Wilder v Fury Deserves More Than A Passing Glance
Aug. 12, 2006.
That was the last time an American heavyweight champion — Hasim Rahman — defended his title in America on pay-per-view. There were also attempts by American contenders like Ray Austin, Tony Thompson, Shannon Briggs, and Eddie Chambers to wrestle away titles from one of the Klitschko brothers during their collective reign among the top of the division.
In early 2011, there was also a failed attempt by an aging Evander Holyfield to win the fringe World Boxing Federation (WBF) title in West Virginia against journeyman Sherman Williams.
It’s understandable if none of the examples listed above elicit exciting or memorable moments. Sometimes it helps to understand where we’ve been in order to appreciate where we are today.
In just under two weeks, World Boxing Council (WBC) heavyweight champion and Alabama native Deontay Wilder will defend his belt against lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury on pay-per-view in Los Angeles. The fight not only heavily impacts the careers of both men, but will also go a long way in solidifying the look of a division that’s long been forgotten about in the United States.
The fight is seemingly struggling to garner the mainstream attention it deserves.
Ticket sales are reportedly slow — with reports of only 8,000 being sold thus far — and there has been more interest in whether a retired boxer will or will not fight a kick boxer in a boxing match — or wait, is it a kickboxing match? — in Japan on New Year’s Eve.
Come on, really?
Wilder against Fury has everything both boxing and mainstream fans should want in a boxing match, competitiveness and human interest. Wilder has amassed a record of 40-0 with 39 knockouts behind a right hand that can seemingly stop anyone. Fury, undefeated after 27 fights is still regarded as the lineal heavyweight champion after he shocked the boxing world outpointing Wladimir Klitschko in 2015.
There are also plenty of personal goals both men wish to achieve.
Wilder has been a professional for 10 years and has excelled in developing a power punch and a personality that has propelled him to the top of the sport. He’s also dealt with disappointments along the way. His desires to take on the best in the sport have gone unfulfilled to no fault of his own. PED use of Alexander Povetkin derailed a big fight in 2016, and the business side of boxing has stalled the making of a mega-fight between Wilder and unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua.
Instead of getting credit for a superb professional career, Wilder’s taken a backseat in popularity to Joshua and has been unjustifiably criticized for not taking on top contenders. Having dealt with disappointment and criticism, he’s continued to pursue his goal of becoming an undisputed heavyweight champion. A decisive win against Fury brings a matchup with Joshua, and achievement of Wilder’s goal, closer to becoming a reality.
Fury’s life went into a tailspin following his victory in 2015. Struggling with drugs and alcohol, he disappeared from boxing until his comeback began in June of this year. Clean, sober and with a renewed outlook on his life and career, Fury is out to prove that his win against Klitschko wasn’t a fluke and that his slower, methodical approach can earn him the WBC championship. In addition to his own strong will and self-belief, throngs of fans in his home country of the United Kingdom believe in him as well.
Some criticize Fury’s fighting style and claim that he’s tailor made for Wilder’s attack. Therefore, some believe that the fight is unappealing. Many may have thought the same about Bernard Hopkins’ slower style when he attempted to capture the light heavyweight title against Jean Pascal at age 46. Anything can happen between the ropes.
Heavyweight boxing is back. However, after years wondering when and if meaningful heavyweight boxing would ever return to the United States, some still have doubts.
On Dec. 1, both Fury and Wilder will work to silence those doubts, and the sports world owes it to both men to be watching as they do so.