Just when you thought it was safe to get excited about a heavyweight fight…
Back comes Deontay Wilder.
According to Monday reports, a favorable – to Team Wilder, anyway – ruling from an arbitrator means WBC champ Tyson Fury must face his two-time foe in a trilogy bout by mid-September, surely scuttling a would-be August unification with Anthony Joshua that had been made official over the weekend.
So unless Fury and Wilder make some sort of an alternate arrangement (read: Deontay and Co. get themselves a trunkful of step-aside cash), we’ll all be watching Part III of their rivalry by summer’s end.
Lest anyone forget, the two men fought to a draw in December 2018 in a meeting best remembered for Fury’s zombie-like rise from the competitively dead after a crushing Wilder knockdown in Round 12.
The rematch came 14 months later in February 2020 and was nowhere near as dramatic unless you found Wilder’s torrent of excuses for a seventh-round KO erasure particularly gripping.
As for me, I didn’t.
But it turns out I've got a lot more flexibility than I'd ever imagined.
After all, it was just days before that second fight – in a journalistic piece not too dissimilar from this one – that I used a few hundred words to suggest how Wilder would stop Fury in the second go-round.
The problem: That pick was voided the instant Fury's right hand landed behind Wilder's left ear.
And over the subsequent rounds, I'd be lying if I said I hadn't uttered phrases like "he's done," "he's about to get knocked out" and "they need to save him from himself" before it finally ended.
Pretty lithe for a guy who graduated high school in the 1980s, no?
As further proof of my nimbleness, I've become a card-carrying member of Team Fury this time. Not only do I think he wins the trilogy fight, but I think he does so just as easily as he did the sequel.
For all the reasons I was too distracted to stand with beforehand.
While I conceded then that the Englishman was a more talented all-around fighter and had won more rounds in the first fight in late 2018, I clung to the notion that the two rounds in which Wilder scored knockdowns were more important than what had occurred across the other 30 minutes.
But like any other bomber, Bronze or otherwise, the bombs only matter if they land.
And if Fury fights Wilder the way he did in the rematch – off the front foot, forcing the Alabaman to focus on his evasion and defense at least as much as his offense – they're much less likely to do so.
Once that playing field is leveled, Fury's advantages become more pronounced.
He's bigger, he's longer, he's heavier, he's stronger. And when his blows land, they have a particularly devastating (read: decisive) impact.
It doesn’t help the American’s cause that he seems unwilling to change who he is.
To be fair, Wilder is not the first fighter to fall head over heels for his own power.
He believes he can go out and hit a guy to win fights and no one other than Fury has proven him wrong, which will make it awfully hard to dissuade him. Not to mention, he’s a confident world-class athlete who thinks his own talent – which has provided a lot of success for a lot of years -- is more than enough.
And I doubt he’ll be too swayed by hearing I disagree.
But I’m not the only one.
“Emanuel (Steward) would have tried to influence him to stand back, never give away his height and reach advantages, don't lunge forward, make opponents increase their own vulnerability by coming forward toward his power,” said Jim Lampley, who worked with Steward during the late trainer’s time as an expert analyst. “Taller fighters should stand up and fight tall, bigger fighters should always fight big.
“That doesn't appear to be the way Deontay sees it.”
In a nutshell, it’s not just talent. It’s approach.
And for those reasons, so long as Fury's in shape and prepared, he'll always have Wilder's number.
Sorry, Deontay. It's not you, it's me.
But I hope we can still be friends.
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s title-fight schedule:
IBO minimumweight title – East London, South Africa
Nkosinathi Joyi (champion/No. 5 IWBR) vs. Ayanda Ndulani (Unranked IBO/Unranked IWBR)
Joyi (29-5-1, 19 KO): First title defense; Began first IBO title reign at 105 pounds in 2006
Ndulani (10-2-1, 3 KO): First title fight; First fight since September 2019
Fitzbitz says: The champion is 37 years old, which means a potential downturn is never too far away. But fighting a foe so far beneath his level should ensure Joyi stays on top for a bit longer. Joyi in 10 (95/5)
IBF/WBA/WBC/WBO junior welterweight/super lightweight titles – Las Vegas, Nevada
Josh Taylor (IBF, WBA champ/No. 1 IWBR) vs. Jose Ramirez (WBC, WBO champ/No. 2 IWBR)
Taylor (17-0, 13 KO): Third IBF title defense; Fourth fight in the United States (3-0, 2 KO)
Ramirez (26-0, 17 KO): Fifth WBC title defense; One KO/TKO win in five 12-round fights (5-0, 1 KO)
Fitzbitz says: I love this fight and you should, too. Ramirez deserves all of the recognition he’s gotten, but Taylor is just as rugged and even more skilled. He’ll win a great one. Taylor by decision (75/25)
Last week's picks: 0-1 (LOSS: Nery)
2021 picks record: 20-5 (80.0 percent)
Overall picks record: 1,176-380 (75.5 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.