On February 22, Tyson Fury stunned many in the world of boxing after beating Deontay Wilder with a dramatic seventh round TKO. Consensus had been that if Fury were to win the fight, it would be courtesy of a points decision. The consensus was wrong; from the opening bell, Fury pressed forward and established control of the centre of the ring, using his weight to maul and smother Wilder.
Fury controlled the centre of the ring and kept Wilder’s right hand occupied with his jab, whilst looking for big punches from the opening round. In the third, Fury floored Wilder with a right hand to the ear, which appeared to severely disrupt the American’s balance, leading to a further knockdown in the fifth which, ultimately, caused assistant coach Mark Breland to throw in the towel in the seventh.
In the days that followed the fight, attention quickly turned from Fury’s dominant performance to Wilder’s response to his loss. In the immediate aftermath of the stoppage Wilder approached his corner, incandescent with rage, questioning Breland’s decision to stop the fight. It was then rumoured that Wilder had barred Breland from the dressing room, leaving him waiting outside in tears; there was even a suggestion that Wilder would sack Breland.
Meldrick Taylor, Pernell Whitaker and Evander Holyfield were also part of the cohort that won 11 Olympic medals
Breland is one of the most decorated American amateur boxers of all time, winning a gold medal at the Los Angeles Olympics on perhaps the strongest American Olympic roster of all time. Meldrick Taylor, Pernell Whitaker and Evander Holyfield (who replaced Mike Tyson in the squad) were also part of the cohort that won 11 Olympic medals out of a possible 12.
As an amateur, Breland had a record of 110-1, later becoming a two-time welterweight world champion after turning professional. Most significantly, over his 13-year pro career, Breland suffered three knockout losses, meaning that he had a profound understanding of what it meant to be hurt and was the most qualified member of Team Wilder when it came to throwing in the towel.
Many pundits were rubbed the wrong way by Wilder’s intent to fire Breland. Former professional boxer and Sky Sports pundit Spencer Fearon claimed Jay Deas (Wilder’s main trainer) should have been sacked for not supporting Breland’s decision to throw in the towel when Wilder was visibly teetering on unsteady legs.
Wilder’s excuse drew a significant amount of criticism and ridicule from the boxing community
In his in-ring post-fight interview, Wilder criticised his training-camp, citing an issue with his leg. The American then bizarrely blamed his 40lb ring-walk suit for his defeat against Fury, stating that the ‘Gypsy King’ hadn’t hurt him and his heavy suit had worn his legs down during the pre-fight ring walk. Unsurprisingly, this drew a significant amount of criticism and ridicule from the boxing community.
Boxing fans are always sceptical and willing to mock ‘bad’ excuses – such as Mike Tyson’s broken back, David Haye’s broken toes and, more recently, Logan Paul’s cold. However, there are many reasons why this excuse will probably go down as one of the worst. In the lead up to the first fight, Wilder gave an interview on The Joe Rogan Experience, where he claimed that he regularly practised sprints with a 45lb weighted vest. Video footage corroborates Wilder’s claims, suggesting that the ring walk wouldn’t have fatigued his legs.
Wilder would have also had multiple fittings for his costume, where concerns about its weight could have been raised. Although other fighters generally respected Wilder’s desire to go out on his shield, they questioned how such a fit athlete could have been fatigued dramatically by a costume, as exemplified by all-time great Roy Jones Jr’s claim that, following an intense camp, fighters are in good enough shape to recover from absolute exhaustion. Wilder’s wardrobe malfunction is therefore a pitiful excuse.
Wilder has an eraser of a right-hand that can end the fight at any second
Regardless, Team Wilder have triggered the rematch clause, meaning that Wilder-Fury 3 is set to take place this summer, much to the disappointment of those who wanted to see the domestic super-fight for undisputed status between Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua.
Following the first two fights, public opinion appears to have shifted, and people are generally favouring Fury to win the re-rematch. However, as legendary trainer and hall of fame inductee Teddy Atlas put it: Wilder has an “eraser” of a right-hand that can end the fight at any second.
It will be interesting to see how Wilder responds to this loss: whether he chooses to change the team he surrounds himself with or stick with Deas as his head coach; whether he chooses to lose the extra muscle he put on to deal with Fury, or attempt to counter Fury’s come forward tactics by putting on more. It will also be fascinating to see how Fury reacts to his victory and being crowned WBC champion, as it was following his victory against Klitschko that his career and personal life entered a negative spiral. With the first two fights regarded as among the greatest heavyweight contests of this era, the third fight promises to be an exciting watch.