Chris Oliver sets the scene for Saturday's early-awaited heavyweight title showdown between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury, with the former taken to win on points.
It's the fight that nobody thought would happen but Tyson Fury's title challenge against Deontay Wilder is finally upon us.
Most people thought it was just a publicity stunt when it was first mooted in late summer, but the two outspoken giants are now just hours away from one of the most fascinating heavyweight clashes for some time.
With both men having questions to answer in one way or another and so many imponderables to consider, this showdown Los Angeles is not only full of intrigue but also very tricky to predict. That view is shared by the bookies, with Wilder only a slight 5/6 favourite and Fury supported into 5/4 this week.
It is almost three years to the day since Fury famously dethroned Wladimir Klitschko in his own back yard with a brilliant display to breathe life back into the heavyweight division, and there is little doubt in my mind that if the same version of the 'Gypsy King' turns up at the Staples Centre on Saturday night then he will reclaim his crown. However, his problems have been well documented and the question of what Fury has left is what makes it so interesting.
Ballooning to 28 stone and suffering from drink, drug and mental health problems, the former champion was out of the ring for two and half years before returning in the summer with two glorified exhibitions against Sefer Seferi (retired after four rounds) and Francesco Pianeta, who never posed any threat in losing all 10 rounds. This is a huge step up in class for Fury, but if anyone can pull it off then it is surely him.
Big Fight Details
- Fight night: Saturday December 1, Staples Center, Los Angeles
- Title: WBC heavyweight title
- TV Channel: BT Sport Box Office (£19.95)
- TV Start time: Main event approx 5am GMT (Sunday)
- Radio coverage: BBC Radio 5 Live
- Weigh-in: Friday, November 30, 2000 GMT
- Sky Bet odds: Wilder 4/6, Fury 6/4, Draw 20/1 (Click to bet)
Wilder still has something to prove himself despite winning 39 of his 40 outings by stoppage and making seven defences of his WBC belt. The level of opposition he has faced has long been criticised and although he passed what was billed as his acid test against the skilled Luis Ortiz last time out, that win threw up as many as many negatives as it did positives.
Seemingly on his way to a first defeat, Wilder showed tremendous heart to turn it all around with a big right hand to stop his man in the 10th, proving he carries his power until the later rounds and passing the 'gut check' with flying colours.
However, he was out-boxed for long periods by the smaller man and was out on his feet when saved by the bell at the end of round seven. If the shorter Ortiz can constantly beat Wilder to the jab then Fury certainly can, while the feints of the Cuban also caused the champion plenty of trouble and the British man's 'herky-jerky' style could give him fits. Also, that is not the first left-hander that the 'Bronze Bomber' has had trouble with and we can expect the switch-hitting Fury to be turning southpaw on a regular basis, extending the distance between his chin and Wilder's money punch - the big right hand.
Wilder is often billed as a crude gunslinger but he is much more skilled than that. He has a good jab which acts as the perfect rangefinder for the back hand, and tends to only become wild when he has his man hurt. If you take that jab away from him then he can struggle to get the big right off, as we saw against Ortiz, and Fury pulled off the upset against Klitschko by doing just that – nullifying the jab of the favourite.
I expect Fury to adopt similar tactics this time, working off the back foot and looking to confuse his opponent with movement, counters and tying him up when getting close. In fact, this could well be very ugly for long periods as Wilder stalks the fleet-footed challenger, who will be feinting, switching and looking to spoil his way to a points win, which is tempting at 9/4.
Can Fury keep it up for the full 12 rounds, though? My gut feeling is no. We are yet to be shown he is the same fighter after abusing his body for a long time, and his tune-ups have in fact been no preparation for a world title title such as this.
There is little juice in the 11/10 about a Wilder stoppage, whereas the American in rounds 7-12 makes some appeal at 7/2, as it is easy to see him catching up with a slowing Fury later on. However, the latter is wily and tricky enough to survive even when there is little left in the tank and the value could be the 6/1 on offer about a victory on the cards for the home fighter.
There is plenty of British interest on the undercard, with Isaac Lowe and Joe Joyce both in action along with Jason Welborn, who gets an unlikely world title shot against Jarrett Hurd.
Welborn (24-6) has found the form of his career since stepping up to middleweight and arrives on the back of two split decision British title wins over Tommy Langford. However, this is a step too far against a smart unbeaten champion and the drop back to 154lb is far from ideal for the UK raider.
Hurd enjoyed good stoppage wins against Tony Harrison and Austin Trout before dropping the skilful Erislandy Lara on the way to a points victory latest and should get rid of the overmatched Welborn within four rounds at 5/4.
Posted at 1125 GMT on 30/11/18.