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Tyson Fury vs Deontay Wilder undercard: Co-main event lays bare professional boxing’s bitter divide

Jason Welborn will look to pull of an all-time great upset against unified world champion Jarrett Hurd, while Joe Joyce and Anthony Yarde are also in action

Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder clash in final press conference

Tinderbox news conferences where tables are hurled and rival entourages anxiously goad one another into pitched battles, as the star attractions go nose to nose to exchange insults and warm spittle, are far more representative of the increasing pressure pay-per-view stars are under to flaunt their wares to an inattentive audience than they are a true reflection of the sport of boxing.

The scene: a characterless antechamber of The Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites in Downtown Los Angeles. Again. Only this time, there was no screaming Deontay Wilder and smirking Tyson Fury. Instead a much smaller crowd, mostly comprised of family members and well-wishers, gathered to watch those competing on Saturday’s undercard take their turn in front of a clump of clicking DSLRs.

The two men who contest the co-main event could not better illustrate the trench that cuts through the heart of this sport, ruthlessly separating the leisured poster boys from the hard-nosed professionals, the elite from the ordinary, the haves from the have nots.

Jarrett Hurd in full flow

In one corner stands Jarrett ‘Swift’ Hurd, the 28-year-old unified world super welterweight champion with a habit of punctuating his polished press conference answers with bursts of song. His professional record is flawless: 22-0. In the other stands Jason Welborn, an unheralded former British champion from Tividale who has lost a quarter of his 24 fights. He is a 16/1 outsider.

For Hurd this is a supposedly untaxing tune-up. A fight hand delivered to him by Al Haymon, his first since undergoing surgery to repair the left rotator cuff he tore while battering Erislandy Lara in a thrilling split-decision victory earlier this year. “This fight is about me getting back after surgery,” Hurd pouted on stage, his shaggy golden fade glinting under the soft hotel lights. “And it will be action-packed no matter the style I bring. So don’t blink.”

The cruel reality is that Welborn has been flown from the Black Country to Los Angeles to be beaten like a drum. Not that the grim-faced Brit looked particularly perturbed by that thought, sat impassively in front of Hurd’s braying supporters. After all, he has fought tougher opponents than Hurd and prevailed: aged just eight he was diagnosed with a rare hip disease and warned he might never walk again, while as recently as two years ago he was still boxing part-time in a struggle to make ends meet.

So there were precious few histrionics when Welborn took to the mic. Only the seriousness of a man who knows the defining moment of his life looms large on the horizon.

Jason Welborn is a huge underdog

“Just being here is a win today and I have nothing to lose. People have always looked past me and I have proved them wrong. And some only choose to look at my early losses, but I have only been full-time for two years, and when you are juggling work with your family it is something that happens. So I am going to enjoy this fight and I am buzzing to be here.”

Somebody with rather more to lose is the British heavyweight Joe Joyce, who found himself in the peculiar position of politely squaring off with Joe Hanks while the man he really wants to fight, the Cuban Luis Ortiz, was sat awkwardly alongside him.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to showcase my skills,” Joyce said not entirely convincingly, of his fight against a fundamentally limited heavyweight who has lost two of his past four fights. “I want to thank Hanks for stepping up and I am just excited to lace up my gloves and get the part stated. I guarantee this is going to be exciting.”

Joe Joyce fights in the States once again

Welborn and Joyce will be joined on the undercard by the undefeated light-heavyweight Anthony Yarde, who had two opponents drop out of meeting him before a third — a Panamanian named Israel Duffus — bravely took the fight on two days’ notice.

Duffus last fought a fortnight ago, at the Royale Nightclub in Boston, and lost.

BT Sport Box Office will exclusively show Wilder v Fury on December 1st, available to buy for just £19.95, find out more at www.bt.com/sportboxoffice.

Wilder vs Fury

Full pay-per-view fight card

Deontay Wilder (c) vs Tyson Fury, heavyweight

Jarrett Hurd (c) vs Jason Welborn, super welterweight

Mark Anthony Barriga vs Carlos Licona, strawweight

Luis Ortiz vs Travis Kauffman, heavyweight

Joe Joyce vs Joe Hanks, heavyweight

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