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Riddick Bowe’s Plight

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Hall-of-fame trainer George Benton once said, “I’ve never seen an old fighter come back without it being for money.”

More recently, writer Bart Barry observed, “Prizefighting finds its participants in unfortunate situations, elevates them too high, and then drops them back on their original paths – with brain damage.”

Sadly, those two thoughts seem to describe the plight of 45-year-old Riddick Bowe.

Twenty years ago, Bowe was the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.

Last Friday night (June 14th), Bowe, weighing 300 pounds, was knocked down five times in less than two rounds of a Muay Thai (kickboxing) bout in Thailand. As reported by Jocelyn Gecker of the Associated Press, “The fight was one of a dozen at the venue, which had the atmosphere of a village fairground with loud music and amusement park rides nearby. Promoters had said they hoped to draw about 20,000 people, but a crowd closer to 1,000 turned up even though admission was free. On a sweltering night, Bowe sat and sweated for hours as he waited his turn to fight. The venue had no changing rooms, so Bowe and other fighters stripped down and changed in open air tents beside the stage.”

Bowe took a beating. He did not land a single punch or kick during the bout. Discretion being the better part of valor, he stayed on the canvas after the fifth knockdown.

In his prime, Bowe was a supremely gifted boxer. He won the heavyweight crown in 1992 with a unanimous-decision triumph over Evander Holyfield. Successful defenses against Michael Dokes and Jesse Ferguson followed. He lost his championship by majority-decision in a 1993 rematch against Holyfield. But he rebounded to beat Larry Donald, Herbie Hide and Jorge Luis Gonzalez before knocking Evander out in the eighth round of their 1995 rubber match.

What Bowe didn’t do was train properly. He got lazy and squandered his immense talent. The last two bouts of his legitimate ring career were against Andrew Golota in 1996. On each occasion, Golota was disqualified for low blows. But both times, Riddick took a beating. After the second Golota fight, he was slurring his words badly.

In January 1997, Bowe announced that he was retiring from boxing to join the United States Marines. It was, he said, the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. His record at the time was 40-and-1 with 32 knockouts.

Eleven days after Bowe enlisted, he was granted a discharge from the Marines. Everyone involved (including the Marines) understood that it wasn’t going to work out.

A downward spiral followed. Bowe hit rock bottom on February 25, 1998, when he kidnapped his estranged wife (Judy) and their five children in a frightening and irrational attempt to reunite his family.

Scott Shaffer later reported, “According to court records, Bowe borrowed a Lincoln Navigator and placed a bag in the vehicle that contained a flashlight, duct tape, pepper spray, and handcuffs. He was also armed with a buck knife. He then drove with his brother [to Judy’s home in North Carolina]. After the Bowe’s three oldest children left the home, he ordered the children to get into the Lincoln Navigator. When children complied, he drove the vehicle onto Mrs. Bowe’s driveway. While his brother remained in the vehicle with the children, Bowe ran to the front door and forced it open. He pushed Lynette Shaw, Mrs. Bowe’s cousin, back inside the house and motioned her to be quiet. He asked Ms. Shaw to tell him where Mrs. Bowe was located. With hand gestures, he indicated that he would hit Ms. Shaw if she did not disclose Mrs. Bowe’s whereabouts. Ms. Shaw led Bowe to Mrs. Bowe’s bedroom. He shoved the door open, removed the bed covers, and ordered Mrs. Bowe to get up. He gestured that he would hit her if she did not comply. He demanded that she prepare herself and the two youngest children to leave immediately for [the former marital residence in] Maryland. En route, Bowe displayed the flashlight, duct tape, pepper spray, and handcuffs to Mrs. Bowe and told her, ‘I came prepared.’ He also informed her that, if he had found her with another man, he would have killed both of them. At one point, he stabbed Mrs. Bowe on her left breast through a heavy jacket that she was wearing. Although Mrs. Bowe said she was not seriously injured, she did bleed from the resultant wound. He also slapped her. In addition, Bowe ordered his wife to call her attorney and instruct him to suspend their divorce proceedings. Mrs. Bowe dialed her attorney and her brother on a cellular phone. Her attorney’s secretary informed her that her attorney was not available. Her call to her brother was unanswered. When the vehicle stopped at a restaurant in Virginia, Mrs. Bowe went to the ladies restroom. Bowe stood guard outside the door. While in the restroom, Mrs. Bowe called Ms. Shaw in North Carolina to notify her of the location of the restaurant. Mrs. Bowe also asked two elderly women who were in the restroom to contact the police to inform them that she was being kidnapped. Shortly after they left the restaurant, local police officers stopped the Lincoln Navigator and arrested Bowe.”

After lengthy pre-trail maneuvering, Bowe pled guilty to criminal charges and was imprisoned for seventeen months. Upon his release from prison, he announced his intention to resume his ring career.

But there was a roadblock. In conjunction with Bowe’s plea bargain and sentencing, his attorneys had submitted evidence to the court stating that Riddick’s conduct had resulted from brain damage sustained as a consequence of boxing.

More specifically, Dr. Neil Blumberg interviewed Bowe at length, studied the results of an MRI and various cognitive tests, and stated the belief that Bowe suffered from a brain impairment known as frontal lobe syndrome.

Blumberg’s report declared in part, “As a result of my forensic psychiatric evaluation, it is my opinion to a reasonable degree of medical certainty that, at the time of the [kidnapping] offense and at the present time, Riddick Bowe was and is suffering from personality change due to frontal lobe brain syndrome. Common manifestations of personality change include affective instability, poor impulse control, outbursts of aggression or rage grossly out of proportion to any precipitating psychosocial stressor, marked apathy, and suspiciousness or paranoid ideation. As an example, injury to the frontal lobes may yield such symptoms as lack of judgment or foresight, disinhibition and euphoria. This type of impairment is not uncommon, especially in individuals who spent the majority of their lives in the boxing profession. Despite the defendant’s success as an amateur and professional boxer, he sustained enough significant blows to the head to create this brain damage which has led to a gradual but progressive worsening in his impulsivity, judgment, and behavioral controls. Although Mr. Bowe’s personality change due to frontal lobe brain syndrome is not curable, it is treatable [with] outpatient cognitive remediation, which should be continued on a long-term basis. Treatment with antidepressant, anticonvulsant and/or mood stabilizing agents may also be useful and effective in dealing with the specific behavioral and emotional difficulties that can occur with this disorder.”

The court accepted Dr. Blumberg’s finding, in part because of the bizarre nature of Bowe’s experience with the Marines.

When Bowe announced his intention to return to boxing, he told British writer Anthony Evans, “I missed it all so much. I never wanted to retire, but my manager at the time convinced me to. I knew all I needed was a rest, but I got talked into a retirement situation. Once I retired, I became so frustrated and my life kept going downhill. I’d be sitting alone at home, watching fights on TV, and I’d miss it so bad I’d just burst out crying. A lot of people are telling me I shouldn’t fight, but you should be able to do what you want to do. Let me do what makes me happy. If it wasn’t for boxing, what else would I do?”

As for the court’s acceptance of the finding that he had brain damage, Bowe told Evans, “Let me tell you something, When I went to court, they tried to make it into a big deal, and it wasn’t. It was just a lawyer’s idea, a trick, that is now backfiring on me.”

Dr. Margaret Goodman (chief ringside physician and chairperson of the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s medical advisory board) took a contrary view. Goodman, who had followed the Bowe proceedings from afar, declared, “If a fighter has been documented to have brain damage, game over. Brain damage doesn’t disappear. Some of the clinical manifestations such as slurred speech can improve, but there are many other symptoms and signs. Refraining from getting hit in the head will improve someone clinically, but it doesn’t cure the problem. You can’t rest or train away brain damage. You can improve the symptoms from lack of exposure. So any jurisdiction allowing him to continue is drastically increasing the fighter’s risks. I heard Mr. Bowe went for extensive speech therapy. That’s great. He should do that. But getting hit in the head will wipe out any improvements he has made.”

On September 25, 2004, Bowe returned to the ring in Shawnee, Oklahoma, with a second-round knockout of Marcus Rhode (who was on a seven-fight losing streak during which he was knocked out six times).

Then, in March 2005, Bowe signed a promotional contract with Goossen Tutor Promotions.

Asked if he had detected any slurring of words in Riddick’s voice, Dan Goossen distinguished himself by saying, “I’m not training him to do Othello. I just want him to beat people up.”

On April 7, 2005, Bowe eked out a ten-round split-decision over stepping-stone-for-heavyweight-prospects Billy Zumbrun. Next, on December 13, 2008, he traveled to Germany where a scored an eight-round decision over Gene Pukall.

How formidable was Pukall? Just prior to fighting Bowe, he was chosen as the pro-debut opponent for Robert Helenius and was knocked out in less than a round.

Boxing fans talk about how sad it is that Joe Louis was reduced to participating in staged professional wrestling matches after his boxing career was over. At least Joe Louis wasn’t getting beaten up.

Also, while this column is largely about Riddick Bowe, one might express similar concern for the damage inflicted on Marcus Rhode, Billy Zumbrun, and Gene Pukall. Rhode last fought in the great state of Missouri on April 20 of this year and was knocked out in the second round. He has now lost fourteen of his last fifteen fights, with twelve of those defeats coming by way of knockout. All told, Rhode has been knocked out forty times.

Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at thauser@rcn.com. His most recent book (Thomas Hauser on Sports: Remembering the Journey) has just been published by the University of Arkansas Press.

 

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Wilder – Fury 2: Points to Ponder (Plus Official Weights)

Arne K. Lang

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This afternoon’s weigh-in, scheduled for 6 PM ET, will be closely monitored by gamblers who want to inspect the merchandise before making a wager. Tyson Fury has indicated that he will likely tip the scales at about 270 pounds, which would be 13 ½-pounds more than he carried in their first meeting and 15 ½-pounds more than what he carried in his last engagement vs Otto Wallin this past September. Deontay Wilder has also indicated that he plans to carry more weight for the rematch.

Andre Ward, for one, thinks that the added weight will be a detriment to Fury. “250 pounds is plenty big enough to push Wilder around,” said Ward at a media confab yesterday where the former two-division world champion shared the dais with the other talking heads from the networks that will be showing the fight. The implication is that any gains that Fury achieves in strength would be offset by less mobility.

For the record, back in 2009, in his first scheduled 10-rounder, Tyson Fury carried 247 pounds for his match with British countryman John McDermott. That was a difficult fight for the Gypsy King with many in attendance believing he earned no better than a draw. Nine months later he met McDermott again, this time carrying 270 pounds, and Fury dominated en route to a ninth-round stoppage. So, putting on more weight for a rematch worked to his advantage.

Interestingly, Andre Ward doesn’t believe that Deontay Wilder has reached his peak in terms of his ring IQ. Wilder, 34, is a former Olympic bronze medalist but had a very brief amateur career, a “small sample size,” as Ward put it. The Bronze Bomber, he said, “is still learning on the job.”

But he’s still one-dimensional, noted former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis. Asked which fighter he would prefer to fight if he were still in his prime, Lewis opted for Deontay Wilder, saying that Wilder would cause him fewer problems than Fury because Fury “gives you more looks.”

Not once during yesterday’s media confab did anyone address the cut that Fury suffered against Wallin. It was a wicked gash that required 47 stitches. The view from here, and it’s a widely shared opinion, is that the fight would have been stopped if the stakes hadn’t been so high.

cut

Wilder has 36 minutes to land the punch that would turn the tide in his favor and thus far only two of his 43 opponents has lasted until the final bell. But the possibly of the cut re-opening, say several reporters with whom I brain-stormed, is just as likely as the fight ending via one of Wilder’s patented one-punch knockouts.

A shade over five months has elapsed since Fury suffered that bad cut. Was that a sufficient length of time for the cut to heal properly? And with this fight packaged as Chapter Two of a trilogy, a loss on cuts by Fury wouldn’t necessarily damage his pocketbook which may factor into the ring doctor’s decision of whether or not to stop it if this issue rears its head again.

If there is a third fight – and it’s supposedly a done deal – there’s virtually no chance that it will be staged in England. So says co-promoter Bob Arum. That’s because the PPV receipts for a mega-fight are far and away the biggest piece of the revenue pie.

If Wilder-Fury III were to be held in the UK, the fight would start in the late afternoon throughout most of North America. “The pay-per-view disappears when you hold a fight in England,” says Arum. “It’s true that you would pick up more subscribers in Europe, but that’s a little number compared to the big number you would lose.”

“What the heavyweight division has lacked in recent years,” said Mark Kriegel at yesterday’s confab, “has been a great rivalry.” Kriegel alluded to the three-fight series between Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield.

Will the Wilder-Fury rivalry become as celebrated as that intense rivalry or, more ambitiously, become as celebrated as the hallowed rivalry between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier? That’s asking an awful lot but stay tuned.

UPDATE: Tyson Fury tipped the scales at 273 (he weighed in with his shirt and shoes on)

Deontay Wilder came in at 231.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 86: Heavyweight Impact, Thompson Boxing and More

David A. Avila

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 86: Heavyweight Impact, Thompson Boxing and More

Any time Yanks fight Brits, expect a battle of epic proportions, but when you add rival networks, well now it’s getting downright nasty.

When undefeated WBC heavyweight titlist Deontay Wilder (42-0-1, 41 KOs) steps in to face lineal champion face Tyson Fury (29-0-1, 20 KOs) on Saturday Feb. 22, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, it pits not only PBC versus Top Rank, but FOX versus ESPN pay-per-views.

These are all good things.

Aside from bragging rights for the winner’s side, the absolute winners could be boxing fans especially those waiting for other potential fights between PBC and Top Rank. This heavyweight clash could be the foot-in-the-door needed for boxing.

Think: welterweight showdowns between Top Rank’s Terence Crawford and PBC’s Errol Spence Jr. as a follow up. There are many other potential matchups.

All this could be the next step after this repeat heavyweight showdown.

Wilder brings his explosiveness against Fury’s tactical and incredible agility for this return match. Can they match their first encounter?

Back in December 2018, in Los Angeles, the two heavyweights boxed and slugged their way to history with the best heavyweight world championship fight of the 21st century, even topping 2003’s Lennox Lewis versus Vitali Klitschko that also took place in Los Angeles.

Great heavyweight battles are not as common as one would think. They don’t throw as many blows as welterweights and usually they are as slow as glaciers. They can lull you to sleep with their slowness.

“I’m the hardest hitting heavyweight of all time,” said Wilder when in Los Angeles.

Wilder and Fury mesmerized the public with their clash of styles especially after the tall Brit with the clever lines was dropped in the ninth and 12th rounds. How he got up to fight remains a mystery to me and many others.

“He put me down twice and here I am,” said Fury who twice beat the count after knockdowns in their first encounter at the Staples Center.

Very few heavyweight title fights can equal Fury-Wilder’s first meeting.

Memorable Heavyweight Battles of the Past

Here are a few heavyweight world title fights I saw that I actually think measure up:

Riddick Bowe versus Evander Holyfield 2 in Las Vegas on November 6, 1993.

Larry Holmes versus Ken Norton in Las Vegas on June 9, 1978.

Muhammad Ali versus Joe Frazier 3 in Quezon City, Philippines Oct. 1, 1975.

Wilder and Fury 2 should be similar to their first encounter but expect the fight to end in less than 12 rounds. They know each other’s tendencies, strengths, and definitely know each other’s weaknesses. Expect a knockout but it remains to be seen who gets the knockout.

Yes, we know Wilder has the power but does he have the chin?

This time Fury will be willing to test Wilder’s chin with a full-out attack and that should come early in the fight. This fight should not go past five rounds. Either Wilder goes down and out or Fury goes to sleep. Someone’s not beating the count.

I truly don’t know who wins this rematch.

20th Anniversary for Thompson

It doesn’t seem that long ago that I attended Thompson Boxing Promotion’s first boxing event at the very same Doubletree Hotel in Ontario, California back on March 5, 2001. Carlos “El Elegante” Bojorquez was the headliner on that card and the super welterweight fight ended in a technical draw due to a clash of heads opening a cut on Bojorquez.

That was the first Thompson Boxing card and here we are on Friday February 21, 2020 with the Orange County-based company showcasing another gem in Ruben Torres.

One thing about Thompson Boxing they know how to discover talent and have a string of world champions and contenders in its 20 years of existence. Torres could be the next. They still have Danny Roman who recently lost the WBA and IBF super bantamweight titles by a narrow decision. But regaining a world title remains a reality.

Torres (11-0, 9 KOs) faces Gabino Cota (19-10-2, 17 KOs) in an eight-round lightweight clash that will probably not go the distance.

I’ve seen all of Torres’ fights and through this three-year journey the 5’11” tall lightweight has been honed into a precision fighting machine by trainer Danny Zamora in Santa Fe Springs, California.

Zamora rarely gets credit for his ability to develop boxers into world class prizefighters but he has an extensive history of success. From Yonnhy Perez to Torres the Santa Fe Springs trainer has quietly produced multiple elite pugilists for just as long as Thompson Boxing has existed. Catch his act.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. For tickets or information call (714) 935-0900.

Ryan’s World

It’s been nearly one week since Ryan “The Flash” Garcia knocked out Francisco Fonseca in the first round of their regional title fight at the Honda Center in Anaheim. If you haven’t seen the highlight, go ahead and take a look. The entire fight lasted only 1:20 and it seemed shorter.

Garcia was not fighting a low caliber fighter. Let’s get that straight. Fonseca gave both Tevin Farmer and Gervonta Davis a difficult time. He couldn’t do the same against Garcia.

Fonseca has a lot of talent and a good chin. In fact, the day after losing to Tank Davis by illegal blows behind the head, the fighter who lived in Costa Rica visited my home in Southern California and seemed more than healthy despite the fouls committed against him and allowed by the referee and Nevada State Athletic Commission. Though Fonseca’s team took their complaint to the Commission – with extensive footage showing the hits behind the head – the loss was not overturned.

Over the years I’ve seen Garcia fight both as an amateur and professional and it was obvious to me and almost every major promoter in America that he has talent. All were interested in signing Garcia once he turned 18.

Well, Golden Boy signed him and here he is on the precipice of a world title challenge. It’s not a surprise to those in the boxing game. It’s only a surprise to those that truly don’t know prizefighting. This kid is for real.

Oxnard

On open workout for the public will be held by Diego Magdaleno at La Colonia Gym in Oxnard, California on Friday, Feb. 21. The workout begins at 5 p.m. and equipment will be donated to the boxing club by Shannon Torres Gilman.

Magdaleno, a lightweight contender who scored a big win on national television last weekend on the Plant-Feigenbutz card, is the older brother of former world champion Jessie Magdaleno. He is also training and managing former female world champion, Crystal Morales, who is scheduled to fight on March 27 in Aguascalientes, Mexico.

Fights to Watch

Fri. 8 p.m. Thompsonboxing.com – Ruben Torres (11-0) vs Gabino Cota (19-10-2).

Fri. 11:30 p.m. Telemundo – Saul Juarez (25-10-2) vs Jonathan Gonzalez (22-3-1).

Sat. 6 p.m. FOX or ESPN pay-per-view – Deontay Wilder (42-0-1) vs Tyson Fury (29-0-1); Emanuel Navarrete (30-1) vs Jeo Santisima (19-2); Charles Martin (27-2-1) vs Gerald Washington (20-3-1); Javier Molina (21-2) vs. Amir Imam (22-2).

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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Wilder, Fury Both Believe Providence is on Their Side

Bernard Fernandez

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Wilder, Fury Both Believe Providence is on Their Side

You hear it more and more frequently at the conclusion of significant sporting events, including boxing matches. The winner or key-play maker for the victors thanks God for His supposed intervention, thus giving the impression that the Almighty, like many humans who pray that their wagers pay off, plays favorites on the field or in the ring, perhaps even to the point of running a celestial bookie operation.

Remember how it was when Joe Louis knocked out Adolf Hitler’s favorite heavyweight, Max Schmeling, in the first round of their June 22, 1938, rematch at Yankee Stadium? Millions of Americans considered it an affirmation of Divine Intervention, of Star-Spangled good conquering the pure evil of all that the Nazis represented, and never mind that Schmeling found Der Fuhrer as repugnant as did Louis and his vast legion of admirers.

Nowadays, choosing whom to support in a major fight, emotionally and financially, is not always so cut-and-dried. Some will plunk their money down on someone representing their country or home region, more pragmatic types are apt to follow their heads instead of their hearts. But the bedrock principle of gambling still most often applies: when in doubt, root for whichever individual or team will yield a profit rather than a loss.

Given that Saturday night’s megafight between WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder (42-0-1, 41 KOs) and lineal titlist Tyson Fury (29-0-1, 20 KOs) is about as close as it ever gets to being a 50/50 proposition (Wilder is favored by the narrowest of margins), many of those backing their play with big bucks might have to confess that they’re doing so with fingers crossed and fervent prayers offered to a deity that may or may not have determined the outcome beforehand.

But there are two individuals who profess to be absolutely certain of a favorable outcome at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand, and not just for reasons that are presumably based in fact or logic. Wilder, the pulverizing puncher from Tuscaloosa, Ala., has offered his opinion that God indeed has blessed his cause, much as it was widely believed nearly 82 years ago that the king of heaven wanted Louis (also a native Alabaman, for those who take note of such things) to whack out Schmeling. But a different certainty is being offered by Fury, the gigantic “Gypsy King” from the United Kingdom who also claims he has it on good authority that it is his destiny to emerge triumphant.

Wilder, who had an audience with Pope Francis in the Vatican in December, at which time he was named the papal Ambassador for Sport, said he has been aware since childhood of the plan God supposedly has for him.

“I’ve always had power,” he said. “I always tell the story of how my grandmother said I was anointed by God, that God is trying to use me for things. It’s just all about living, coming into this world and finding your purpose in life. I think I found one of my purposes in life, and of course that’s whupping ass and taking names. And I do that very well.

“I’ve just been blessed tremendously. It’s one of the things I can’t describe how it transpired. When you have a calling in life, it’s just that. I just have a calling all my life. I’m showing the world who I am and what I am.”

Fury doesn’t exactly identify God as the reason he will win. His explanation vaguely hints at Tarot cards and tea leaves, but he’s just as convinced that a mighty wave of predetermination will carry him to his inevitable success on fight night. He claims that it is his seemingly miraculous recovery from an emphatic 12th-round knockdown by Wilder in their first meeting, on Dec. 1, 2018, in Los Angeles, that has cloaked him in virtual invincibility.

“I didn’t know I was knocked down,” he said of the second of the two times he was dropped by Wilder. “It wasn’t a flash knockdown, like in round nine. It was like a knockout. I watched it on tape. He hit me with a right hand and when I was on my way down he hit me with a left hook. It should have been bye-bye. I remember opening my eyes after around four seconds. I thought, `Get up!’ I just jumped up. And then Wilder rushes in and hits me with another massive left hook right on the temple. But it was like I was bullet-proof. It was a more damaging shot than the one that buried me. But it wasn’t meant to be. It wasn’t Wilder’s time (to win). It wasn’t my time to lose.

“I come from a long line of gypsies going back thousands of years. I’m the latest king of our tribe, our people, whatever you want to call them. I believe it’s written in the stars. I don’t believe all the hard work, all the dedication, have that much to do with it. You have to do that as well, but some things that have happened to me in my life now make me 100% believe it’s written in the stars.”

(One has to wonder how Fury’s public pronouncement that frequent cunnilingus has helped strengthen his jaw was received by his wife and mother of the couple’s five children, the most outrageous such comment since Livingstone Bramble bragged that, counter to standard boxing protocol, he engaged in sexual activity with his wife multiple times a night right up to the day of his bouts.)

For fight fans hesitant to buy into the notion, proffered by either principal, that a higher power has a vested interest in what takes place inside the ropes in this much-anticipated do-over, standard factors are likely to ultimately prove the difference. Can Wilder’s superior power get him home should he find the mark with that devastating right hand? Will Fury’s more polished boxing skills flummox his bigger-hitting foe all the way to the final bell and a nod on points? Or will Fury keep his word that he will take the fight straight to Wilder in the center of the ring, a radical shift in strategy possibly orchestrated by his new trainer, Javan “Sugar” Hill?

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