HE’LL have had better offers, I’m sure, but Deontay Wilder has today officially been invited to watch Tyson Fury box Francesco Pianeta on August 18 at Windsor Park, Belfast.
If he does show up, it won’t be because the WBC heavyweight champion has any interest in seeing Fury and Pianeta have a move around for a few rounds before the Italian – a marked improvement on Fury’s last opponent, Sefer Seferi, it has to be said – decides he has had enough and taps out. His presence will instead have a lot more to do with a potential fight Wilder vs. Fury at some point in December.
Conspicuous by his absence in March, when Wilder was supposed to attend Anthony Joshua’s fight against Joseph Parker in Cardiff, it will be interesting to see whether he accepts Frank Warren’s invitation in a couple of weeks’ time. Certainly, if it happens, if we clock his six-foot-seven frame wading through pasty Irish skin en route to a seat at ringside, mobbed by travellers telling him how s**t he is, we’ll know there’s more to this potential Wilder vs. Fury thing than mere social media foreplay. And that will be exciting. That will make the whole thing worthwhile.
The fear, however, is that it’s all a ploy, a ruse; that talk of Fury and Wilder getting together is simply their way of making Anthony Joshua, the more popular kid, jealous, uncertain, and feel as if all of a sudden he’s not in control. Undoubtedly, this is a fight, given the greater storyline at play and the characters involved, that should be approached with caution.
It’s easy to get excited, though, I’ll admit. It’s tempting to start planning a trip to America just before Christmas. But, really, we shouldn’t. Let’s first see how this thing plays out. Let’s see if Wilder does indeed appear at Windsor Park on August 18 and let’s see if Fury continues to drop hints while driving his car and singing at the top of his voice. Let’s see if an announcement is, as they claim, imminent.
Only then will these six reasons why Deontay Wilder vs. Tyson Fury makes sense (below) be even the slightest bit relevant.
1) Sefer Seferi and Francesco Pianeta
Given Tyson Fury was beating Wladimir Klitschko in 2015 and is clearly one of the more gifted heavyweights knocking around today, it’s hard to stomach too many more fights against the likes of Sefer Seferi, a 39-year-old Albanian cruiserweight, and Francesco Pianeta, a 34-year-old Italian knocked out in a round by Ruslan Chagaev.
I get it: he needs rounds, he’s been away for a while. But when you consider the comeback opponents of other AWOL former champions (Vitali Klitschko fighting Samuel Peter after a four-year absence is just one example), the Fury comeback roadshow feels a little overblown and ridiculous.
If a suck-it-and-see gamble against Deontay Wilder is the key to ending such farcical tune-ups, I’m all for it. Fury, after all, might not be ready for Wilder – only he knows – but he will always be good enough.
2) Wilder’s in the wilderness
Considering the fact he’s a WBC champion, and therefore in possession of perhaps the most sought-after heavyweight belt available, it’s strange to think Deontay Wilder, if he’s not careful or quick, is in danger of becoming a mere afterthought.
He was, for a good few months, when connected to Anthony Joshua, totally relevant. Yet, as soon as that potential fight reached its natural conclusion, and as soon as we all realised it probably wasn’t going to happen, Wilder struggled to be seen and heard.
Joshua, the decisive, forward-thinking one, has successfully moved on with his life and found another partner, alexander Povetkin, with whom he will make copious amounts of money in London on September 22. It’s a downgrade, of course, but at least Joshua, in confirming an opponent, a date and a location, has shown an ability to brush himself down and get on with things.
Wilder, in contrast, has done little but stew, rue mistakes, declare his innocence, make bold claims, and forget that time is passing. Essentially, all the while he’s flicking through old pictures of the two together during happier times, Joshua is out there having fun and making money.
If you’re looking for reasons why Wilder vs. Fury is better than Wilder vs. Joshua, here’s one (and, to be fair, it might be the only one). Unlike Wilder vs. Joshua, which, were it not for Wilder’s ability to let loose, express himself and keep it real (sometimes too real, granted), would be mind-numbingly dull before the first bell rings, Wilder vs. Fury is everything you want from a fight in terms of pre-fight build-up.
Both are charismatic talkers who can spin a yarn and incite chaos. Sometimes it will be done with a tongue lodged firmly in cheek, while other times it will be done with devil in their eyes. Whatever the impetus, Wilder and Fury understand the importance of projection, and can do it – project loud, bellowing voices – better than most. While others play it safe, these two forget all about manners and boundaries, to the detriment of gaining sponsors and TV chat show opportunities, and fans mostly love them for it.
It’s easy to forget that Fury and Wilder were going back-and-forth long before Anthony Joshua entered the arena and redefined what it meant to be a world heavyweight champion.
In fact, these two mavericks, Fury and Wilder, were mean-mugging and getting in each other’s faces as early as 2016. At the Barclays Center on a chilly January night, Fury, following Wilder’s win over Artur Szpilka, stepped into the ring, instigated some drama, and then left the premises feeling he’d bagged himself a huge Stateside showdown in the near future. Wilder promised the Brit he’d be “baptised”.
That never happened. (Not yet anyway.)
5 It’s a damn good fight
Forget the financial and political point-scoring reasons why the fight should happen. Ultimately, it all boils down to this: Tyson Fury challenging Deontay Wilder for the heavyweight title he is yet to own is, on paper, a tremendous fight.
In terms of styles, it’s fascinating. Where Fury is languid and composed, Wilder is coiled, ready to explode and dangerous at all times. Where Fury can fight surprisingly well inside for a big man, Wilder cuffs and scuffs and throws haphazardly when in or out of range. Where Fury can box, Wilder can bang. Where Fury is all doughy body and natural fighting skill and instinct, Wilder is an athletic specimen with physical gifts and technical flaws.
Similar in so many ways, yet different in many more, Fury and Wilder, once in a ring together, would make for a heavyweight fight as fun and as fascinating as any in 2018.
6 Sticking it to The Man
This, frankly, is the main reason Wilder vs. Fury makes sense and, more importantly, is the main reason it might be rushed into production before the end of the year. Because, let’s face it, were it not for the fact Wilder vs. Fury potentially upsets Anthony Joshua and his promoter, Eddie Hearn, it’s hard to believe this fight, this rebound, this dirty one-night, get-it-out-of-your-system dalliance following a gruelling divorce, would be happening in 2018 – not when Wilder is so close to Joshua, not when Fury is so far away from the peak of his powers. Surely, were the circumstances different, they’d see sense, mull it over and take time. They’d let it build. They’d hype it up. Tyson Fury would be allowed to become Tyson Fury again. Wounds would be allowed to heal. “All in good time, Tyson,” they’d say. “All in good time.”
Rest assured, the thought of Joshua and Hearn exchanging concerned glances and perhaps even frantically emailing those responsible for Wilder vs. Fury is high on the list of reasons why both camps might press ahead with it. It’s a strong enough reason to do away with logic and any semblance of scheduling, and it’s a strong enough reason for Tyson Fury, never one to follow a plan, to throw his hands in the air, suck in his gut, and say, ‘You know what, f**k it, let’s have him.’
And who’s to argue?