“Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t.” – Jay-Z
Numerous numbers were strewn about leading up to last Saturday’s heavyweight title matchup between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury. The bout was the second between the world’s top-two heavyweights. Three titles were on the line if you include Wilder’s WBC heavyweight title, The Ring championship belt and Fury’s status as the lineal heavyweight champion of the world.
Entering the bout, Wilder had accumulated 42 victories, 41 by knockout, and zero losses. Fury’s unbeaten record also included 30 wins and 21 knockouts. Each fighter’s record contained one draw – from their first matchup.
Both men earned a guaranteed $28 million, plus a percentage of the PPV profits. Add in ages, height, reach, punch stats, etc. and there seems to be an infinite amount of numbers that impacted the fight in some way. However, one particular number stood out and raised red flags for me: 231. That is how many pounds Wilder weighed when he stepped onto the scales Friday afternoon.
Though 231 pounds is far from excessive for a modern heavyweight – especially one who stands at 6-foot-7 – it was the heaviest weight of Wilder’s career. During his first bout against Fury in 2016, Wilder weighed 212.5. In Wilder’s previous fight, a Round 7 KO against Luis Ortiz in November, Wilder weighed 219.5.
So when Wilder tipped the scales at north of 230 pounds, I wondered whether we might see another Andy Ruiz Jr. moment. To be fair, Ruiz was terribly out-of-shape when he was easily out-boxed by Anthony Joshua in their second bout. Meanwhile, Wilder was ripped and certainly passed the visual test of what a power-punching heavyweight champion should look like. Still, I couldn’t shake the question of why the extra weight was there.
The 6-foot-9 Fury weighed in a robust 273 pounds, nearly 17 pounds heavier than he weighed during their first fight. However, for months Fury stated that he intended to enter the fight around 270 pounds so that he could bully and batter Wilder. His weight gain was intentional. It was designed to give him extra power to hurt Wilder and extra stability to stand up to Wilder’s vaunted right hand.
Wilder’s extra weight seemed coincidental.
"At the end of the day, we're heavyweights, so it really doesn't matter about the weight," Wilder told reporters after the pre-fight weigh-in. "As you can see throughout my whole career, I've been underweight. I probably outweighed my opponent maybe four times in my career. So I really don't care about weight.”
It’s fair to ask whether Wilder fell in love with his power and failed to properly prepare for the fight. It is possible that he read into the press clippings, with sports writers around the globe (including this one) picking him to win via vicious knockout. It’s quite possible that Wilder thought all he needed to do was show up, throw some right hands and Fury would have no choice but to crumble to the canvas.
When the bell rang Saturday night, it was evident that Wilder was not moving the same as usual. He did not appear as agile or athletic as in the past. Nobody will confuse him with Willie Pep. In fact, he’ll probably never be considered a “good” defensive fighter due to the fact that he often keeps his hands low and his wild swings routinely leave him in vulnerable positions on the defensive end. Still, Wilder has often shown the ability and agility to lean, duck or step back out of the way of incoming punches.
He did none of that Saturday night. His feet looked like they were in quicksand from the jump.
Following his stunning stoppage loss, Wilder pinned part of the blame on his elaborate costume.
"I paid a severe price because my legs were how they were because of my uniform. My uniform was way too heavy. It was 40-plus pounds,” Wilder told ESPN. “We had it on 10 or 15 minutes before we even walked out and then put the helmet on. That was extra weight, then the ring walk, then going up the stairs. It was like a real workout for my legs. When I took it off, I knew immediately that game has changed."
Many fans and sports personalities aren’t buying the excuse. I don’t know whether it holds weight, but I do know I noticed Wilder’s legs didn’t look the same at start of the fight.
Let’s not take anything from Fury though. He utilized his extra weight to overpower Wilder. Fury brought the fight to Wilder, just like he said he would before the fight.
Fury landed 58 power punches en route to the stunning seventh-round stoppage. In their previous bout, Fury landed just 38 power punches over the full 12-round fight.
Let’s take an even broader look at Fury’s change in strategy. In the first fight, Fury threw 223 jabs versus just 104 power punches. In the rematch, he threw 160 power punches versus just 107 jabs.
What I don’t have the numbers for, but what was equally important for Fury’s victory, is how many clenches, headlocks and choke holds Fury used while infighting. That helped drain energy from an already weary Wilder. Though I hate when fighters use that tactic, it is often highly-effective.
After the KO loss, Wilder was derided and ridiculed in memes across the internet. The costume excuse and his criticism of trainer Mark Breland for throwing in the towel have drawn the ire of many. Let’s be clear. Breland’s decision was absolutely the correct one. Wilder was in such poor condition that his right hand couldn’t save him. Despite his battered pride, it’s better to live to fight another day.
One thing I hope Wilder draws from the loss is the need to prepare for 12 round every fight. Yes, his knockout power is extreme. However, the moment a fighter truly believes that no opponent can last 12 rounds in the ring is the moment that fighter is set up for failure.
Marvelous Marvin Hagler once stated, “It’s tough to get out of bed to do roadwork at 5AM when you’ve been sleeping in silk pajamas.”
I have a feeling that the money and fame may have caused Wilder to get a little too comfortable. By believing that his right hand was inherently unstoppable, he may have failed to put in the work and dedication that made it so.
The humbling loss may help Wilder in the long run. After the second Ortiz fight, Wilder argued he was the “hardest puncher in boxing history.” Like Tommy Hearns or Mike Tyson, much of Wilder’s power is predicated on the speed generated by his punches. The extra weight likely took away some of that speed.
Wilder is the most dangerous when he’s hungry, dedicated, hungry and fit. Hopefully the “L” Fury handed him will light a fire under the now-former WBC heavyweight champ.
Some have proclaimed that after the loss, Wilder shouldn’t even bother exercising his rematch clause. I disagree. I think Wilder should exercise the rematch clause, and exercise a bit harder in his training to ensure that he’s ready for Tyson’s fury in the third bout.
There should be no ridicule for Wilder’s loss. He left it all in the ring. Next time he should leave it all in the gym. Then maybe that ridicule will turn into redemption.
Follow Ishmael and In the Clutch online at stlamerican.com and on Twitter @ishcreates.