Tyson Fury vs Deontay Wilder: American champion stands between Fury and a claim no one can refute

Fury will fight Wilder at the Staples Centre for the most coveted belt in the heavyweight division. But is he already preparing for the worst?

Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder clash in final press conference

Thirty-six minutes. 2,160 seconds. If Saturday’s fight goes the distance, that’s how long stands between Tyson Fury and what could well be his crowning coronation as a true boxing great.

Fury will face Deontay Wilder at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles, an arena where history is made. Where legends are born and heroes rise to the highest of peaks. Where Lakers legend Kobe Bryant lit up the arena with an 81-point performance against the Raptors, Travis Pastrana landed an absurd double backflip on a motorcycle, the first of its kind - and, of course, where Lennox Lewis risked it all one last time against Vitali Klitschko in his final fight.

This could be Fury’s moment. When he steps out under the lights, enters a square ring with four posts at each corner, the night in Düsseldorf will be forgotten and this will be the only fight that matters. “It’s almost like a fairy-tale story,” Fury said.

And while Fury’s crowning night in Düsseldorf - little over three years ago - almost feels like it didn’t happen, it remains one of the most memorable away performances from a British fighter. Ever. It was an evening that pushed the ‘Gypsy King’ to the precipice of greatness. Against one of boxing’s biggest names, Fury emerged triumphant having executed his strategy to perfection. Talk of who the Manchester-born fighter would fight next followed: IBF mandatory Vyacheslav Glazkov, Deontay Wilder, a Klitschko rematch and ‘Golden Bollocks’ Anthony Joshua were all mentioned.

Then, it was all forgotten. It became apparent that Fury’s next fight was with himself.

“I went from rags to riches, back to rags,” he said in the build-up to this fight. “Won it all in one night. I suffered with depression, contemplated suicide, lost everything I ever had and worked hard for. To then turn my life around again and win it all back within a year, it should be a movie. It’s a story.”

No one is more confident in themselves than Fury, no one believes they will win this fight more. According to him, he’s already faced his biggest battle. After what he’s gone through, “what’s another man standing in front of me with a pair of gloves?” But is the man still considered lineal champion of the heavyweight division preparing for failure?

“I’m going to give it to the poor and I’m going to build homes for the homeless,” said Fury of what he plans to do with the money he makes from Saturday’s fight.

“I don’t really have much use for it, I’m not interested in becoming a millionaire or a billionaire. I’m a boxer not a businessman and I’ll probably go down the same route as every other boxer – skint at the end of it all.

“You can’t take it with you so I might as well do something with it and help out people who can’t help themselves.”

Alongside his pledge to help the homeless, Fury earlier this week pledged to donate tickets for Saturday’s to the California wildfires firefighters. Take into account his willingness to open up on his own mental health struggles, and it certainly seems that the 30-year-old has turned a corner in his turbulent career. But is Fury creating his own contingency plan? Is the man who had his crowning night over three years ago hoping that, even if he does lose to Wilder, people will remember him as a great man before anything else?

Fury has turned his life around to make a remarkable return to the ring

The Gypsy King’s comeback so far has been an out-of-ring experience, a run around with Sefer Seferi, which can barely be considered a fight, followed by a simple points victory over Francesco Pianeta. Both were bouts to shake off any ring rust. For Fury, more than anything else, this has been a mental fight which has allowed him to drop from the 27.5st man he became down to a 17st fighter ready to do battle for the only strap he has failed to hold in the heavyweight division.

And the man who stands in his way believes just as profusely that he will bring the fairy-tale to an abrupt end. Wilder likes Fury - off-camera they appear to get along - but once the switch is hit, the lights are on and all eyes watching, they know what they have to do.

Given the pedigree of Wilder’s former opponents, there remain some question marks of what the American will bring to the ring. With a record which reads 40 fights, 39 knockouts and zero defeats, only his clash with Luis Ortiz is worth pausing for reflection. In that fight, the Alabaman was on the verge of defeat in the seventh – only to hit back hard and secure victory in the tenth with a barrage of piercing right hooks. Now, Wilder wants to eradicate all lingering doubt and consolidate his status as one of boxing’s modern heavyweight greats.

“He's nervous,” Wilder said of Fury. “And he should be.

“I got a 90 per cent KO ratio, he has never faced a fighter of my calibre, of my style, my speed or my power, he should be nervous.

“He's supposed to be a little frightened, that's OK. This is a gladiator sport.

“He will see, he will find out for himself, up close and personal. He will have the experience to feel it for himself. All the talk goes out the window.

Wilder remains unbeaten as a heavyweight boxer 

“It is going to be an experience and I'm going to give him the best experience of his life.”

As Fury prepares to take battle at the Staples, the man who successfully defeated Wladimir’s brother there some 15-and-a-half years ago has predicted the same glorious fate for his British counterpart.

“It will be one of the great comebacks if Fury wins,” Lewis said. “I see him as more of the boxer. He can frustrate you, especially when you can’t hit him. Deontay hasn’t been against a guy that can move as well as he can. If it’s a distance fight, it’s Tyson Fury. If it’s a short fight, it’s definitely Deontay, because of his power.

“I think Fury can employ the same tactics as against [Wladimir] Klitschko. It’s always frustrating fighting a guy who is taking the mickey out of you. And he’s that type of boxer, treating it like a game. Deontay doesn’t have that much experience, they’re both in that learning curve.”

Should Fury board his flight home from LAX airport with the WBC title wrapped around his shoulder, he will have a new conversation starter. A new base with which to push on in his career. Another legacy fight. A genuine and strong claim to being the best heavyweight of his generation. Who could argue against him?

But the story won’t end there. Boxing’s blue-riband division is no longer about winning one title, or beating the man who beat the man, or one individual fight. It’s about beating everyone put in front of you, becoming the undisputed king of the division. Should Fury get through Saturday night and emerge victorious over the 40-0 knockout artist, a rematch will be in place, but in boxing we know how they usually go.

Should he still be in possession of his titles, there will be only one man stood in Fury’s way: Anthony Joshua. A fight not only Fury and Wilder say they would both win with ease, but one the American’s 55-year-old trainer believes he would win. “I could beat Joshua. I don’t rate that guy at all. Fury is the hardest fight out there, certainly harder than Joshua.” The unified IBF, WBA (Super), WBO and IBO champion is boxing’s cash cow. No one could argue against it – and while the masses are pining for Joshua to face Wilder on the 13 April Wembley card, Joshua vs Fury would confirm the UK as the home of heavyweight boxing and create potentially the biggest British rivalry of all-time.

For now, though, all focus remains fixed on Saturday night and the prospect of 2,160 seconds that will define the heavyweight division in the years to come.

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