Tyson Fury’s second grudge match with Deontay Wilder truly feels an age away. A devastating seventh-round victory for the Gypsy King saw him complete his ascent to stardom, and also spark a truly remarkable chain of events.
The fight, which took place in February 2020, was ironically billed as ‘Unfinished Business’. Over a year-and-a-half on, that tag remains, with Wilder determined to beat Fury to a pulp, while his rival remains typically bullish.
If Wilder is to spring a surprise, he will have to drastically improve. Their original rematch was no contest at all, with Fury dominating to twice leave him in a heap on the canvas, bleeding from his left ear and then his mouth.
Tyson Fury’s triumph against Deontay Wilder last year sparked a remarkable chain of events
Fury meant business, quite simply. Straight from the off, he took to the centre of the ring, establishing his lightning sharp jab and evading a number of Wilder’s early swings. From there, the momentum of the bout was set.
In the third round, Fury floored Wilder with a devastating right hand to the temple, and the American hit the ground in the fifth following a left hook to his body. Soon after, during the seventh, the towel from his corner was thrown in.
Cue the excuses from Wilder – ranging from the bizarre to the downright ridiculous and offensive. His ire was particularly directed at his trainer, Mark Breland, and his decision to concede defeat, despite Fury ramming home his dominance.
‘I told all my trainers, no matter how it may look on the outside, no matter how you may love me or have that emotional feeling, don’t make an emotional decision and do not ever throw that towel in because my pride is everything,’ Wilder said.
Fury sent Wilder crashing to the canvas twice before the latter’s corner then threw the towel in
‘I understand what it looks like but when you have power like me I am never out of a fight, no matter what the circumstances. I’m never out of a fight.’
But despite his insistence to the contrary, the result was sewn up. Fury capitalised on the moments of weakness at the perfect time, landing crashing blow after blow. It was gruesome, leaving no doubt over who the better fighter was.
Wilder, attempting to deal with the aftermath, initially weighed up firing Breland, an Olympic gold medallist and two-time world champion. Lurching from one choice to the next in the same style he looked to evade Fury’s onslaught, he kept him on.
Next up were the eyebrow-raising excuses over Wilder’s ring-walk outfit and its weight. Striding out in a shining suit and helmet to mark ‘Black History Month’, he looked the part. Until he then pinned blame on it, that is.
The 40lb outfit rendered Wilder’s legs weaker than normal, coach Jay Deas said.
Heavyweight titan Fury’s devastating victory has been overshadowed by Wilder’s excuses
Wilder, in the aftermath of the loss, blamed trainer Mark Breland for conceding defeat too soon
He then added: ‘His legs didn’t look great to me early on. I didn’t think his legs look like they normally look.
‘I know he came to the ring in the outfit, which was very heavy. I don’t know if that had anything to do with it. Tyson’s a lot of weight to be putting on you as well.’
A few days after the fight, Wilder admitted the suit was ‘way too heavy’.
He added: ‘That was extra weight, then the ring walk, then going up the stairs. It was like a real workout for my legs.
‘When I took it off, I knew immediately that the game had changed.’
The heavy suit Wilder sported for his ring walk was also blamed for affecting his performance
He didn’t stop there, either. In another explosive interview, Wilder accused Breland of spiking his water in the build-up, alleging he felt ‘great’ before having a sip from a drink he believed was ‘tampered with’.
‘About 15 minutes before going out to the fight, warming up on the mitts, it was perfect, I felt great,’ he said. ‘Until I went to the ring. That transformation, I was drinking certain water and stuff, trying to keep myself hydrated.
‘I just start feeling weird. My water was spiked as if I took a muscle relaxer or something like that. Certain things, the atmosphere just didn’t seem right. It felt like something was about to go down, and not in my favour.
‘It wasn’t just the suit, my water was tampered with. This feeling here, it was a different feeling. It was like I had no control over my body, my legs were weak.
‘He even had somebody on Fury’s side to tell him, “Throw the towel in, they got a rematch.” Because I believe he was part of it. He was part of it.
But despite the chastening manner of his defeat, Wilder quickly triggered the rematch clause
‘And, even more so, I think he’s got something to do with my water as well too. He was the only one handling my water. He was the only one. I have strong sources.’
Breland, to little surprise, was dismissed.
But was that the end of the story? Of course not, for in the same month, Wilder triggered the clause in the contract which allowed for a third match. The trilogy was on, and Fury would again be forced to step up and face him.
Tentatively pencilled in for July 18, the green light was given. It was postponed, however, because of the coronavirus pandemic. A rough date in October was then lined up as a potential replacement.
Bob Arum, Fury’s promoter, ruled out the prospect of the bout in that month, saying: ‘I talked to Tyson Fury on Sunday and I told him the earliest I thought the fight could happen is November. Who knows even about November?
Fury and Wilder played out a controversial draw in their first showdown and are fierce rivals
‘Obviously, we cannot do Fury and Wilder without an audience. If you are going to do it with an audience, are people going to be willing to get on a plane and come to Las Vegas? So many of the fans come from the UK.
‘A lot of that has to be taken into account. Maybe it doesn’t happen until next year.’
Meanwhile, in the background, a super-fight was brewing between Joshua and Fury. Eddie Hearn even revealed that an agreement was reached on a two-fight deal, with the initial terms for the blockbuster successfully thrashed out.
‘We’re making great progress,’ Joshua’s promoter Hearn told Sky Sports. ‘There is still a lot to overcome. We are looking at venues and dates.’
His words would prove prophetic in just a short matter of months.
After Fury’s win, Eddie Hearn said an agreement was reached for a bout with Anthony Joshua
And with Joshua looming on the horizon, Fury’s attentions suddenly shifted to him. Citing difficulties in contractual negotiations over finding a date, the Gypsy King confirmed claims that he would no longer fight Wilder for a third time.
In October, he told The Athletic: ‘They asked me if I would agree to push it to December. I agreed to December 19.
‘Then they tried to change the date again into next year. I’ve been training. I’m ready. When they tried moving off December 19 and pushing to next year, enough was enough. I’ve moved on.’
Wilder’s manager, Shelly Finkel, rebuffed his claims, stating that the fight would still take place. However, in the end it was indeed called off, with a lack of interest from broadcasters Fox and ESPN forcing their hand.
Then, in the month of the fight, came an assurance from Fury’s camp, in particular Arum, that Wilder’s contractual right to another rematch was no longer valid.
Fury, angered by not being able to set a date for the trilogy, then said he would not face Wilder
‘The contract says Wilder’s rights ran out at the end of October and I believe that contract displays clearly that Wilder does not have a claim for a third fight,’ he said.
‘Wilder had some surgery but that was taken care of in the contract, a 90-day delay from the date of the proposed rematch in July – and that has ran out.
‘It’s one thing to bring a claim and it’s a second thing to be successful. I believe that Wilder has no rights any longer for a third fight and therefore his claim will be denied. But I can’t stop them from thinking otherwise and taking it to litigation.’
Joshua beat Kubrat Pulev to keep hopes of a bout with Fury alive, and said: ‘Whoever has the belts I want to compete with. If that is Tyson Fury, let it be Tyson Fury.’
Fury took to social media, posting: ‘I want the fight. I want the fight next. I will knock him out inside three rounds. I can’t wait to knock him out.’
Joshua beat Kubrat Pulev and Fury soon responded by saying he ‘couldn’t wait’ to knock AJ out
In March, Hearn confirmed that the two heavyweight champions put pen to paper on the two-fight deal, and claimed that the ‘hard part’ was finished.
‘Speaking for myself, Anthony and his management team, I know how hard we’ve worked these last couple of months,’ Hearn told ESPN.
‘I just feel that this fight is so big it’s not a difficult sell. We’ve already had approaches from eight or nine sites in the Middle East, Asia, eastern Europe and America.’
All steam ahead, then. What could possibly go wrong?
The answer to that question came after an arbitration ruling held in May. The day before, Fury said his undisputed title fight against Joshua would be held in Saudi Arabia on August 24, ending doubts it would not happen.
But an arbitration hearing ruled that Fury would have to take on nemesis Wilder for a third time
‘This is going to be the biggest sporting event ever to grace the planet Earth,’ WBC champion Fury said. ‘Do not miss it.’
Less than 24 hours later, Fury v Joshua was all but scuppered. Former federal judge Daniel Weinstein extraordinarily ruled that Fury had to face Wilder in another rematch by September 15, having granted the latter’s injunction.
Arum insisted Fury and his team would respect the decision, and confirmed they had no plans to pay Wilder a handsome sum for him to step away. After months of litigation and days of testimony, chaos ruled in boxing once again.
Fury would take on Wilder and Joshua, after the WBO gave the Gypsy King’s camp just 48 hours to reach an agreement over a mega-fight, was instead instructed to fight against their mandatory challenger, Oleksandr Usyk.
With Wilder successful in his challenge, he set about changing his team. Malik Scott, who he once infamously knocked out, was brought in and labelled as a ‘genius’.
Wilder has brought in Malik Scott ahead of the bout as his new coach and called him a ‘genius’
Scott posted a picture showing him alongside Wilder during the fighter’s trilogy preparations
‘I always wanted to bring him in because of his genius and his mindset as a fighter,’ Wilder said, reacting to his decision with glowing words.
‘He’s a genius in his mind, he knows what to do, but he just didn’t have the athletic body to be able to perform what’s in his head.
‘I am the athlete – with instructions and teachings I am able to perform what he thinks and what he strategizes.’
It later surfaced that Wilder handed Scott the lead role in his camp in the early hours after his defeat at the hands of Fury last February.
So, the dates were scheduled, the coaches were in place. Preparations were in full swing. Then, in yet another jaw-dropping twist in this saga, Covid struck.
The fight was dealt another severe blow after Fury tested positive for coronavirus back in July
Fury tested positive in July and the fight, which was set to go ahead on the 24th of that month, was pushed back. After discussions with medical experts, it was agreed the bout would be called off, much to the frustration of Wilder.
An outbreak inside Fury’s training camp sparked the move, and the heavyweight himself admitted the result was the second time he had contracted the virus.
‘That’s the second time I have had Covid now, I had it back in the first lockdown and then I got it again,’ Fury told iFL TV.
‘Covid is no joke that’s for sure, I didn’t feel I was totally dying at that point but I certainly wasn’t going to get cleared to fight because I was still positive.’
Wilder was firmly of the opinion that Fury faked the diagnosis in order to buy himself more time to prepare, however, and hit out at his nemesis’ ‘lies’.
Wilder furiously accused Fury of faking his positive result to earn himself more time to train
‘I’m just tired of the lies,’ Wilder told 78SPORTSTV. ‘That’s all it is, lies. That’s what I believe – and a lot of other people do too.
‘The whole world believes it’s nothing but lies and it really sickens me to hear that because so many people have died of Covid.
‘People I know have had family members to die of it, to hear others using this as an excuse to get out of something is just horrible man.
‘May they burn in hell for that. Especially for something like this.’
The third fight was, as a result, moved to October 9.
Fury and his wife, Paris, welcomed a sixth child into their family with Athena born last month
He greeted her arrival with a message on social media, but almost lost little Athena at birth
Since then, Fury has welcomed a sixth child into his family. His wife, Paris, gave birth to a baby girl, Athena, in August.
He greeted her arrival with a message on social media, which read: ‘Please can everyone pray for my baby girl who was born this morning. Athena Fury born 8/8/21.’
His family have remained in Morecambe during the final days leading up to the fight, and have been forced to deal with the heartache of almost losing Athena at birth.
‘When you’re told your child is dead it’s trauma,’ Fury told Sportsmail in an interview this week. ‘Thanks to those great nurses and doctors who saved her we’ve moved on now. We always like to look forward, not back.’
Fury admitted to being ‘wounded’ after Joshua suffered defeat at the hands of Oleksandr Usyk
Last month, Joshua suffered defeat to Usyk at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, surrendering his WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight titles in the process.
Quizzed on the bout, Fury told a press conference: ‘Did I watch the fight? Yes I did. Was I absolutely wounded that he won? Yes I was. I was hoping Joshua could win the fight, but he couldn’t – and that’s none of my business.
‘The only thing I’m bothered about is beating Deontay Wilder, and that’s the most dangerous heavyweight out there. In my opinion, Wilder beats Joshua, Usyk, all the rest of the division, comfortable – but he cannot beat me.’