With the eagerly-anticipated heavyweight rematch between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury drawing ever closer, boxing expert Chris Oliver talks tactics ahead of the big fight.
The long-awaited rematch between Tyson Fury versus Deontay Wilder is edging closer and the guessing game continues as to how this heavyweight blockbuster in Las Vegas on Saturday will play out tactically.
As with any big rematch, the focus is very much on the first fight and what adjustments each man needs to make in order to prevail, with Wilder seemingly the one who has the most changes to make from their bout in December 2018.
Most observers considered the WBC champion lucky to hold on to his belt via a draw as he spent long periods of the fight chasing shadows and being made to miss, often by quite some distance. For the first time in his career, the 6'7" American was fighting somebody taller and with a longer reach than himself, which he seemed to really struggle with, as it was Fury who controlled the distance and regularly made Wilder fall short.
This wasn't just down to his dimensions, though, as Fury is blessed with much quicker feet and the constant moving target of the Brit proved pretty elusive. Wilder was made to look like a novice at times by the nimble footwork and the smart defensive skills of the challenger, who bobbed and weaved out of the way of the heavy artillery coming his way.
However, we all know this wasn't the case for the duration as Wilder dropped his man in the ninth and 12th rounds, with the latter now the stuff of legend as Fury somehow beat the count after being felled by a huge one-two from the biggest puncher in the game. Whether that success was down to Wilder working out the puzzle in front of him as time went on or a case of Fury tiring in his first 12-rounder since a long layoff, it was a reminder that the man from Alabama carries his power to the very end.
So what does Wilder need to do to land those bombs earlier? He certainly needs to set up his attacks better this time around, as he was too eager and the big haymakers he was winging in from well out range were too easy to read.
The problem is that his big right usually comes off the back of his jab, which he can usually find a regular home for but Fury took the jab away from his opponent when they boxed on the outside and that made the single straight right of Wilder predictable a lot of the time.
Getting the better of the lead hand battle is a big task, given that Fury out-jabbed Wladimir Klitschko, which few thought could be done, but he may only need to land one clean shot for this to be over and has more chance of doing so if disguising it better.
The home fighter also needs to halt the movement of the visitor and create a more static target, which could be done by working the body. Not only does this offer a bigger target, investing in shots downstairs are one sure way to slow down someone with good head movement and fancy footwork. However, getting close enough to do so is easier said than done.
Wilder may have freakish power but he likes to set his feet before he throws the big right and Fury was successful in not allowing him to get a steady base when in range with his constant movement. For long periods, the Manchester native was able to keep turning his man and not holding his feet for too long, causing problems for the slower feet of Wilder.
Wilder v Fury 2: Key details
- Fight night: Saturday February 22 (Sunday morning UK time)
- TV Channel: BT Sport Box Office (£24.95)
- TV Time: Coverage starts midnight, main event approx 4am GMT (Sunday)
- Venue: MGM Grand, Las Vegas
- Title: Wilder's WBC heavyweight title and Fury's 'lineal' champion status
- Sky Bet odds: Wilder 11/10, Fury 5/4, Draw 20/1 (Click to bet)
Another big factor in Wilder not being able to set himself in the wide stance for power shots was the constant feints of his opponent, who is noted for his 'herky-jerky' style and constant twitching. Wilder was 'buying' the feints by reacting every time and having to reset, allowing Fury to get his shots off and pivot out of range.
It should be a case of more of the same in that regard from the 'Gypsy King', but something he doesn't want to repeat from last time is getting caught on the ropes. Being cornered in the ninth round is what led to the first knockdown, when he had no escape route and Wilder knew something would land if he let his hands go.
Fury needs space behind him to allow him to take that subtle step back and make Wilder fall short, which he did so well for much of the 12 rounds, so he wants this fight in the middle of the ring.
Given the success that southpaw Luis Ortiz had against Wilder a few months earlier, many expected Fury to switch 'lefty' last time but he rarely did. Having boxed full fights from that stance in the past, this is a weapon Fury has in his arsenal and could surprise his man by using that tactic more frequently here.
That would not be as big a surprise as Fury doing what he has repeatedly claimed he is going to do in the build-up to this fight and become much more aggressive. He has a new trainer for this fight in the shape of Javan ‘SugarHill’ Steward, the son of legendary coach Emmanuel Steward, from the famous Kronk Gym, which is noted for a more attacking style.
Team Fury have spoken plenty about 'sticking it on' Wilder and going for the knockout, but few believe that will be the case as that would be an extremely risky game plan. Fury has an excellent boxing brain and should know this, with a dramatic change in tactics not wise in such a big fight.
For all the big talk, I think we may see a very similar battle to their first dance in LA, with Fury boxing well on the back foot and Wilder constantly looking for one thing - the big right hand.
As Wilder says, his opponents need to be perfect for 12 rounds but he only needs to be perfect for two seconds to win the fight, and that is what makes this so exciting. Fury could well rack up a big lead on the cards but we know Wilder is dangerous until the very last bell and the tension will be high until the very end.