The two biggest characters in boxing come to blows this Saturday when heavyweight boss Deontay Wilder meets unbeaten former champ Tyson Fury at LA’s Staples Centre.
Everyone’s talking about the main event this weekend, but if you’re interested in the other action we have super welter guv’nor Jarrett Hurd set to smash over-matched Englishman Jason Welborn, Britain’s Joe Joyce battling American Joe Hanks, and Adonis Stevenson’s championship contest with Oleksandr Gvodzyk.
If you have only seen Wilder’s showreel you’re in for a surprise this weekend. The windmilling highlights and the hype train have been building steadily, but let me drop some facts.
Wilder’s record is more padded than a cheap push-up bra: Until his 2015 title shot in his 33rd fight, the only recognisable name on Deontay’s CV was Audley Harrison, who had already been beaten six times. Wilder managed to win his belt on points against one of the most forgettable heavyweight champs in history, Bermane Stiverne, and that’s still the only champ or former champ the Yank has faced.
Wilder isn’t wild most of the time: according to Compubox, ‘The Bronze Bomber’ throws a higher proportion of jabs than any of the other leading heavyweights, and since becoming champ five of his seven contests have gone eight rounds or more. The two bouts Wilder finished early were against a former NFL player and a rematch with Stiverne – who was 39 and two years inactive by this point.
Ok, rant over. Wilder still has fast hands, dangerous power and a bronze medal from the Olympics to prove he has some skills, but I expect him to stick to an economical jab and wait for an opening.
Fury will probably employ similar tactics as he did against Wladimir Klitschko – staying busying off the back foot and tying up when necessary.
The only question is, can Fury be away from fighting for two and a half years, gain and lose about 10 stone, box two puddings and then win a world title? He looks like he’s in the shape of his life, but if he comes undone I think he can be stopped late on. Wilder is a skinny 10/11 to win by KO, but you can get 7/2 for the Alabama banger to win in rounds 7-12.
I think the Brit has the footwork to find room for a breather if he needs one and the two knockdowns he’s suffered were from not concentrating rather than a dodgy chin. Wilder’s power is definitely overhyped and if the likes of Johann Duhaupas, Artur Szpilka and Eric Molina can last 11, 9 and 9 rounds respectively then there’s a great chance Fury can take this the distance.
Even in Wilder’s signature win – a 10th round TKO of Luis Ortiz in March – he was seconds away from losing against a man three weeks shy of his 39th birthday. Team Wilder have swerved putting their man in with any of his top American rivals and any current or former champs, and they chose Fury because they thought he was a shot fighter.
Wilder had fits dealing with Ortiz and Szpilka because they are southpaws, and Fury’s switching-hitting will bamboozle the American. Brew yourself a strong coffee and settle in – I’m backing the ‘The Gypsy King’ to reclaim the heavyweight crown with an ugly decision victory.
Bet of the bout: Fury to win on points at 5/2.
Welborn is best known for a brace of wins over fellow Midlandser Tommy Langford, but he’s not yet well known enough to have Wikipedia page. It’s one thing marching down and upsetting a British champ who has pea-shooters for punches and a glass jaw, it’s quite another thing stepping up to elite world level.
Hurd not the most skilful super welterweight, but he is the biggest and baddest. In his last fight the American battered his way to victory against the man widely considered to be best at 154lbs, Cuban Erislandy Lara.
— SW⚡️FT Jarrett Hurd (@Swift_JHurd) November 26, 2018
This is a huge and surprising opportunity for Welborn, one he couldn’t pass up, but I just feel a bit sorry for him. The Black Country man has only managed to score seven KOs in 30 fights and he’s been beaten, stopped and dropped multiple times by mediocre opposition.
This should be the best version of Welborn we’ve ever seen and there’s a chance that Hurd could start slowly after eight months out because of injury – get behind the Yank to keep all his belts with a win in rounds 5-8 at 6/5.
‘Juggernaut’ Joe Joyce has flattened all six of his opponents so far and I don’t think this Saturday’s foe will stand up to the onslaught either.
Hanks stepped away from boxing for three and a half years after being beaten twice, and his comeback has consisted of two wins against journeymen.
Joyce has been sparring the fleet-footed Fury, so he’ll have no problem catching up with the plodding American heavyweight.
Joyce has finished four of his six bouts in rounds 1 or 2 and I will betting on that result again at 3/1 this weekend.
Up in Canada, protected light heavyweight chief Stevenson enters a match as an underdog for the first time in many years. But make no mistake, Stevenson has picked former amateur star Gvodzyk because he sees a fairly light punching, inexperienced and chinny opponent.
The Ukrainian does have the skills to claim a title at some point, but getting knocked down a few fights ago is a worrying sign.
Stevenson is 41 now but he’s shown this year that he’s still got it, and I’ll be backing the generous 13/10 for the Haitian-Canadian to win.
* All odds correct at time of posting.