Thursday, February 27, 2020

Punch 2 the Face Radio

In this week's Punch 2 the Face Radio, Brandon and I marveled at Tyson Fury's triumphant victory over Deontay Wilder and talked about the bizarre aftermath of the fight. In addition, we previewed Saturday's intriguing DAZN/Matchroom Sport card headlined by Garcia-Vargas and Yafai-Gonzalez. During the last part of the show, we dished on some news and notes in the sport. To listen to the podcast, click on the links below:

iTunes link:
Stitcher link:
Blog Talk Radio link:
Also, find us on Spotify: Punch 2 the Face Radio #163

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.comHe's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook. 

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Opinions and Observations: Wilder-Fury 2

"Crazy" by Patsy Cline. That sweet country ballad from yesteryear wouldn't typically be utilized for ring walk music in one of the biggest heavyweight fights in a generation. Fighters use music to get themselves revved up, not to mention their supporters in the crowd. Yet, there was something perfectly appropriately about Tyson Fury choosing that song. Fury and "crazy" have been linked for many years, for good or ill. Fury has long been one of the more outrageous talkers in the sport. He has battled mental illness over the years, specifically, depression. He has gained and lost well over 100 lbs. during his time away from the sport and his return. 

He also believed in himself when few others would. He was a healthy underdog in 2015 when challenging longtime heavyweight king Wladimir Klitschko for his titles. He won nine or ten of those rounds with relative ease. Although it wasn't necessarily a pretty fight to watch (or endure might be a better word), he effectively neutralized Klitschko's considerable weapons. After a two-and-a-half-year layoff, he returned to the ring in 2018 and beat two poor opponents. Yet Fury declared that he was ready to challenge Deontay Wilder for his belt. Although their first fight ended in a draw, the final scorecards flattered Wilder. Deontay did score two knockdowns, but better judging should have still given Fury the victory. 

Going into Saturday's rematch against Wilder. Fury again upset the apple cart. With just precious weeks to go until the big encounter, he replaced Ben Davison, his former lead trainer, with Javan "SugarHill" Steward. Davison was instrumental in getting Fury back into fighting shape and devised an excellent game plan for Tyson's first meeting against Wilder. 

Photo Courtesy of Mikey Williams

Speculation again ensued from a number of boxing corners regarding Fury's focus and psychological mindset. If he and Davison had been working so well, why make the change? Was this evidence of flakiness, or something more concerning? In addition, why was Fury coming into the fight significantly heavier for the rematch when his mobility and elusiveness were among two of his best assets?

Fury entered Saturday's ring sitting on a huge red throne, wheeled in by four women wearing gold-plated bustiers. He was a gladiator, a king, and yet there he was mouthing the words to that tender ballad from 1961. And for some strange reason, that juxtaposition worked perfectly. Fury was winking at the sport. He knew what he had said in the past and what had been said about him. Win or lose, he has perceived himself in boxing as a singular presence in the sport. The normal rules of the sport (how a big man should fight, preparation, decorum) haven't applied to him. 

And as I was watching Fury's destruction of Wilder during Saturday's fight, the phrase "crazy like a fox" echoed through my mind as well. Fury told the world over that he was trying for the early knockout, which shocked many since Wilder was the bigger puncher in the matchup and a firefight would have in theory been beneficial to his chances of winning. But Fury made those pronouncements all throughout the buildup to the fight. Were they mind games (of which Fury had certainly participated in during his career), or were they truth bombs hiding in plain sight?  

From the outset of Saturday's fight, Fury demonstrated that his statements weren't bluffs or gamesmanship. Instead of the fancy footwork and elaborate pantomimes that were used to flummox Wilder through large portions of their first fight, Fury stepped to Wilder behind a jab and a right hand. He wasn't wasting energy, he didn't dance. He was determined. He was purposeful. 

Fury quickly established control in the first round. They traded power shots in the second where Fury took several Wilder right hands well. In the third Fury continued to march forward. He landed a number of right hands from different trajectories – straight shots, high arching ones on the temple, overhands. Later in the round he blinded Wilder with a solid jab and connected with right hand on the side of Wilder's turned head, dropping Deontay to the canvas. 

There were four more rounds of the fight until Wilder's corner threw in the towel. During that period, Fury demonstrated a clinic on applying effective pressure. He continued to land hard power shots. He mixed up hooks to the body (in the fifth he scored his second knockdown from a body shot). He avoided Wilder's right hands thrown in desperation. When Wilder missed with a lunging shot, Fury leaned on his opponent, grappled with him, put his hands behind his neck, anything to further deplete Wilder. By the time the fight was stopped in the seventh, Wilder only remained standing because of heart and muscle memory, but he had nothing left. Fury had comprehensively battered him. 

The knockdown in the third round was an equilibrium shot and Wilder's legs didn't look right for the rest of the bout. Wilder subsequently claimed that he had a leg injury coming into the fight. All of that could be true, but Wilder didn't pull out of the bout (which was his right). And it is common for fighters to be far from 100% when they are in the ring (ask Fury about that!). 

Throughout his career at the top level of the sport Wilder has played a dangerous game. He has given up rounds and taken big shots in order to land his right hand. Until Saturday it had worked out well for him, but the risks of his strategy were plain to see. It's heavyweight boxing and if a guy can land his best shot, anything can happen. Ultimately Wilder's defense has never been good enough. His chin had been sturdy, but he could be hit too easily. Unfortunately for him, on Saturday he was facing a creative offensive fighter who had the technical ability to land a clean shot in an area where any fighter could be vulnerable. 

Again, there was nothing flukish about the third-round knockdown. Fury had landed several big right hands before that exchange. And when a fighter as talented as Fury gets several bites at the apples, these types of things will happen. 

Photo Courtesy of Mikey Williams

After the fight Fury was asked why he decided to attack Wilder in the rematch and he said that he tried boxing from the outside in their first fight, but it wound up a draw. To him it wasn't good enough. I found that exchange to be revealing on many levels. Fury could have easily blamed poor judging on the result of the first fight. He could have stuck with a style that led him to beating Wilder with relative ease through much of the fight. However, Fury did an honest and refreshing self-assessment. 

In his previous fight Fury had won a wide decision on the cards against Otto Wallin. But Fury had some difficult periods during the bout. Wallin strafed Fury with left hands from the outside and was able to open up a huge cut over Fury's right eye. The cut was so bad that the fight was in danger of being stopped. For whatever reason, Fury wasn't dealing with Wallin's left hand well from distance, so he took the fight to Wallin on the inside during the second half of the match; and he beat Wallin up. Fury demonstrated wonderful inside fighting technique, picking his shots expertly, using his size and not smothering his own work. 

In evaluating these two fights, it was clear that Fury wanted to go in a different direction in his career. Davison, like his past trainer, Peter Fury, emphasized boxing and footwork. To them, Fury's athleticism and reach were paramount to his success. But Fury perceived his career differently. He understood that there are certain opponents who are at their best on the outside. As good as Fury was from distance, that's where Wilder, for instance, wanted him. 

Instead of doubling down on or trying to perfect the same approach, Fury wanted to neutralize Wilder's advantages. One way not to get hit with right hands from distance is...not to be at a distance. Fury was daring Wilder to beat him with another weapon. He believed that he had more of an arsenal at close range than Wilder did. And his conviction was proven right on Saturday. 

Fury and Steward only had seven weeks to work together and as most in boxing would tell you, one training camp, and a short one at that, isn't enough time to make massive changes in a fighter. It wasn't that Steward taught Fury how to throw a better right hand or add new combinations. He functioned more as a pivotal support system. He blessed Fury's desire to fight in close. Steward helped implement that game plan. Essentially, Steward and Fury were at like minds and that is what Tyson needed. Davison and Peter Fury (Tyson's uncle) remain excellent and capable trainers, but they weren't the right people for what Tyson wanted to accomplish at this phase of his career, versus this particular opponent. 

More than anything, Fury's self-belief and honest self-reflection won him the rematch. At the biggest moment of his career, he made no excuses where many others would have. He didn't dismiss Wilder's success from the first fight. He remembered what those punches felt like. He believed that he could be successful on the inside even though he had been reared in the sport to minimize that style of fighting. Tyson sought a trainer, or a co-pilot, to assist him on the journey. Ultimately, Fury yet again demonstrated that he knew far more about his ability than his critics, either those within or outside of the sport. Furthermore, he wouldn't let himself be constrained by how others perceived him. Against Wilder, Fury wanted to dominate on the inside. Risks be damned. Those who called him crazy...well Tyson would have the last laugh, which has become a habit for him in the sport. 

Now there will be no more upset victories for Fury. The heavyweight division is his.  

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of
He's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Wilder-Fury 2: Preview and Prediction

We all remember what happened in December of 2018 when Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury first met in the ring, but allow me to provide a quick recap: Fury, the challenger (although an undefeated former champion in the heavyweight division) built a considerable margin on the scorecards with his slick boxing skills. Wilder broke through in the ninth round, trapping Fury along the ropes and dropping him with a four-punch combination. In the 12th, Wilder, the premier puncher in contemporary boxing, connected with a vicious right hand/left hook combination. Fury crashed to the canvas and practically all who were watching assumed it was over. But not only did Fury beat the count, once action resumed he took it to Wilder until the final bell. Ultimately it was one of the more compelling rounds of boxing in recent memory.  

The fight was ruled a draw and neither fighter was pleased with the result. Wilder thought that referee Jack Reiss allowed for too much recuperation time after the 12th-round knockdown. Fury was incredulous that judge Alejandro Rochin found seven rounds to give Wilder. Even Phil Edwards's 113-113 scorecard seemed by many as being too generous to Wilder.

Photo Courtesy of Mikey Williams

They were close to a rematch in early 2019 until Fury changed his promotional and broadcast representation, signing a new deal to be co-promoted by Top Rank, which was affiliated with ESPN in the United States. (Wilder-Fury had originally been a Showtime pay per view in the United States. Showtime had been closely affiliated with Wilder over the preceding years.) Fury subsequently decided to go in another direction for 2019. He would dominate the overmatched Tom Schwarz, stopping him in two rounds. But he did struggle against little-known Otto Wallin, who opened up a gruesome cut over Fury's right eye in that fight and hurt him badly in the 12th. Fury wound up winning by a comfortable decision on the scorecards, but the bout was a further reminder that all of the top heavyweights in the division are vulnerable. (Joshua-Ruiz I was another recent reminder of this truism.) 

During 2019 Wilder destroyed Dominic Breazeale in one round and struggled with Luis Ortiz early in their rematch before knocking him out in the seventh. On one hand Wilder stopped Ortiz faster than he did in their first bout in 2018, but he also lost almost every round in the rematch before the knockout.


On Saturday Fury and Wilder meet at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas for the rematch. Both Wilder (42-0-1, 41 KOs) and Fury (29-0-1, 20 KOs) have vowed to make changes from their first fight. Each fighter is expected to enter the ring heavier than they had been 14 months ago. Wilder, who fought Fury at 212 1/2 pounds, the lightest of his career since his debut bout in 2008, feels that his punches will have even more of an effect at a heavier weight. And Fury and his team believe that by coming in heavier he will be able to use his physicality more in the ring (as well as perhaps absorbing Wilder's shots a little better, although this has remained unsaid). 

The most important question when analyzing the rematch is what did they learn from the first fight? Many boxing fans will insist that Tyson Fury turned in a masterclass against Wilder. However, I know of no boxer who wants to be one second away from getting knocked out as part of a masterclass performance. Clearly, if Fury was blown to bits in the 12th round, something was amiss. 

In three fights – against Klitschko, Wilder, and Wallin – Fury has had significant trouble in the 12th round. His problems arise from overconfidence mixed with fatigue. It's worth pointing out that Fury had won the 11th in all three of these fights and should have been in a position to be up significantly on the cards. Yet, all of these opponents rallied against him. Fury thought that he was out of range against Wilder, he didn't appear to view Wallin as a serious threat at the end of the fight, and he seemed surprised by Klitschko's aggression in the 12th round. In all three of these bouts, he miscalculated. Unfortunately for Fury, these aren't 11-round fights.  

However, Fury needs to do more than just finish the fight better. In the ninth round against Wilder, he found himself stuck on the ropes, which enabled Deontay to connect with a temple shot. This sequence led to the first knockdown of the fight. I can assure you that Fury hanging out on the ropes was not part of the plan.

In addition, Fury spent so much of the first four rounds mugging that he at times actually forgot to throw punches. He stuck his tongue out, raised his arms like a champ and mocked Wilder, but the business of actually winning a boxing match was put on hold at points. Remember, he lost seven, five and four rounds on the judges' scorecards. I'm not saying that this judging panel did a wonderful job, but we should be able to agree that Fury could have won the earlier rounds more definitively – especially as the challenger for Wilder's belt. 

Not that things were all rosy for Wilder either. He spent the first six rounds of their fight sailing his right hand well over Fury's dropped shoulder. Wilder was trying to get the knockout with almost every shot. He didn't put punches together and he restricted his arsenal to just the jab and right hand. He telegraphed his punches and got very little work done. If he won some of the early rounds, that could be chalked up to Fury doing very little as well.

In the eighth round Wilder finally remembered that he had a left hook. That punch helped lead to the knockdown in the ninth and also was the finishing touch in the memorable knockdown in the 12th. It's no surprise that when he started to unload additional facets of his arsenal that he found more success.


Perhaps the most radical difference for Saturday's rematch will be Fury's new corner. Only a few months ago Fury replaced Ben Davison with Javan "SugarHill" Steward. Davison had played a pivotal role in Fury's ring comeback, helping him lose over 100 pounds and preparing him for the Wilder fight, in which Tyson performed at an elite level.

However, Fury believed that he needed a new voice in his corner and he had familiarity with Steward from his time spent at the Kronk Gym in Detroit. Steward, the nephew of the famous boxing coach and broadcaster Emanuel Steward, has trained a number of world-class fighters, most notably Adonis Stevenson.

Photo Courtesy of Mikey Williams

Steward and Fury will have a number of pivotal strategic decisions to make for the rematch: Should Fury remain in the conventional stance? Tyson is one of the most gifted switch hitters in the sport, yet he remained right-handed for almost the entirety of their first fight. There were reasons for that choice (the straight right is often the easiest to land against a southpaw), but will Fury benefit from switching, providing Wilder with less predictability?

Furthermore, should he fight more on the inside?  Although Fury is known for his 6'9" frame, slick footwork and boxing skills, he has demonstrated in a number of his bouts that he can fight effectively at close quarters. Picking shots well, not smothering his work, using his body to tire his opponents, Fury can batter smaller fighters in close. However, he didn't employ this strategy against Wilder when they first fought, although it does present an intriguing option for the rematch. 

Fighting Wilder on the inside involves a massive risk vs. reward calculation. Consider that Wilder likes to have his arms extended to land his best shots. His punches, although quick, are long. Furthermore, although Wilder has an uppercut, he rarely throws it, which will be a further benfit to Fury in close. But before Tyson can have success on the inside, he has to get there first. This is where Wilder will have opportunities to connect with his power shots, either with Fury coming in or exiting from close range. 


Even if Wilder fights his best fight, it's unlikely that he will win the bout on the scorecards without multiple knockdowns. Fury is more coordinated, has many more weapons and features the type of hand and foot speed that bothers Wilder. On Saturday, of course Wilder will be going for the knockout – he has dropped every opponent he has faced in his career; however, he must consider that the first fight wasn't necessarily a fluke. Wilder must stay within shouting distance of Fury on the cards. In particular, he has to increase his volume in slower rounds to steal a point here or there. His game is predicated on hitting home runs, but singles and doubles will help him in the fight as well. Although Wilder might not be able to win a clean seven rounds on the scorecards. Winning six with a knockdown or two would do the trick.

In addition, Wilder has to maintain his composure if he is able to drop Fury. Investing to the body after knockdowns will be beneficial, as would understanding that touching Fury with punches, even if they aren't his knockout blows, will help considerably. Wilder needs to be more systematic and clinical in going for the finish. It may not be one punch that will finish the fight, but four, five or six solid blows. Those crucial moments when Fury is hurt will most likely determine if Wilder can win the rematch. 

Ultimately, I think that Saturday's rematch will look much differently than the first fight. Both boxers will be motivated to win rounds decisively on the scorecards. I believe that Fury will alternate periods of dominant boxing from the outside with sequences where he fights Wilder in close quarters. He will attempt to use his physicality to deplete Wilder. By bringing the fight on the inside he will force Wilder into counterpunching mode, not necessarily his preferred style. Fury will galvanize the crowd and impress during these periods. However, he'll need to be worried about catching the odd-angled Wilder shot. 

As the fight progresses, I believe that Fury will continue to win the battles. But he will eventually lose the war. It may take several rounds for Wilder to adjust to Fury's dimensions, but I think that he will find the right distance to land his power punches. Look for Wilder to make significant in-roads in the fifth or sixth round, with perhaps an opening knockdown or a point where Fury is badly stunned. Wilder may not finish the job at that juncture, but his confidence will grow. Look for Wilder to get the stoppage by the 10th round.

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of
He's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.