Tyson Fury: ‘I’m welcoming Deontay Wilder into big-time boxing on December the 1st’
After the ballyhoo of a three-city press tour with WBC heavyweight titlist Deontay Wilder came to an end Wednesday afternoon in Los Angeles, Tyson Fury commenced a print media sit-down with an impromptu serenade of Chris Stapleton’s “Tennessee Whiskey,” as he basked in the afterglow of what he described as a win in the three-day promotional kick-off.
“That was three, nil,” Fury proclaimed about the tour’s fictionalized score between the two. “Today was a 10-8 round.”
Singing is exactly what the charismatic Brit does after big wins but there will be no fictionalized scoring when he steps into the ring with Wilder on December 1, just across the street from where the final presser took place at the Staples Center, in downtown L.A., live on Showtime Pay-Per-View.
“Who knows, but there will be one. Look forward to it. If there’s any betting going on, put 10 dollars on a song, for sure,” Fury said when asked what song he’ll be singing post-fight.
Fury, 27-0 (19), hasn’t had a meaningful fight since dethroning Wladimir Klitschko almost three years ago, which ended the long reign of boxing’s then-consensus heavyweight champion. Once bowing out of a signed rematch with Klitschko, thanks to an ankle injury, Fury had a subsequent fallout from the sport for various personal reasons, including his mental health and substance abuse. Eventually Fury had to relinquish the three unified heavyweight titles (IBF, WBA and WBO) without defending them once. He may still own the lineal tag of heavyweight champ, technically, but he left the sport’s glamour division fractured and gave opportunity for others to grow their names.
“I’m having a lot of fun. I know all the big fights happen in America. Perfect for the home of the stars – Los Angeles – for a massive heavyweight title fight to go down. I’m really, really enjoying it. I’ve felt very very welcome and I’m very happy to be in the United States of America,” Fury told UCNLive.com during the scrum, when asked how much fun he’s having now being back and how it’s helped his personal life. “It’s helped me a lot, you know? It’s no secret I’ve had my struggles. I’ve been struggling for a lot of things, for a lot of years. It’s given me the passion to keep going and keep winning. I represent all those people out there that are struggling on a day-to-day basis. I’m their guy who’s fighting for them. How can I lose? I’ve got so many people on me side – I can’t lose. I ain’t just fighting for me or (promoter) Frank Warren or my family or my country. I’m fighting for every person in the world who struggles with mental health problems and that’s bigger than any country, bigger than the family, bigger than any boxer. I’m gonna go in to fill them boots. I take that whole weight on me back. I’ve got broad shoulders and I hold that perfectly. I fight for them.”
Fury, 30, had to lose 135 pounds in the early stages of his comeback, which featured two warm-up fights this past summer. The wins over Sefer Seferi (TKO 4) and Francesco Pianeta (UD 10) aided his process of getting into fighting shape, rather than prepare him for a fighter like Wilder, who’s looking to make his eighth defense of the WBC heavyweight title. However whether or not Fury would be ready for the first big fight in this comeback was always going to be a question and two months ahead of fight night, Fury is slated as a slight underdog for now (Wilder -175, Fury +155).
There was no rust whatsoever when it came to Fury pitching a fight over the course of the past 72 hours. First, they met in a TV studio in London, England, then flew over the Atlantic to talk back-and-forth on a battleship in New York City, the following day, before landing in LA, where he continued to out-talk Wilder and did so while pacing the stage like it was a theatric monologue. Among the many things he said, Fury portrayed the match-up thusly:
“It’s a fight,” Fury said. “We can do all this stuff on stage. I can walk around here and I can talk as good as any man in the country. But when it comes to a fight, it’s going to be a hell of a fight. Deontay Wilder: massive puncher. Me: skillful boxer. It’s going to be an epic night. This is a legacy fight and I do believe that’s true. And after I win, he’s going to hire me as his publicist because I do believe I can promote Deontay Wilder back to being heavyweight champion of the world in no time. But there’s no shame in losing to me because I am the greatest boxer of my generation and I can’t be beat, especially not by him.”
As you probably already saw, the Los Angeles presser ended abruptly, after a physical scuffle that resulted in two men in suits falling to the ground, one of which being Wilder’s manager Shelly Finkel. The melee was really triggered by the handlers of both camps, once they got close, and, in the last try, in essence, the promotion got the visual scene it wanted for the three episodes of Showtime’s “All Access” due to air in the weeks leading up to December 1. Regardless the heated verbal exchanges were readily transparent, if you were paying attention, especially in the moment when Fury tickled Wilder after they were introduced in Los Angeles or hanging out backstage before a spot on ESPN. When asked how they felt about each other before the skirmish, Wilder said, “I like him a little bit.” Fury immediately replied, “I don’t like him – I love him.”
Fury furthered that notion in the sit-down after the presser but not without a back-handed compliment.
“He lost every single battle on the mental side,” Fury reflected back on the three pressers. “I’m living in Deontay Wilder’s mind rent-free, at the moment. Every time he wakes up, he’ll be thinking about Tyson Fury. Every time he goes to bed, he’ll be thinking about Tyson Fury. Last thing at night and first thing in the morning, he’ll be thinking about me. He knows deep down he cannot beat me. I believe Deontay Wilder is a great fighter and I believe I’ll bring him back after he’s been beaten because I’m serious when I say I want to promote Deontay Wilder. Who’s a better promoter than me in the world? Frank Warren can’t even say that. I am the best self-promoter. If I have a passion for something – I do it excellently.”
Warren, Fury’s promoter, was sitting next to Fury in the meantime and would later joke, “I don’t even know what I’m doing here,” when finally asked a question.
As Fury pointed out, the mental aspect of boxing is just as important as the physical side. Some would even point out his physique and say it’s a much more important dynamic but no matter how soft he looks, the 6-foot-9 behemoth knows how to box and move far better than most heavyweights. Even with such a long layoff from a big fight, it isn’t hard to propose Fury as Wilder’s best opponent to date and – more importantly – it’s the kind of opponent Wilder has needed to help get over the tricky hump of exposure.
“I don’t know,” Fury responded, when asked he thought why Wilder isn’t a bigger star in the U.S. “There’s so many sports here in the United States, that there’s so much choice to choose from. You’ve got so many sports and so many celebrities and people to look up to. I believe the American people don’t look to the heavyweight champion, as they once did in the seventies, eighties and nineties. The flair is gone! After the heavyweight title left this country and went to Europe, Klitschko killed the heavyweight division. He killed it! And I had to rescue it back, take it from his stronghold and bring it back to America and that’s why we’re here today. We’re here to put the excitement back into America. We’re here to make America great again in the heavyweight division.”
As much as he was wrong about saving the heavyweight division in the States with his win over Klitschko – one that was televised on HBO but nearly impossible to re-watch, in an entertainment sense – there is as much truth to Fury helping do so in this fight with Wilder. If anything, Wilder has helped the spur the recent growth of the glamour division in the U.S. by fighting often, gradually improving his resume and delivering thrilling knockouts in the process. Regardless of the opponent, just about every Wilder fight has been fun to watch at least but with the sport still being niche in the U.S., he hasn’t made the crossover push compared to the unified champ of the class who relished – and thrived in – Fury’s absence in the U.K.
“The U.S.A. should be lapping Deontay Wilder,” Fury proclaimed. “Love him: he’s a knockout artist! When was the last knockout artist from the United States? Mike Tyson. So this is the man, since the man, to be the knockout king in America and yet I come over here across the pond to the United States and I’ve got more fans in America than Deontay Wilder, which is amazing and I’m very thankful for. But shocking as well. Outside of Alabama, nobody knows who Deontay Wilder is but in every country in the world, they have heard of Tyson Fury – the ‘Gypsy King’ – for many, many different reasons.”
With the hoopla now over, Fury evoked a valid point to ponder and generate excitement for this heavyweight clash. The winner will either further the aspect of an American heavyweight star who’s been longed for over the past quarter-century or be yet another tremendous comeback in boxing within the storied class. In addition, something Fury didn’t point out, the winner will also get to tentatively partake in an end game against the man who benefited most from his own fallout – Anthony Joshua – whose clout has reached epic proportions over the past two years, collecting the IBF,WBA and WBO heavyweight titles Fury once held and filling soccer stadiums in the process. The big business of Joshua has made him a tough fight to negotiate into a dangerous fight, to which Wilder and Fury could attest, but going through each other is a perfect alternative and the essential bargaining chip toward an undisputed heavyweight championship.
“I’m welcoming Deontay Wilder into big-time boxing on December the 1st.”