Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Wilder/Fury II: Preview

It's been awhile since we had a boxing post on this site, but I've got $40 on Tyson Fury to defeat Deontay Wilder in the rematch, so why not run through my thinking?

Full disclosure: My track record of boxing betting involving any fight not including Floyd Mayweather is not great. So take what I say with a grain of salt -- or as a guide in the opposite direction.

When I visited Las Vegas a few weeks ago, the Wilder/Fury fight was a pure toss-up -- -110 odds for either fighter. That makes some sense, given that their first fight went to a draw. But the more I thought about it, the more I liked Fury in the rematch -- and that's accounting for the fact that as a fan I greatly prefer Wilder. Two things loomed largest in pointing towards "The Gypsy King":

First, most observers thought that if anybody won the first fight, it was Fury. Instead the outcome was a draw. In my experience, when most people thought boxer A defeated boxer B in the first fight, but the judges disagree, boxer A beats boxer B more decisively in the rematch. Think Pacquiao/Bradley. There are exceptions, but they tend to fall into two categories. Either A's win would have been a huge upset (in which case, often the explanation is that B overlooked A, and doesn't make the same mistake twice); or B has a lot more drawing power/promoter backing than A. Neither one applies here: Wilder and Fury are roughly equally popular, and were viewed as evenly-matched from the start. It's hard to imagine Wilder was "overlooking" Fury in their first fight.

But that's mostly me doing amateur psychology on the mindset of the judges. Substantively, I see a much bigger issue for Wilder -- at the very top level, he's repeatedly needed his power to bail him out. That was true in both Ortiz fights, each of which he was losing before he came-from-behind with a knockout. And it was true in the first Fury fight, where he needed two knockdowns (including one in the final round) to scrape out a draw that even then many observers thought he was lucky to get. If Wilder didn't land his one big shot, he loses those fights.

Now of course, if ever there was an eraser, it's Deontay Wilder's power. I don't overlook that. And I get the whole argument that Tyson Fury has to be good for 12 rounds, while Deontay Wilder only has to be good for one second. Even still, it's never a good thing to go into a fight needing a knockout. There's a reason why Randall Bailey didn't win every fight he was ever in. If that's your only dimension, eventually you'll encounter a guy who can neutralize it long enough to take a decision.

And let's not forget -- Tyson Fury might be the one guy on the planet capable of surviving Wilder's power. The punch that dropped Fury in the 12th round of their first fight was the sort of shot I didn't think it possible to get up from. But Fury did, and survived the round. It's not enough for Wilder to land the big shot, it has to actually end the fight. Against 99% of all opposition, that's a foreordained conclusion. Against Fury, it isn't.

Tyson Fury certainly didn't look perfect against Otto Wallin in his last fight. But unlike Wilder, he didn't have to bail himself out of a hole with one punch. Much the opposite, he gritted out a decision under deep adversity (and I'd point out that we really have no idea just how good Wallin is). He showed heart and discipline, two things he'll need in spades against Wilder. But if he sticks to a gameplan and boxes smart, I think he can ride out Wilder's one punch, and get the victory many observers thought he deserved the first time around.

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