A huge heavyweight fight is scheduled for this summer, but it's not the one that has been discussed for the past six months. After rumors of a heavyweight unification against Anthony Joshua, WBC champion Tyson Fury will instead face Deontay Wilder in a trilogy fight on July 24 or Aug. 14 in Las Vegas, according to multiple sources.
Fury and Wilder met in a rematch in February 2020 in one of the most highly anticipated bouts in recent history. But after an evenly matched first fight, which ended in a split draw, the sequel was a one-sided affair with Fury avoiding Wilder's big punch and dominating the bout. Fury scored a seventh-round TKO when Wilder's corner threw in the towel. Neither fighter has stepped in the ring since.
So will this third fight be different? Can Wilder's change in trainers be enough to help him solve Fury and take back his title? And what about Anthony Joshua's future? Is Oleksandr Usyk up next for him? And if so, can Joshua survive the former undisputed cruiserweight champion?
Nick Parkinson, Eric Woodyard and Timothy Bradley discuss the latest heavyweight drama.
Do you want to see Fury-Wilder 3?
Woodyard: Yes. I actually do. And, honestly, I can't wait! I want to see this one more than Fury and Joshua because I feel like Wilder has more star power, in my opinion.
I'll admit that I was shocked by the thorough beatdown that Fury (30-0-1, 21 KOs), 32, put on Wilder in their highly anticipated rematch in February 2020. It got so bad that I felt sorry for Wilder at one point because I didn't want to see him get seriously hurt -- and I'm not being funny either.
I want to see if Wilder (42-1-1, 41 KOs), 35, can recover, or is he forever done at a championship level? He's hired a new trainer, which could help him in terms of tightening up his fundamentals, but at this point of his career, who knows if that's even possible. I also didn't like his mindset after the fight where he just made a ton of excuses for the loss.
At his best, Wilder is a problem with one-punch knockout power that can keep him in any fight, but Fury might just have his number with his boxing ability and size advantage. Wilder will need all the help he can get, especially jumping right into a fight this dangerous in his comeback attempt.
How is this fight going to be different from the past two?
Bradley: I think this fight will be different because of the things Wilder was working on in the gym. If you watch any video on him, he's basically learning the mechanics. His mechanics are getting a little bit better. His technique seems to be getting a little bit better. He's trying to add more fundamentals to his game. He looks great. He looks fantastic. But you still gotta do that in the fight and especially against a guy who pretty much knows how to beat you.
Tyson Fury knows Wilder's weaknesses. He knows that he has to push you back and get in your face. I think it's going to be pretty difficult for Wilder to pull off a victory, but at the end of the day, you still have to give respect to Wilder because he does possess that right hand that only needs to land one time at the right spot -- and it's lights out.
Will we see a four-belt unification fight between Joshua and the winner of Fury-Wilder 3?
Parkinson: A four-belt unification fight at heavyweight now seems unlikely until the second half of 2021 because of the mandatory defense obligations from the governing bodies.
The time for the first four-belt world heavyweight title fight in boxing history was this summer -- it was a small window of opportunity, which can't be extended as other contenders are waiting for their opportunity. Usyk, as the WBO mandatory challenger, was even insisting his opportunity should come before Joshua vs. Fury.
WBA, WBO, IBF world champion Joshua (24-1, 22 KOs), 31, could now make a mandatory defense of his WBO belt against Usyk (18-0, 13 KOs). The 34-year-old former undisputed cruiserweight world champion needs to be next with a unification fight or Joshua would be forced to relinquish the WBO title.
If Joshua does let it go, Usyk would then fight for the vacant belt against Joshua's fellow English boxer Joe Joyce. No progress was made this year in matching Usyk against Joyce for the WBO interim title, and now that Fury-Joshua has fallen through, Usyk is one of the biggest winners out of all of this. It's an easy fight to make, as both are promoted by Matchroom.
But it's not just a case of the winner of these two fights proceeding to meet each other, like a semifinal situation. The WBC could order the Fury-Wilder 3 winner to fight its interim champion, Dillian Whyte, before a unification fight. No details of Joshua's mandatory obligations for the WBA and IBF belt are available, however; Joshua stopped Kubrat Pulev of Bulgaria in an IBF mandatory defense in December.
Fury is interested only in fighting Wilder and Joshua. If Fury beats Wilder, Fury could be allowed to fight Joshua.
Wilder is the WBC No. 1 contender, and he argued and won an arbitration case for a third fight with Fury. But it is unclear yet whether the winner of Fury-Wilder 3 will have to face Whyte first, before a fight against the WBA-IBF-WBO champion, if he wants to keep hold of the WBC belt.
The best-case scenario is that the four-belt championship fight comes back into play for the second half of 2021 and that governing bodies shelve any mandatory defenses until after the belts are unified.
Where has Wilder been, and is he ready for a comeback against his nemesis?
Parkinson: It would have been better for the Alabama-based boxer had he fought in a non-title bout in the time since he lost to Fury so comprehensively. But Wilder needed to stay available in case the trilogy fight suddenly became a bout again, which is exactly what has happened.
What has Wilder been doing all this time? Working hard -- if you believe the former champion -- so that he delivers an improved performance when he gets another title shot.
Wilder went into the second Fury fight being described as the hardest puncher in boxer, but he had become too reliant on his wrecking ball of a right hand and neglected other parts of his game.
It has been all about Fury-Joshua in the year since the two English rivals announced they had agreed to fight. Away from the public eye, and without an opponent to train for, Wilder has reconstructed his game behind closed doors, and we will only get to see how effective his work has been when he steps into the ring for a third time with Fury.
Wilder has made changes to try and sharpen up. He sacked co-trainer Mark Breland, the former world champion who was in his corner versus Fury, and has recently been training with former heavyweight contender Malik Scott, 40, from California, whom Wilder knocked out in Round 1 seven years ago.
"Deontay had become untrainable because he was at the point [where he believes he knows] more about boxing than all of us," Breland said earlier this year. "So teaching a correct jab was not a priority to learn once he continued on his knockout streak. A coach can only teach someone if they're willing to learn."
Can Joshua make it past Usyk?
Bradley: If Joshua is going to fight the winner of Fury-Wilder 3, he'd better get past Usyk. But I think Usyk serves as a real challenge because he's a good mover, a good boxer. He has a good ring IQ, understands angles and how to use his combinations and style to fight to the best of his ability.
I think that there's a possibility that he can beat a guy like Joshua. I think that's a dangerous fight for Joshua. I really do.