By Joseph Santoliquito
Jay Deas, trainer of WBC World Heavyweight Champion Deontay Wilder, and Tyson Fury trainer Javan “SugarHill” Steward talk strategy ahead of Saturday night’s historic heavyweight championship on pay-per-view.
Tyson Fury shook his head, so in denial that it looked like his bulbous noggin’ would fall off and bounce away. Deontay Wilder bit his lower lip, so angry that he could have bit right through it. Yet, they both had their hands raised after their classic duel in December 2018. Many thought Wilder won. Many thought Fury won. The final verdict said no one won.
The draw is a spilled blotch on both of their records that they’re seeking to rectify. There is no erasing it. There is no denying it. And there is no running from the fact that it galls Wilder and Fury to no end.
It’s why the boxing world will converge for their rematch this Saturday, Feb. 22, as Wilder, the undefeated WBC World Heavyweight Champion, takes on Fury, the unbeaten former unified champion, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, in a historic pay-per-view (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
Boxing rematches sometimes take on the form of the original. No matter how differently the fighters physically look, or what they change.
Wilder’s trainer, Jay Deas, and Fury’s new man, Javan “SugarHill” Steward, who in January replaced Fury’s trainer for his last five fights, Ben Davison, see a different outcome this time.
Deas said that the first fight confirmed what Wilder already knew about Fury (29-0-1, 20 KOs). He’s awkwardly effective, and far more athletic than he’s given credit for. He’s also very tough, and being a little crazy helps, too, joked Deas.
What might be different from Wilder (42-0-1, 41 KOs) this time around?
Back in November, in his rematch against Luis Ortiz, Wilder appeared content to give up round-after-round to the 40-year-old Cuban expatriate. Then within one swooping right hand in the seventh, it was over. Ortiz was knocked out at 2:51, with Wilder behind on all three scorecards.
But in “The Bronze Bomber’s” mind—and his corner—he was firmly in control.
Wilder exerted great patience against Ortiz. He stalked, and stalked, and closed the distance, until the thin sliver of an opening presented itself, and down went Ortiz.
One thing is certain, Deas vows, Wilder will weigh more than the 212½ he pounds he weighed in the first fight versus Fury. That was the second-lightest weight Wilder has ever fought as a pro, five pounds heavier than the 207¼ he weighed for his pro debut.
“There are battles and there are the wars,” Deas said. “The battles are the rounds, and the war is the result. If we’re getting in position to land some of the shots we want to land, losing the battles are okay against live resisting opposition. Losing rounds to gain position, it’s a tradeoff that we’re willing to make. Once we’re in position and landing shots, with the way Deontay hits, we know that we’re going to win the war.
“It’s losing the battles to reach the flank. This fight will be a mix. Deontay will definitely be more patient than he was last time (against Fury). He wanted to impress so bad that he was anxious and eager and light. He wasn’t resting and eating enough. He just wanted to impress so bad, he was going for the knockout.
“I do think we have to make some progress earlier than we did the first time. We can’t be down going into the 10th round.”
“ People don’t notice Deontay’s left hook, his defense. He has explosive speed. He doesn’t get hit a lot. ”Trainer – Javan “SugarHill” Steward
Deas did not rule out the possibility that the rematch could be more tactical than the original. Everyone is viewing this fight as “the boxer,” in this case Fury, against “the puncher,” Wilder. But the boxer, Fury, can punch, and the puncher, Wilder, can box. Both are not one-dimensional. Fury will not run from Wilder, though he is not prone to attack. He can work well from long, intermediate and short range. He can fight southpaw and orthodox.
Being unpredictable is one of Fury’s strengths. An opponent does not know what Fury will do next, simply because Fury himself doesn’t know what he’ll do next.
“And that’s the challenge of facing someone like Tyson Fury,” Deas said. “Remember, Deontay knocked down Fury in the ninth and 12th rounds. That’s important, because it shows Deontay was figuring out Fury. If the knockdowns came in one and four, and Fury made the adjustments, and Deontay couldn’t catch him again, that would be one thing.
“This was the opposite. Deontay figured a lot of things out from a positional, distance and spacing standpoint and was able to score the two knockdowns in nine and 12. In two of the last four rounds of the fight, Deontay scored knockdowns, which bodes well for the next fight. Anyone in boxing can hurt anybody, and Fury can punch.
“Will Fury sit down and take chances this time? Ortiz had success southpaw, and if they want to do that, they’ll put that cut (which required 47 stitches above Fury’s right eye after his unanimous decision Otto Wallin in Sept. 2019) four or five inches closer to us. There are a lot of unknowns to consider, and a lot of adjustments during the fight.”
Javan “SugarHill” Steward says Fury will look far different physically, and far different mentally this time around. Fury weighed 256½ in the first fight. He dropped to 254½ against Wallin. Steward wants Fury around 270 for the Wilder rematch, which is closer to Fury’s natural weight. Steward has a history with Fury. The two know each other.
“I’ve added some of that old ‘Kronk flavor’ to Tyson, some of that ‘Kronk juice,’ some of that ‘Emanuel Steward magic,’” SugarHill said. “February 22nd, there’s going to be a second-round knockout. The first fight was an instant classic, from the very beginning to the end. People don’t give Deontay Wilder the kind of credit he deserves.
“People only see that right hand. People don’t notice Deontay’s left hook, his defense. He has explosive speed. He doesn’t get hit a lot. It takes a lot to land that right hand. He’s not worried about losing rounds. He sets things up, sets you up, then boom. It’s over. His punches are right down the middle. It’s after he lands that big shot that you see all of the wild swings.
“I won’t say Tyson was too light the first time. He just got caught twice. Otherwise, he did everything right. Tyson listens when you tell him something. He also moves really well. Being at 6-foot-9, that’s not normal. Big guys like that aren’t supposed to move the way Tyson can move. I’ll promise you this, Tyson Fury will be more aggressive this time.
“He’s slipping and dipping a lot better. It’s something we’ve been working on. Tyson already has a high ring IQ. Things will be different this time, because Tyson Fury will get a knockout. With good balance, you punch better. In that first fight, I saw Tyson trying to avoid Deontay’s right hand and made two mistakes. That’s all. Two punches. You take those two punches away, Tyson wins the fight. He did two things wrong.”