When the house lights fade and the electric canopy sparkles above the ring, a hushed anxiety spreads through the crowd and the questions we’ve waited weeks to find out will be answered.
There’s no feeling like it in sports. A big fight, a heavyweight battle, launch every cliché you can at it but for a boxing fan and even a casual supporter of the sport who might be rising at an ungodly hour to watch the event somewhere else in the world (it will be on at around 0430 in the UK), the spine will tingle, the knees might tremble, the heartbeat quickens, the expectations peak and then the ring clears, the bell goes and the fate of what you are about to witness lies in the hands of just three people; two fighters and a referee.
No one else matters, bar the coaches who are now reduced to sharing nuggets of information or pearls of wisdom, shouting between the ropes and between rounds, trying to make themselves heard over the excitement, the pressure, the pain and the noise.
But we pay to be at the fight, to watch on TV at home, to finally find out the answers. To determine the truth.
When Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury meet for the second time, on Saturday, February 22 in Las Vegas, there is much to learn, so much to find out. Twelve rounds wasn’t enough previously, when they met at the back end of 2018 in a dramatic heavyweight title fight that ended in a draw. Fury was a moral victor based on winning more rounds, Wilder claimed he was because he inflicted more dramatic damage, scoring two knockdowns, including that staggering 12th round when he knocked Fury down but not out, when the Brit astonishingly managed to rise, see out the fight and do so while going back in the trenches. It was brilliant.
We are still wondering whether the Bronze Bomber can put the Gypsy King away for keeps. We are left asking ourselves if Fury can widen the gap between the two and run away with it, using his unusual blend of skills and size. We don’t know if there will be a change in tactics, if Wilder will try something different or if Fury does as he says he will and attempts to be more physical and stronger as he tries to apply the pressure that will end Wilder’s five-year reign inside 12 rounds. We don’t know whether that will play entirely into the American’s hands. We don’t know if Fury has the power to derail Wilder, let alone stop him.
“Pillow fists,” is what Wilder has called Fury since they fought. On the other hand, Fury told me recently that you don’t feel Wilder’s shots; he either misses or he connects and you wind up on the floor.
What impact will the new corner team, led by SugaHill, have on Tyson, and how will Fury fare without Ben Davison in the corner for the first time since he weighed almost 30 stone?
Does Wilder have a Plan B? Does he need one? What if Fury is dropped early this time? What if he tries his hand as a southpaw, as he has enjoyed success with over the years? Will that make him more vulnerable, or would it present a puzzle Wilder couldn’t solve?
These are the thoughts fight fans lie in bed mulling over with just days away left in the build-up.
It’s like marking off an advent calendar from here on in.
We are building to a crescendo, a fever pitch. We are building to that hushed silence before the first bell.
There really is nothing like it for the simple reason that it could be all over in five seconds, five minutes, five rounds or it might not even be settled at all as we head into a trilogy contest.
Again, we eagerly tread into the unknown, getting our fix through our cables, through our devices and through our screens.
These are the nights that turn us into boxing junkies. They are why we are here, why we congregate online and mock, criticise, agree and talk to one another.
We share the same feelings even if we don’t share the same beliefs or opinions.
That’s why we crave that solitude before the first bell. When nothing else matters. When you stop scrolling blindly through your social media. When you sshh people next to you. When all eyes are fixed on the ring. When the two men in there stop talking. When they step boldly to ring centre. When the lights dim, perhaps culminating with the lights going out for one of them.
Fury-Wilder is everything that we want. It’s everything that boxing needs.
Expectations are lofty. Anticipation is high.
We are a handful of nights away from that hushed silence.
Drink it in. Devour the pre-fight coverage. Live it. Savour it.
Cross your fingers and hope it’s been worth waiting for.