Column: Deontay Wilder can gain national acclaim with win over Tyson Fury
Deontay Wilder won the WBC heavyweight championship five years ago at the MGM Grand Garden Arena with a unanimous decision victory over Bermane Stiverne.
As Wilder returned to the arena Wednesday for the final news conference ahead of Saturday’s fight against undefeated lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, he looked around at the cameras and reporters gathered and nodded his head in approval.
“This is the biggest fight of my life,” Wilder said. “But I act like I’ve always acted because I’m supposed to be here. I deserve it. I know where I’m supposed to be and it’s right here under the lights and cameras and in front of the people. The talent that I have and things that I’m able to do it’s easy to differentiate me from the rest. It’s easy.”
Wilder can cement his status as the best heavyweight boxer in the world with a victory over Fury and become a household name around the country. Wilder is promoted by Premier Boxing Champions and his fights are on Fox Sports while Fury is promoted by Top Rank and his fights are on ESPN. Their fight will be on ESPN+ and Fox Sports pay-per-view as both networks are working together to cover the fight like a championship football game. The marketing campaign included ads during the College Football Playoff National Championship Game on ESPN and Super Bowl LIV on Fox.
Boxing fans are hoping that Wilder-Fury 2 can help lift the heavyweight division back to relevancy.
“Fights like this are hard to come by,” Wilder said. “We always say the best should fight the best but that can’t always happen and this is something that has never been done before. These are the two biggest networks in sports in Fox and ESPN and they came together to make this fight.”
It’s a perfect stage for two of the most entertaining fighters in boxing, who seem to get the best out of each other in and out of the ring. Their first fight at Staples Center on Dec. 1, 2018 was one of the most talked about heavyweight championship matches in years and ended in a split decision draw after Fury miraculously got up from a 12th-round punch that would have finished anyone else in the division.
“I gave Wilder the biggest payday of his life and brought him to the biggest stage,” Fury said. “Deontay owes me everything, I brought him to this level, and this is his second fight at the top.”
Wilder smiled and responded by saying, “I don’t believe anything Fury says. … I am not concerned with what he says, I am more focused on what he does. I am a man of action.”
As big as this moment is for Wilder, he said he is approaching it the same way he has his last 10 championship defenses.
“I’ve been knocking guys out for 12 years and I’ve never looked out of place,” Wilder said. “I dress to impress and I come and speak my peace. I’m the realest champion in the business. I’ve been the same way continuously. Many people say I’m just promoting but I’m not. I mean what I say and I say what I mean. I’m right where I’m supposed to be. I’m supposed to be here.”
Hall of fame boxing promoter Bob Arum called the fight between Fury and Wilder “the biggest heavyweight fight since [Muhammad] Ali and [Joe] Frazier fought the first time on March 8, 1971.” That battle was billed as the “Fight of the Century” and sold itself to a global audience.
That should be the case with Saturday’s rematch but Wednesday’s news conference, which was more of an hour-long promotional vehicle complete with commercials than a press event, was embarrassing and at times resembled a WWE show. Wilder and Fury shoved each other during an extended face-off to start the event before having to be held back and yelling profanities at each other. When they finally sat down, Wilder referenced Fury’s drug problems and suicide attempt and Fury threw out a “Yo momma” for good measure.
Up-and-coming boxer Ryan Garcia takes on Francisco Fonseca as the main event at the Honda Center in Anaheim.
“The first part was completely lost,” said Arum, who called off a second planned face-off to finish the news conference. “They’re talking over each other and it doesn’t make good television. It was unseemly.”
President Trump is in Las Vegas this week ahead of a rally he is holding Friday. There was talk he might stay and attend Saturday’s fight but Arum said as of Wednesday that was not the plan.
“If Trump asked to come to the fight he’s the President of the United States and we’d welcome him,” Arum said. “We’re sold out, I don’t know where we’d put all of his security but I assume the commission would make room for him.”
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