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Wilder Puts ‘Irrelevant’ Joshua on the Back Burner Until Further Notice

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  • Wilder Puts ‘Irrelevant’ Joshua on the Back Burner Until Further Notice

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    By Bernard Fernandez

    It’s funny what a devastating 12th-round knockdown, a Lazarus-like rising from that knockdown and a controversial split draw can do to alter the current landscape of the heavyweight division, or at least some people’s perception of it.

    Until late Saturday night – or very early Sunday morning for Showtime Pay Per View subscribers on the East Coast – WBA/IBF/WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua was the pivotal figure in heavyweight boxing, holder of three of the four widely recognized alphabet titles, the biggest box-office draw and the guy all the wannabe poachers of what Joshua possesses hoped to fight for pride, popularity and profit.

    But that was before the mesmerizing standoff at Los Angeles’ Staples Center that changed everything, at least for the moment. A strident minority of on-site spectators and Showtime viewers came away believing that WBC champion Deontay Wilder, who registered the fight’s only two knockdowns, including the one in the final round that has become the stuff of instant legend, had done enough to come away with a come-from-behind victory. A just-as-argumentative majority supporting challenger and still-lineal-champ Tyson Fury is convinced that the massive Briton had built enough of a lead through the early and middle rounds to be rewarded with the decision. (Respondents to a Showtime viewer poll favored Fury by 65 percent to 35 percent.) But regardless of which side of the dividing line fans are on, apparently all of them, as well as the principals, now demand a final resolution to a conflict that produced no winner, but a raging tsunami of dispute.

    An outcome that could and maybe should have been determined by the judges (Alejandro Rochin favored Wilder by 115-111, Robert Tapper had Fury by 114-112 and swing judge Phil Edwards saw it at 113-113) ultimately hinged on referee Jack Reiss’ allowing Fury, on the wrong end of that devastating 12th-round knockdown, to fight on after he somehow made it to his feet at the count of nine, seemingly with enough time remaining for the bull-rushing Wilder to finish him off. But Fury, amazingly, not only evaded the champion’s follow-up assault, but launched an improbable counter-attack that blunted Wilder’s momentum and had him holding on at the final bell.

    It all made for high drama, as well as raising several questions. Was Reiss – a veteran whose work throughout the bout was praised by the Showtime broadcast crew – a bit slow on his count, as Wilder contends? And even if he wasn’t, would he have been justified in stopping a bout which more than a few other refs would have called then and there, what with a semi-conscious Fury laying on his back, unmoving, seemingly more in need of an ambulance than a reprieve?

    “I don’t know how this man got up,” an incredulous Wilder said during a teleconference with the media on Tuesday. “(Fury) don’t even know how he got up. I feel that God got this man up, for the rematch.”

    References to Lazarus and The Undertaker – that would be the WWE headliner, not a mortician, known for his dramatic rallies from the specter of imminent defeat – were rife from all concerned during the 50-minute session with the media, during which it was made clear that Wilder-Fury II will happen next, sometime in the spring of 2019 or possibly early summer, with Wilder-Joshua or Fury-Joshua, depending on the survivor of the rematch, moving to the back burner until further notice. Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs), who seemingly had been holding a pat hand, would seem to have been dealt out of any immediate discussions involving highly lucrative matchups with Wilder (40-0-1, 39 KOs) or Fury (27-0-1, 19 KOs). To Wilder, making Joshua wait constitutes justice of a sort, a penalty for arrogance that salves the disappointment of having had to settle for a draw, which usually leaves no one satisfied.

    “I haven’t even thought about Joshua,” Wilder said when asked about the 800-pound gorilla in the room that apparently has been shunted to a corner. “They’re (Joshua and his promoter, Matchroom Boxing’s Eddie Hearn) getting what they deserve. They felt like they were the only people in the heavyweight division that people cared about. They felt like they were running this sport. We had to show them they’re not the only ones. Me and Fury came together to show the world what it looks like for the best to fight the best. Look at the outcome. No one has talked about Joshua in I don’t know how long. And we plan on keeping it that way.

    “They had the opportunity. For four months they had their opportunity (to negotiate a full-unification showdown with Wilder). They led people on. It could have been me and Joshua to have this excitement going on. He could have had (Luis) Ortiz, he could have had Fury, he could have had me. But their egos got the best of them. So let them continue to fight the second-tier fighters. Who knows? We don’t care about them no more.”

    To be fair, Joshua hasn’t spent 2018 sifting through the discard bin of possible opponents. His first fight this year was a unification with then-WBO champ Joseph Parker, whose title Joshua claimed on a 12-round unanimous decision on March 31 in Cardiff, Wales. He followed that up with a seventh-round stoppage of highly regarded Russian Alexander Povetkin on Sept. 22 in London. But with Wilder and Fury both seemingly unavailable for now, Joshua might have to settle on Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller (23-0-1, 20 KOs) as his first opponent of 2019. It’ll draw a big crowd somewhere in the United Kingdom, to be sure, but it won’t be as significant as Joshua-Wilder or Joshua-Fury would have been, or Wilder-Fury II will be.

    “For us, the overriding priority is the health of the fighters,” Stephen Espinoza, president of Showtime Sports, said when asked for a possible date for the do-over. “That was a tough, tough fight. So we’re not going to rush anything to fit anything into a specific timetable. Both of those guys earned a long rest.

    “May would be great. June would be great. April sounds a little quick to me. But it will happen, and it will happen at its natural time.”

    Truth be told, Wilder-Fury was not without its faults. First and foremost was Wilder’s unshakable belief that he could blast Fury out of there as he had blasted almost everyone else out of there previously. As round after round tolled by, with Fury putting them into his account the way squirrels store acorns in preparation for winter, the “Bronze Bomber” seemed oblivious to the entreaties of trainers Mark Breland and Jay Deas to compose himself and diversify his one-note tactics.

    “I definitely got overanxious to knock Tyson Fury out,” Wilder said. “I said I would do it, and I got very anxious to see the response and know I had the world’s attention. I didn’t know what to expect. This was my first time on pay-per-view. I know I had a lot of stuff going on. This was the moment and it got the best of me. I wanted to end it on a great note. I wanted to end it on a devastating knockout, and I pressed too much. I think I applied more pressure on myself than anything and it allowed me to get out of character, to just abandon the game plan.

    “I was fighting against Tyson Fury and I was fighting against myself.”

    Wilder broke through Fury’s commendable defense and his own obstinance in the ninth round, when he landed a chopping right hand to the back of the ear to floor the challenger for a nine-count. Fury regrouped to win the 10thand 11throunds, setting the stage for the 12thround drama that elevated what had been a good heavyweight fight into something more meaningful and special. That pulverizing right hand landed first, augmented by a follow-up left hook, with the hulking Fury – all 6-foot-9 and 256½ pounds of him – falling hard, with the force of Wilder’s 1-2 supplemented by the way the back of Fury’s head struck the canvas. At that moment, Wilder had every reason to believe he had done exactly what he had been attempting to do all along, only later than he expected.

    But Fury, the “Gypsy King,” made it to his feet before Reiss had completed the 10-count, maybe the most stunning turnaround from such an emphatic knockdown since Larry Holmes arose after having been decked by Earnie Shavers in the seventh round of their WBC heavyweight title fight on Sept. 28, 1979. Holmes went on to retain his title on an 11th-round stoppage.

    “I’ve been having a recurring thought in my head since Saturday night about the commercials for the next fight,” said Wilder’s promoter, Lou DiBella, who also was on the call. “You know, truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. A giant 6-foot-9 man went down like a tree and slammed into the canvas. And then popped up like The Undertaker! The look on Deontay’s face at that moment was like one of those scripted looks that you’d see in a WWE Wrestlemania match. He just saw a guy get up, and had no idea how that was possible. That’s a million buys for the next pay-per-view.”

    The lead-up to Wilder-Fury II presumably will feature less trash-talking and more mutual respect, but the quotes should still be entertaining. Both men have outsized personalities that make for nifty sound bites and Internet click-bait. Wilder’s back story as an outcast Irish Traveller who rose to the top of his profession, plunged to the bottom in a morass of gluttony, cocaine bingeing and mental issues before righting himself, is as compelling as ever. And now we have both guys seeking to prove what they contended in the first place, that each is better than the other and only a definitive ending can bring the kind of closure that no draw ever can.

    “We are the best in the division,” Wilder said of himself and Fury. “We wanted to prove to each other who is the best in the heavyweight division. We did that, and it was amazing. I’m ready to do it again. The fact that he did survive makes it better for the rematch. It’s an even playing ground. When I do knock him out the next time, then I want my full credit.

    “Who knows? We might even have a trilogy.”

    Bernard Fernandez is the retired boxing writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. He is a five-term former president of the Boxing Writers Association of America, an inductee into the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame and the recipient of the Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism and the Barney Nagler Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Boxing.

  • #2
    Wilder's ducky attitude towards AJ is pretty weak.

    He got a gift draw against a comebacking Fury.

    And now he thinks he's arrived on the main stage.



    • #3
      Wilder’s attitude (towards AJ or other things) is not necessarily weak.

      Agreed; he has some marketing/other issues, but (whether or not anyone accepts e won the fight) he just dropped the Gypsy King.

      I reckon either guy would be a handful in a dark alley.

      But, even though (as I have always stated and/or inferred to the Gypsy King’s biggest fan; D3) the Gypsy King pretty much went into this fight without all the required stamina and match practice, I reckon he would be a really difficult guy to fight, and . . .

      I don’t know that A.J - especially if he performs as he did against Parker - would fare better.

      Joshua, like Wilder and Fury, are all playing games about whom they face and when.

      There are probably reasons AJ doesn’t (yet) want to fight in another country.

      I have just done 12 rounds to this (below tune) on loop; it's wicked.

      Wonder what D3 thinks about the Gypsy King getting dropped and losing to Wilder, but still performing reasonably well.

      Time for my Meth pipe.





      • #4
        Meth pipe? That reminds me...

        My absolute favorite George HW Bush moment was when he addressed the American public from his White House desk holding a massive bag of crack cocaine and lecturing us about the dangers of it, mere possession of which was a felony.


        • #5
          AJ, Wilder and Fury are now all A-side attractions. WOW. That leaves Ortiz, Joyce, Whyte, and a few others to go after the early retirement.


          • #6
            Wilder has all the tools to stop a guy like Fury in the first 6 rounds. But even though he's 33 years old he's way less mature than Fury. Fury's maturity kept him in the fight. ....if he had pressed the issue there were certain moments in the fight where Fury could have possibly forced a tko.

            Even now Wilder is talking about getting a lead role in the next Creed movie and he's still throwing shade on Mayweather and Ward for voicing their opinions regarding the decision. A whole lot of people thought he got a home town decision. So I'm baffled why he's still dropping contentious vids 2 weeks after the fight.
            I understand that Wilder had a hand injury and a slightly distended elbow ( not making excuses) but he barely through a proper straight right hand until late in the fight. I could have avoided those slow looping righthands...they looked worse than the telegraphed rights Isaac Dogboe was throwing this past weekend.

            Wilder is better than that.

            Not to mention that Mark Brehland doesn't appear to have enough of Wilder's respect...he was way too passive in the corner.

            I don't want to dump on Wilder but I hope he has someone who can help him focus properly for the rematch. The yes men and relatives he's surrounded with don't make for a supportive, nurturing system of support (his ahem...wacky brother ...ahem)
            I hope he can get it together before the rematch because his physical attributes and fighting instincts are off the charts when he is centered and relaxed.

            Still ...Fury deserves a lot of credit for getting himself in fighting shape in such a short time after his meltdown.... most men would have never been able to deal with a title shot so quickly. The come back was nothing short of miraculous.
            As far as AJ... Wilder is deserving of dishing out a healthy serving of crow salad and humble pie to team Joshua, who were previously acting like big-time Hollywood Producers telling a budding actor " you'll never work in this town again" .

            Hearn is still playing the psychological game of one-upsmanship with team Wilder. But not because he's right about Wilder having no clout...but because he knows how much Wilder will take it personally.

            However The game is growing stale and Wilder is not getting any younger. Self Composure is crucial at this level.

            Knock Fury out in part 2 and go get that 50% with AJ (and then the movie part in Rocky #14) in due time.
            Last edited by brownsugar1; 12-12-2018, 08:20 PM.


            • Kid Blast
              Kid Blast commented
              Editing a comment
              Nice post. Good balance.............

          • #7
            You know Wilder's biggest dream is starring in a movie dont you? ....these fighters....gotta love em'.


            • Kid Blast
              Kid Blast commented
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