LOS ANGELES (AP) — Tyson Fury freely acknowledges he doesn't particularly want a third fight with Deontay Wilder next month. The British heavyweight champion was ordered into the bout by an arbitration judge when Wilder exercised the rematch clause in their contract.
After the boxers met face-to-face in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday for the first time since Fury violently beat Wilder in February 2020, it's also extremely unclear why Wilder wanted to complete this trilogy.
Wilder refused to promote the championship fight that has been scheduled at his insistence for July 24 in Las Vegas. After reciting a short poem into the microphone, the formerly unbeaten WBC champion sat limply at the dais with headphones on, refusing to engage with the fight promoters or reporters.
“I don't believe he's mentally, physically or emotionally involved in this fight,” Fury said of Wilder, who floored and nearly stopped him in their first bout in December 2018 before Fury rallied for a draw. “I think he's doing it for the wrong reasons. When people do things for the wrong reasons, they always wind up getting hurt.”
When Wilder was prodded into a staredown with Fury, the fighters locked eyes for 5 1/2 motionless minutes until Wilder walked away. The American challenger again declined to answer questions, leaving Fury and Top Rank promoter Bob Arum to do all the talking.
“If the guy isn’t going to speak, I think he’s digging his own grave,” Arum said.
Arum could only think of one parallel in his long boxing career to Wilder's silent performance: Muhammad Ali's refusal to promote his first bout against Leon Spinks in February 1978. Spinks won a stunning decision over Ali, who apparently wouldn't promote the bout because he felt it was too much of a mismatch.
Wilder's taciturnity won't affect some fans' excitement for the conclusion to one of the most entertaining trilogies in recent heavyweight boxing history. Arum is expecting a sellout crowd at T-Mobile Arena in Sin City even if some of Fury's British fans have trouble making it stateside due to coronavirus restrictions.
Fury beat Wilder decisively 16 months ago, and he was eager to take on fellow British champion Anthony Joshua this summer in the type of title unification fight that happens all too rarely in this fragmented sport. Wilder and his team delayed that showdown by insisting on a third fight and finding an arbitration judge to agree with them.
“It's a big letdown, but we're in this situation, and we're going to make the most of it,” Fury said. “I'm not disappointed, though. I'm very blessed and happy to be alive. I've been led to this point for a reason, and I'm excited to see where it goes.”
But Wilder (42-1-1) has been acting strangely since taking the first loss of his professional boxing career, and his intransigent silence at his own news conference isn't even the weirdest thing he's said — or not said.
Wilder claimed Fury used illegal gloves during their second fight, producing no serious evidence to back up his claim. Wilder accused referee Kenny Bayless of being drunk — again with no evidence against Bayless, a teetotaler — and even claimed his own ex-trainer, Mark Breland, put a muscle relaxant in his water.
Fury shrugged it all off.
“People say things when they're under immense pressure, and they're not well, and they're in a fragile state,” Fury said.
Fury is no stranger to self-destructive, ridiculous outside-the-ring behavior, and he showed up to Tuesday's news conference completely shirtless before his team persuaded him to put on a white suit jacket. Even Fury is baffled by Wilder's months of strange activity, but he is determined to end the rivalry emphatically next month.
“He's let a lot of people down,” Fury said. “People have come here to promote our fight, and he needs to hold up his end. ... Although what's he going to say? I think we've all heard enough excuses. Probably best he didn't say anything, because then nobody could ask him questions.”
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