Deontay Wilder punches Tyson Fury in the ninth round fighting to a draw during the WBC heavyweight championship at Staples Center on Dec. 1, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.

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Keidel: Could Wilder-Fury Rematch Produce Next Great Heavyweight Fighter?

Jason Keidel
December 12, 2018 - 2:55 pm
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If two monstrous men slug it out for 12 rounds and you didn't see it, did it make a sound?

In the matter of Wilder v Fury, the answer is a resounding yes. 

In a bout that summoned old-school pugilism, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury pounded each other for 36 minutes on Dec. 1, a test of skill and will with the WBC belt on the line. Most pundits gave Fury the edge in points, but Wilder landed the night's most poignant and powerful blows, knocking the hulking Fury to the floor two times, which turned a close loss into a draw. 

Most boxing devotees agree that a challenger must whip the champ to snag his belt. Still, the decision remains controversial, if not wholly convenient. 

Indeed, a draw keeps Wilder (40-0-1) and Fury (27-0-1) unbeaten, while drumming up drooling enthusiasm for a rematch, which has already been green-lit by the WBC. It's part of boxing's playbook. Not long ago, Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin fought to a draw in a bout most at ringside thought belonged to Triple G. But it was the perfect springboard to a rematch, which Canelo won in another dubious decision.  

Maybe Wilder and Fury don't remind fight fans of Clay vs Liston, Ali vs Frazier or even Bowe vs Holyfield. But for the first time in a long time, the heavyweight division has a pulse. Everything about these two boxers fits the contours of a rivalry. Wilder is a tall, lean man who towers over most men. Yet Fury seems a full head taller and thicker - if you can forgive his gelatin abs - and an equally hard hitter.  

One fighter is white and European, the other is African-American and born in Alabama, an incubator of boxing legends. Earnie Shavers, Joe Louis and Wilder all hail from Crimson Tide country. Wilder was raised in a more traditional home. Fury comes from a deep ancestry of gypsies moving about Great Britain for thousands of years. While Wilder is from a state that produced great fighters, Fury was born with a fighting state of mind, his father, grandfather and ancestry schooled in bare-knuckle boxing. 

It's not Magic and Bird, nor Tiger and Phil. It's not even Rocky versus Apollo. But Wilder and Fury have enough talent and temerity, plus a flair for showmanship, to make the next bout, and boxing, worth watching. Wilder is fighting for his daughter, who's long struggled with spina bifida. Fury's family has battled poverty for centuries, roaming a far-flung world in an age of absurd creature comforts. We get ticked off when we lose hot water for an hour, when we go 30 minutes sans cell phone service or when the local Starbucks doesn't offer free WiFi. We would survive five minutes in Fury's world. 

And while it's convenient and cheap to split the fighters strictly along racial, political or economic lines, the backstory of each man matters, especially in an ardently solitary affair like prizefighting, with one man channeling all his pain and poverty at his opponent. While Wilder looks like he was born a linebacker, Fury is a pear-shaped pugilist who used his fists to survive. In case you're wondering, he was literally named Tyson by his parents after another heavyweight of note - Mike Tyson.  

It's got all the hallmarks for a fine rematch. If you thought the 6-foot-7, 212-pound Wilder was big, Fury looks like BALCO's lumberjack - 6-foot-9, 257 pounds. Wilder has an 83-inch reach; Fury's reach is 85 inches. Wilder is 32 years old; Fury is 30. Both were born in the embryo of another sport. Wilder is from Tuscaloosa, where St. Nick refers to a football coach. Fury hails from Manchester, the vortex of soccer.  

Plus this fight - whether it takes place in Staples Center again or bounces over to Las Vegas - will draw more eyes, ears and dollars.  And should Wilder win the sequel, he will set up a monster bout with England's Anthony Joshua, whom many consider the best heavyweight in the world. Don't sweat the hating over the ratings or rumors of a paltry PPV haul for the Dec. 1 bout. Much of that noise comes from Joshua's camp, namely promoter Eddie Hearn,  

You've often heard that boxing is only as strong as the heavyweight decision, and hence you logically ask why the most dominant fighters are way more diminutive. That's' because team sports have poached pugilism of the gifted big man. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound athlete now plays first base or point guard, for more money and without the specter of brain damage at age 40. The NFL doesn't scout the 147-pound welterweight, which explains the electric boxers under 150 pounds. 

Luckily, a man like Deontay Wilder, who dreamed of glorious gridiron Saturdays as a child, found his fistic skills that greased the path to a payday much faster than the grueling four-year tour of college football, which doesn't even guarantee a jump from Saturday to Sunday. He had a little girl to feed and nurture, and realized his granite fists would get him there faster than any team sport.  

And if we're candid, we'd say the sport is best when an American is on top. Boxing was still a sport of kings when we had regal heavyweights from the United States. The sport and the public lean on the long lineage of our nation's greats. Joe Louis, Floyd Patterson, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Larry Holmes and Mike Tyson each represent a glorious moment in boxing history. Wilder wants in. 

Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury may not remind us of the heavyweight halcyon years of the 1970s. The division may not be pregnant with great prizefighters. But all we need is one. And maybe a great heavyweight fight will finally produce our next great heavyweight fighter. 

Twitter: @JasonKeidel