With a microphone between them, Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder were nose to nose, exchanging trash talk in a collision of Heavyweight titleholders. After having genuine success in his world title challenge, Artur Szpilka had only hit the canvas minutes prior, eventually succumbing to Wilder’s famed power in the ninth round. It had been ‘The Bronze Bomber’s third title defense but within minutes, Szpilka’s effort had been rendered irrelevant, first by Wilder’s right hand and second, by Tyson’s animated post-fight arrival.
Suddenly, the Heavyweight division was alive again, with a pair of big personalities standing atop a new era in boxing’s glamour division. Two months prior, Fury had shocked the world, heading to Dusseldorf for a now unforgettable world title quest. Opposite long-time kingpin Wladimir Klitschko, Fury had given credence to his every ‘crazed’ word, outpointing his foe with ease and claiming the throne in emphatic fashion. Despite all of his individual brilliance that night in Germany though, Fury didn't exactly return a hero, instead finding himself embroiled in public criticism surrounding comments made before the bell had even rung.
Nonetheless, he had still scored a historic win and with a handful of titles now over his shoulder, it was time to ponder the next step. A Klitschko rematch was contractually awaiting but for now, Fury’s emerging conflict with Wilder had taken center stage. Though undeniably theatrical, their interaction that night in Brooklyn was generally good for boxing, garnering interest for a potential fight that frankly, warranted it. Wilder’s knockout win over Szpilka had been an accurate representation of his perception too, flawed until with a single shot, every struggle was erased.
Wilder’s resume certainly earned some criticism but his entertainment value was hard to question, bringing an almost throwback knockout power back to the Heavyweight division. Either way, the aforementioned Klitschko rematch would soon be booked, delaying the Wilder rivalry until further notice. In truth though, a personal struggle awaited Fury, with injuries canceling the rematch before a failed drug test would embroil Tyson in lengthy legal battles with testing programme UKAD. More than any of that though, Fury’s motivation had left him and outside the ring, a rather dramatic fight was quickly approaching.
As has since been publicly revealed in admirably open fashion, Tyson would battle quite severe depression, gaining immense weight as an in-ring return looked less likely by the month. In the meantime, Deontay Wilder’s reign continued, scoring three more stoppage wins including a round one victory over Bermane Stiverne, the only man to have previously taken him the distance. As 2018 began though, Wilder’s fate was unclear while in the distance, a revived Tyson Fury began to make strides for his in-ring return.
First though, Wilder scored his career-best win, overcoming drama to stop Luis Ortiz in round ten. A Cuban southpaw, Ortiz was a revered and feared contender that stylistically, posed genuine danger to Wilder until his power punching proved to be the equalizer yet again. However, while Wilder’s success had continued, the issues surrounding his perception remained mostly intact. With Tyson’s absence, Wilder hadn't become the universal number one, with undefeated titleholder Anthony Joshua instead emerging as the division’s consensus king.
Nonetheless, the public had a genuine demand for Joshua vs. Wilder but an inability to get the fight signed would prove pivotal, shifting the Heavyweight landscape in what was quickly proved as irreversible fashion. Speaking of such, Fury finally returned soon after, scoring a win over the limited Sefer Seferi and staying active, next defeating Francesco Pianeta on points. As that second comeback fight approached though, Tyson’s route back to the top had seemingly shortened. With Wilder needing a big fight away from Joshua, Fury had apparently stepped up to the plate, seizing the moment ahead of schedule.
Following the Pianeta victory, that’d come to fruition too, with Wilder entering the ring in what rapidly became a glaring full circle moment. Just like they once had in Brooklyn, Fury and Wilder were once again face to face, trading insults as that prior intrigue had re-emerged in an instant. Regardless of Joshua’s ascension and Fury’s relative inactivity, this was quite obviously an elite match-up and one that on paper at least, had immense appeal in just about every way imaginable. It appears to be a classic clash of boxer vs. puncher, a battle between unique personalities with a genuine claim to the Heavyweight throne.
Unless we see an unrecognizable Fury on Saturday night, a win for Wilder would catapult his reputation and allow him to take a huge step forward, defeating the man that originally dethroned Klitschko three years ago. While Wilder is champion, it was that moment which initiated this whole debate to begin with, crowning Fury king before he was displaced without ever losing in the ring. If Wilder is fighting to become the world’s consensus best though, that’s even more prevalent with Tyson, a man that with a win here, would have an unmatched claim to the number one spot.
Regardless of who comes out on top here, a match with Joshua is undeniably necessary but that’s for the future and as of right now, we are just days away from a Heavyweight fight for the ages. This is a clash of two undefeated kings, both with a palpable desperation to leapfrog the other. For Fury it’s a tale of redemption but with Wilder, this is a matter of validation, the chance to finally solidify his own greatness. As a standalone fight, this is the perfect storm and hopefully, that’ll be the case once the bell rings too.
As far as result, only one man can prove themselves correct but in the grand scheme of things, this could prove much more pivotal. If the talent here is as strong as most onlookers assume, this could be the kind of fight that elevates both and more importantly, continues the Heavyweight division’s resurgent momentum. By this time next year, we’ll hopefully be left with only one champion but for this era to be truly special, we’ll need quite a few stars. These two look set to fit that bill but first, it’s all eyes on Saturday as at long last, the world awaits a fresh crop of heavyweight heroes.