Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said Tuesday that due to the coronavirus pandemic, the third fight between heavyweight world champion Tyson Fury and former titlist Deontay Wilder would no longer take place on July 18 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Instead, Arum said the fight would more likely take place in early October at the earliest, assuming the sports world is back up and running.
So now that there will be a few more months until Fury and Wilder meet for the third time, Dan Rafael and Steve Kim answer a few questions about what the postponement could mean for both camps.
Do you see a fight in between for Fury and Wilder with the date being changed?
Rafael: No. No. No. Wilder and Fury are contracted next for a third fight against each other because Wilder exercised his contractual option for the bout after Fury knocked him out in the seventh round of their rematch on Feb. 22. Unless Wilder has a sudden change of heart -- which in my opinion is extremely unlikely -- they will fight each other next, be it this fall or whenever boxing resumes.
Kim: I can't see that happening for two reasons. First, it's contracted, and it's hard to imagine that there is any other fight (short of Anthony Joshua) that would earn Fury or Wilder as much money as this trilogy. Neither man will want to take such a risk of jeopardizing that payday. Arum did mention though that if consent were given on both sides for interim bouts, it would be a possibility. I'm sure it's a game of chicken that nobody really wants to play.
If you're Fury, you want to jump back immediately into another bout with Wilder. Fury just scored a dominant stoppage victory over him back in February and has all the momentum in this rivalry. If there is someone in this scenario that would want a "tune-up" fight, it's Wilder, who might want to rebuild his confidence against a lesser opponent. The flip side is this: What if he gets tripped up in this type of fight and completely kills any intrigue for the third chapter with Fury?
Which fighter can take more advantage of a longer layoff? Why?
Rafael: Wilder probably can use the longer layoff more than Fury. Wilder got beat up and stopped in the rematch in a one-sided drubbing. Fury, meanwhile, came out with no real damage, enormous confidence and a resounding victory. The quicker the third fight happens, the better for Fury to carry his momentum and also not give Wilder too much time to recover (more mentally than physically). More time is better for Wilder, who needs to work on the things he and his team believe went wrong in the rematch.
Kim: It depends. If Wilder does actually make a significant change in the corner, or works on reestablishing certain fundamentals while letting his body and mind heal, this extension could be to his benefit. In the past, idle time and extended layoffs have not been beneficial to Fury. After defeating Wladimir Klitschko for the heavyweight championship in 2015 Fury was out of boxing for almost three years for testing positive for cocaine was then diagnosed with depression and didn't fight again until 2018.
But if the third fight happens by the end of 2020, it is Fury with his superior skills and unerring confidence that will have the advantage.
Will the additional time change your mind about who wins the trilogy fight?
Rafael: No. I don't think a few extra months are going to make a difference either way. I am not sure who I am picking to win the rematch just yet, but it's hard not to pick Fury after seeing him destroy Wilder in the rematch by completely changing styles from the first fight -- a fight that so many people thought Fury deserved to win despite it being ruled a split draw. If Wilder could not beat Fury in the first fight when Fury boxed against him, and then could not beat him when Fury went straight to him, how is he going to win? That said, Wilder still has insane punching power that can stop anyone with one shot.
Kim: For over 19 rounds fought between them, Fury has probably won the vast majority. He stopped Wilder in the most recent bout. He has exhibited superior tactical skills and the ability to be the more physical fighter, who will always have a few inches in height and at least 40 pounds in size. That is very difficult -- if not impossible -- to overcome.
If you talk to Fury's trainer, Javan "Sugar" Hill, who had only a few months to get Fury prepared for the second fight with Wilder, he'll tell you that they will have a more complete arsenal as Fury gets acclimated to this more offensive style -- marching forward, using his imposing stature to close in on opponents -- rather than dancing away on the perimeter of the ring.
Should Wilder get/add a new trainer now that he has more time to prepare?
Rafael: Co-trainers Jay Deas and Mark Breland have been Wilder's trainers from day one of his entire 12-year pro career. They helped get him to a 42-0-1 record with 41 knockouts and 10 consecutive successful title defenses. They know each other well and it has worked very well, despite Wilder's anger toward Breland for throwing in the towel against Fury. Wilder has come out and said he would keep Breland in his corner after initially saying he was not sure if he would bring him back. Besides, if Wilder really believes that wearing a 45-pound outfit for his ring walk was responsible for sapping him of his energy, as he has stated, that is not the fault of Deas or Breland.
So my view is that Wilder shouldn't wear a 45-pound outfit for the third fight, he should work on defense, remember to use an excellent jab and dance with who brought you, as the saying goes. Changing trainers might have worked for Fury, but he and Ben Davison had been together for only a few fights before Fury made a change going into the rematch with Wilder. With Wilder it's a different situation. I do not believe a change is necessary.
Kim: I can see adding another trainer, but I don't see Wilder ditching his whole team. And to be fair, they took a guy who got a very late start in boxing and turned him into a long-reigning champion. Let's be honest -- we all knew of Wilder's limitations, and before the rematch, how many people were really clamoring for him to ditch Deas and/or Breland? But as is often the case in boxing, when someone suffers a tough loss, wholesale changes are expected, if not demanded, by the masses. It seems a tad unfair.
I'll say this, if Wilder brings in a new trainer, you aren't going to reinvent him. He is what he is: a devastating right-handed puncher who is not the most complete package in the ring. And that is fine, he actually has made it work in what has turned out to be a very productive and lucrative career.
Whoever is in charge of preparing Wilder for the third fight should just really focus on making him the best version of himself, and making sure that he's better prepared for a Fury who is going to try to knock him off his front foot.