For months, Deontay Wilder, the former heavyweight champion, has dragged Tyson Fury’s name through the mud. He has accused Fury, without evidence, of loading his gloves for their February 2020 fight, a fight that ended with Fury stopping Wilder in the seventh round. He has accused Fury, without evidence, of tampering with his gloves. He has accused Fury, wait for him … without evidence, of intentionally scratching his inner ear, causing it to bleed.
On Tuesday, Wilder and Fury met in Los Angeles for a press conference to promote their heavyweight title fight on July 24. It was the first time the two had been in the same room since Fury’s shocking knockout win. Wilder had the opportunity to take on a man he has accused of some of the most serious cheating violations in boxing history.
And Wilder said … nothing.
Literally-nothing. Wilder made a short opening statement, thanking God, his training staff, and his legal team, the latter of whom played the biggest role in making a third fight with Fury happen, winning a lengthy arbitration case and forcing to Fury to take a fight he had little. Wilder then sat down, put a pair of oversized headphones on his head, and for the remainder of the 25-minute press conference he refused to answer questions.
Malik Scott, Wilder’s new head coach, said a lot. Scott, a frequent sparring partner of Wilder, has been elevated to head coach for this fight. Jay Deas, who has been Wilder’s chief cornerback for his entire professional career, has been demoted. Mark Breland, Wilder’s longtime assistant coach, has been fired. Scott, a heavyweight official five years after his last pro fight, has taken over.
Scott described his relationship with Wilder as “a brotherhood.” He said the chemistry with Wilder is “shooting all cylinders.” He said Wilder turned his home into his training center so he could “eat, sleep and boxing.” He said the key to beating Fury was “about the mental adjustments he’s made in the trade,” and that he was confident Wilder would complete the trilogy with a knockout.
Wilder, meanwhile, said … nothing.
It really was weird. “It shows how weak a mental person is,” Fury said of Wilder’s silence. Not that Wilder has gone completely underground since the Fury fight. He has conducted interviews, with local radio stations and podcasts. In them he has fallen down the den of conspiracy theory, claiming that Breland poured water into the bottle and that referee Kenny Bayless was drunk. Even after the press conference, Wilder sat down with YouTube videographer Elie Seckbach in his hotel room.
However, when given the opportunity to confront Fury, Wilder said … nothing?
On Tuesday night, I called Wilder’s longtime manager, Shelly Finkel, who has been in boxing for more than 40 years. He has worked with Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, and Pernell Whitaker, among others. And he’s been with Wilder for most of his professional career.
I asked Finkel: What was that exactly?
“He didn’t want to mess with Fury at the press conference,” Finkel told me. “What he has in mind right now is fighting Fury. He said, ‘If Fury wants to talk, let him talk. He just wants to fight. “
Does Finkel see a change in Wilder?
“I see someone who is really focused on this fight,” Finkel said. “He is training as I would like him to do before. He’s training like he’s never trained for a fight before. We thought we were going to have the fight months ago. We had to win [arbitration] to get it. The whole time he has been training. “
Full disclosure: I like Deontay Wilder. I made several trips to Alabama. I’ve written a couple of magazine profiles. I sat in a corner booth with him at a Tuscaloosa waffle house and watched the excitement flicker in his eyes as I recalled his journey to the heavyweight title. From working as a waiter at IHOP and Red Lobster, to becoming a truck driver for Budweiser, all to help pay for the medical expenses of his daughter, Naieya, who was born with spina bifida, a congenital spinal cord disorder. From entering Deas’s gym in his 20s, just a great body with a bigger right hand. From the trip to the Olympics to the pros to their first championship fight. Of all the skeptics who doubted him along the way.
Wilder is, without a doubt, a success story.
However, his legacy has been complicated.
Make no mistake: Fury could be Wilder’s last fight. At 35, Wilder is too old to rebuild. You have made a lot of money in your career, you may not want to. And after accusing Fury of all the dirty tactics in the book, after pointing fingers at the people around him for conspiring against him, after blaming his attire for walking in the ring (yes, that was also a thing) for exhausting his leg strength during the fight. , Wilder has put a metric ton of pressure on his shoulder.
If Wilder is knocked out again, and early odds establish an early ending with Fury as the most likely outcome, his legacy will be revised. He will likely end his career with two quality wins, both against the same opponent, Luis Ortiz. He will be remembered as the fighter who turned down a large amount of money to fight Anthony Joshua, a fact that Wilder, after Fury’s loss, admitted. It will be called the product of a sad era of heavyweights.
Fury is Wilder’s last stand. Fury was his usual good-natured self on Tuesday, dismissing Scott’s impact on Wilder’s fighting style (“In a real fight … he’s going to go straight back to the guy, 100%”) while noting that he has ruptured his eardrums. both Scott (in a training session, years before) and Wilder. “You can’t teach him to be a great fighter when [weren’t]”Said Fury.” Everyone has a game plan of what they’re going to do against me. Until they get in there. “
Minutes later, Wilder and Fury were face to face. The downward gaze, more uncomfortable than intense, lasted more than five minutes.
As Fury fired some parting shots, Wilder remained silent.
On July 24 we will see if it is different.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.