one had ever heard of Aaron Rodriguez, who had just taken up boxing in an effort to keep trouble at bay. Last month he was shot to death in Las Vegas after an argument. Rodriguez was 18 years old. In some ways, his story is representative of the sport away from the marquees and pay-per-view extravaganzas. Sometimes the streets are where dreams are born; and sometimes the streets are where dreams die.
IN THIS CORNER
“I dreamed about the lightweight title and I finally won it. So I guess when I won it that night I leaped about five feet in the air …. I was almost killed down there, too, for beating him. The Mexicans, we were almost killed. Then the Mexicans started throwing bricks and things. The cops, our body guards, two cops—looked around, they were gone. Connie McCarthy, he was knocked in the head with a brick. His head was split open with a brick. That’s when the Mexican came up, he said, “Gimmie the belt!” I haven’t seen the belt since that night, since April 15, 1945. I saw the belt for maybe five minutes. I haven’t seen it since. Maybe it’s down in Mexico City now. The fellow pulled a pistol out. He was going to kill all of us. So I said, “Give the man the damn belt!” —Ike Williams
Jose Torres (1959)
A short Film on Jose “Chegui” Torres as a Rising Contender