By Lyle Fitzsimmons
They’re on good enough terms now.
Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder talked the requisite trash talk and shoved the camera-friendly shoves when the American headed to Belfast to publicly announce an imminent date with the “Gypsy King.”
The two heavyweights even posed arm in arm shortly after the returning lineal claimant finished a 10-round slap session with loose-skinned Italian stand-in Francesco Pianeta at the Windsor Park stadium.
But Wilder said the era of good feeling between the two won’t last forever.
In fact, in a solo chat with Boxing Scene, the WBC champ said it wouldn’t surprise him at all if his 30-year-old foe began experiencing serious second thoughts as their would-be December date draws nearer.
“He’ll have some trouble sleeping, I can promise you that,” Wilder said. “We’re good now. We shook hands and I respect him for taking a fight that we’d tried to make for years, but the closer we get to fight night and the closer he gets to realizing I’m going to be touching him – putting these hands on him – the worse he’ll feel about it and the more trouble he’ll know he’s in.”
It’s the same mantra the outspoken Alabaman has recited toward many of the 39 men he’s faced and knocked out since turning pro after the 2008 Olympics, but the enthusiasm was certainly revved up with the realization he’s all but landed the biggest fish in the division not named Anthony Joshua.
A match between Wilder – the longest-reigning heavyweight title-holder – and Joshua, who holds the IBF, IBO, WBA and WBO belts, seemed near until the negotiations that had stretched over four months finally burst at the seams and left the multi-trinketed champ to secure a bout with Alexander Povetkin.
Into the super-fight vacuum stepped Fury, who’d been close to a Wilder deal several years ago even before ending Wladimir Klitschko’s long belted run with a surprise decision in November 2015.
The Englishman went off the personal and professional rails soon after that career-definer, however, and has only recently returned for two decisive – if not exactly devastating – wins against lesser lights Pianeta (slotted 69th at heavyweight by the Independent World Boxing Rankings) and Sefer Seferi (who entered their fight ranked 50th).
So, while members of the Joshua camp might point to four belts to legitimize their man’s claim as the biggest of the big men, what the Wilder-Fury match provides is a duel between duration and lineage.
“Oh definitely, most definitely,” Wilder said, to whether a victory for he or Fury would provide the weightiest championship claim. “He’s the man who beat the man. He wanted the fight. I’ve always wanted to fight the best. There’s no one else who can say those things, no matter what their name is.”
The latter phrase was a not-too-veiled swipe at Joshua, and preceded a full-on verbal assault.
“I’m a fighter. Tyson’s a fighter. I’m not sure what (Joshua) can call himself,” he said. “They just want to make money, I guess. I like the money, too, but I’m willing to take risks to get it.”
Ironically, Fury took to the media on Monday to refute the idea – tossed out by rival promoter Eddie Hearn and others – that he’d not actually go through with the Wilder date.
“Just a quick update,” he said. “I’ve been reading and I’ve heard some rumors that this fight is off with me and Wilder. Not on my watch it ain’t. I’m not pulling out of nothing, it’s on like Donkey Kong. Tyson Fury is like a king coming to America.”
Wilder and Fury are ranked third and fifth by the IWBR, behind Joshua and Povetkin and separated by Dillian Whyte. Meanwhile, Fury is considered the No. 5 challenger to Wilder’s throne by the WBC.
Ring Magazine, which finally stripped Fury of its heavyweight title in February after better than two years of inactivity, now has Joshua and Wilder at Nos. 1 and 2 and Fury at No. 7.
“(Fury’s) tall and he can move. He’s got a lot of ability,” Wilder said. “But he can’t punch. He punches like he’s got pillows in his gloves. That’s one advantage I definitely have – the extreme power.”
Extreme power, he said, that’ll lead to the aforementioned insomnia.
And perhaps even a frightening dream or two.
“He doesn’t like to get touched, especially to the body, and he knows that I’m going to touch him,” Wilder said. “I’m going to touch him like no one before has ever touched him. It’s reality now, man. It’s something he can’t get away from. He knows I’m the baddest man on the planet.
“I’m agile, mobile and hostile, and I’m coming for him.”
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This week’s legit title-fight schedule:
WBC minimum title – Nakhon Sawan, Thailand
Wanheng Menayothin (champion/No. 2 IWBR) vs. Pedro Taduran (No. 14 WBC/No. 26 IWBR)
Menayothin (50-0, 18 KO): Tenth title defense; Four KO/TKO in five fights with one-loss foes
Taduran (12-1, 9 KO): First title fight; Second fight scheduled for 12 rounds (1-0, 1 KO)
Fitzbitz says: It’s difficult to comprehend the surprise that’d be generated if a 21-year-old who’s never been past eight rounds manages to defeat a 50-0 champ. We won’t have to. Menayothin in 6 (100/0)
Last week's picks: 1-1 (WON: Dogboe; LOSS: Beltran)
2018 picks record: 57-26 (68.6 percent)
Overall picks record: 978-330 (74.7 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.