Las Vegas’ biggest heavyweight fight in years features two giants of the ring

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Mark J. Terrill / AP

In this Dec. 1, 2018, file photo, Tyson Fury, right, of England, connects with Deontay Wilder during a WBC heavyweight championship boxing match in Los Angeles.

Thu, Feb 20, 2020 (2 a.m.)

Heavyweight megafights have eluded Las Vegas for more than two decades, since a golden period that stretched from the 1990s into the early 2000s. The dry spell ends Saturday, when undefeated fighters Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury meet in a pick’em championship bout at MGM Grand Garden Arena.

The rematch

• When: Saturday, February 22; doors 2 p.m., undercard 4 p.m., main card 6 p.m.

• Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena

• Tickets: $154-$2,504 at axs.com or 866-740-7711

• Watch: $79.99 on Fox pay-per-view or ESPN+ streaming

• Odds: Wilder minus-115; Fury minus-105 (at Circa)

“I can’t remember a bigger heavyweight fight in a long time,” Fury said at a recent press conference in LA. “Maybe Lennox Lewis vs. Mike Tyson [2002] was the last big one like this.”

Wilder described the matchup as “two giants and two champions putting it all on the line for everyone’s entertainment. We’re leaving it all in the ring to see who is king.”

Top Rank CEO and Fury’s promoter Bob Arum predicted the fight would outdo Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao’s 4.6 million pay-per-view sales in 2015. That’s surely hyperbole, but there’s no exaggerating the stakes in this rematch.

The first fight between Fury and Wilder, in December 2018 at the Staples Center in LA, ended in controversy on both sides after a split-decision draw.

Here’s a breakdown of both fighters going into showdown No. 2.

Deontay Wilder

The Wilder File

• Nickname: The Bronze Bomber

• Age: 34

• Out of: Tuscaloosa, Alabama

• Height: 6-foot-7

• Weight: 212.5 pounds

• Reach: 83 inches

• Record: 42-0-1 (41 knockouts)

• Title: Current WBC champion

• Strengths: Power, speed and cardio. Wilder has one-punch knockout ability, as almost every opponent he’s ever faced has learned. But it takes more than heavy hands to land the perfect shot at the pinnacle of the sport. Some rely on trickery and combinations to set up the haymaker, but that’s not always necessary for Wilder. He’s so fast that even the slightest opening can be the end for an opponent. Wilder is also known as one of the hardest-working boxers in the world, which has shone through in his past few fights, where he’s looked fresh for the full 12 rounds.

• Weaknesses: Dealing with pressure and stiffening up. Wilder looks unbeatable when he stays fluid with his punches and movements, but he hasn’t always been able to maintain such calm. Two of his past four opponents—Fury and Luis Ortiz—frustrated him by coming forward and utilizing unorthodox tactics. Wilder’s power bailed him out of both situations, but it’s been made clear that if he’s to be beaten, it will be by making him one-dimensional, to the point where his sole focus is swinging for the stoppage.

• First fight vs. Fury: Most everyone thought Wilder had won the bout in the 12th round. That’s when he scored his second knockdown, dropping Fury with a combination that looked lethal. Fury rose to his feet just before the conclusion of the referee’s 10-count to survive. Wilder and his followers dispute that Fury got up in time, however, alleging a slow count.

• Planned changes: Breathe. It might sound simple, but Wilder feels that if there’s anything he needs to do differently, it’s maintaining his cool. He admitted to slight panic against both Fury and Ortiz as he drifted from his game plan when things began going against him. He says that won’t happen this time, as he’s sharpening his mindset in case a round or two get away from him.

• Trash talk:“I knocked him out the first time we fought. I told him two years ago I was going to baptize him. Rising up is part of the baptism, but this is a different story. This is unfinished business. Because he’s in the WWE, I’m going to make sure he gets knocked out of the ring. I might even come down with a flying elbow from the top rope.”

Tyson Fury

The Fury File

• Nickname: Gypsy King

• Age: 31

• Out of: Manchester, England

• Height: 6-foot-9

• Weight: 256.5

• Reach: 85 inches

• Record: 29-0-1 (20 knockouts)

• Titles: Former WBA, WBF, WBO, IBO and lineal champion

• Strengths: Technique, size and fighting instincts. Fury hulks over practically every opponent he’s ever faced, and for a man of his stature, he moves rather smoothly. He’s renowned for switching up stances and attack angles to frustrate opponents, strategies he has honed since childhood. Fighting is an important part of Fury’s Roma (or Gypsy) culture, as he often reiterates, and he follows in line with several generations of boxers and bare-knuckle brawlers.

• Weaknesses:Inconsistency and relative lack of power. Fury has a glaringly low number of finishes for a fighter of his stature. It’s been seven years since he’s had a clean knockout. That’s partly because of a reliance on his jab and partly because he’s admittedly lost focus at different points of his career. Fury was notoriously stripped of his major titles in 2015 and 2016 after failing a drug test for cocaine and ballooning up to 400 pounds. He’s even occasionally looked disinterested in fights, building uneventful leads and then milking the clock.

•First fight vs. Wilder: Most everyone thought Fury had won the bout once it reached the judges’ scorecards. Apart from suffering a pair of knockdowns, Fury outworked Wilder. Fury typically fights out of an orthodox stance but switched to southpaw midway through the fight to bewilder Wilder. He landed 84 of 327 attempted punches, according to CompuBox, as opposed to Wilder’s rate of 71-for-430. When the scores were read—115-111 for Wilder, 114-112 for Fury and 113-113—the Staples Center crowd booed and went on to cheer Fury as he exited the arena.

• Planned changes: Fury says he’s sick of fans saying he’ll have to outpoint Wilder to win, so he’s focusing on his power and going all-in to secure a knockout. Fury has switched his entire coaching staff in what he says is a move to maximize his chances at a finish. He’s predicting a second-round knockout victory.

• Trash talk:“What’s going to happen in this fight is that I’m going to get what I rightfully won last time. I’m going to get the green belt and keep my lineal title. And if he wants to rematch me after, I’ll beat him again. I’ve already beat him once, and I know I can beat him three times in a row.”

This story appeared in Las Vegas Weekly.

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