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Deontay Wilder vs Tyson Fury: Train Crash in Los Angeles

J.J. Alvarez

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Even though both the American World Champion Deontay Wilder and the British challenger Tyson Fury possess anatomies that could be compared to enormous mastodons, their fighting styles are complete opposites, which creates the opportunity for this bout on Dec. 1st at the Staples Center in Los Angeles to be one of the best fights of the year.

Thanks to his incredible power, which has been endured until the finish line by only one man in all of his 40 victories, “The Bronze Bomber” Wilder is the favorite to defeat “The Gypsy King” Fury (27-0-0, 19 KO’s) by knockout, thus retaining the WBC World Heavyweight Title, which he has held since 2015 and successfully defended seven times.

What Could Happen

As we previously stated, Wilder and Fury possess drastically different boxing styles, leaving the stage open for this fight to become an absolute war. However, it wouldn’t be surprising either if both were to be excessively cautious in order to avoid getting knocked out, a situation that would leave the crowd displeased, similar to what happened in the Fury vs Klitschko fight in November of 2015.

“The Gypsy King” was declared winner by unanimous decision in a fight of few punches, immeasurable clinching, and lack of technique, which led the referee to give warnings to both of them. Fury even had a point taken away in the 11th round due to landing an illegal “Rabbit Punch”. In that fight, Klitschko only landed 52 punches for an extremely low average of 4.3 punches per round, one of the lowest in title fight history. Fury was slightly better, landing 86 strikes with an average of 7.3 per round.

Wilder Did Not Look Good in the Open Media Workout

Like the popular saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”, Wilder should be worried, because regardless of his optimism, the performance he displayed in front of the California media left many unconvinced.

“I feel like I’m at my very best right now. Mentally, physically and emotionally I’m ready to go. Everything is perfect. I just want to get in the ring and show action. Tyson Fury doesn’t know what he’s gotten himself into”, said Wilder, after concluding a session on the mitts with his trainer Jay Deas at the Churchill Boxing Club in Santa Monica.

In reality, Wilder was inaccurate with his powerful right hand when he tried to strike the mitts and similarly, his movements and footwork lacked coordination. In a general sense, he lacked rhythm, regardless of his previous eloquence.

“As a true champion, I know how to adjust to any fighter that’s in front of me. My experience facing fighters of all styles has prepared me for this special fight”, stated Wilder, still covered in sweat from his training.

Born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Wilder will be defending his WBC World Heavyweight Title for the 8th time, which he acquired after unanimously defeating the Haitian-Canadian Bermane “B-Ware” Stiverne in January of 2015 in Stiverne’s first title defense.

In his most recent bout, Wilder defeated the Cuban southpaw Luis “King Kong” Ortíz, by TKO in the 10th round on March 3rd of this year at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. But even though he knocked down Ortíz in the 5th and a few times in the 10th, the North American was on the edge of defeat in the 7th, when the Cuban rocked him during the final seconds of the round. The champion was saved by the bell, and in the next round, Ortíz lacked the killer instinct that could have made him the first Cuban Heavyweight champion in the history of boxing. “King Kong’s” lack of aggression allowed Wilder to recover and take control of the fight. After the Cuban had been knocked down a few times, referee David Fields called a stop to the contest with 55 seconds remaining in the 10th round.

Wilder has stated that he has had excellent sparring sessions and is constantly making technical adjustments with Deas in order to be in optimal condition when he faces Fury, a fighter who lacks technique and constantly clinches, creating boring fights. This is how things transpired against the Ukrainian Klitschko exactly three years ago, when Fury won the IBF, WBA, WBO and fringe IBO title in a bout that took place in the German city of Dusseldorf.

In the weeks leading up to the fight, Jay Deas hasn’t missed an opportunity to praise the “Gypsy King”, born in the city of Manchester, a 30-year-old mastodon with an extraordinary reach of 85 inches. “Tyson Fury is kind of like a Rubik’s cube. But a Rubik’s cube can be solved. Fury is a very versatile fighter who can move, he can box and fight from lots of distances. He’s the total package as a fighter and on top of that he’s strong-willed mentally,” stated Deas.

Wilder conquered Stiverne for the title on January 12th of 2015 and during the following months and years both of them proceeded to compete several times, awaiting a second confrontation, a rematch which finally took place November 4th of 2017, in New York. Wilder quickly demolished the Haitian, knocking him down 3 times in the first round.

Fury Comes Back With Two Victories

After a long 30 months away from the sport, Fury came back, meanwhile losing more than 100lbs and recovering from drug addiction and alcoholism. Fury also confessed that he suffered from depression. One of the three titles that he acquired through defeating Klistchsko was stripped from him for having accepted a rematch with the Ukrainian, instead of his mandatory. The other two titles were immediately stripped when he tested positive for cocaine, leading to the cancelation of the rematch with Klitschko.

Fury returned victorious when he defeated the Macedonian Sefer Seferi by RTD in the 4th round on June 9th of this year at the Manchester Arena in England. Regardless of accomplishing the main objective, Fury looked very bad against Seferi due to such a long period of inactivity.

Two months later, on July 18th in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the “Gypsy King” outpointed the Italian Francesco Pianetta in a 10 round match.

Fury looked better than he did against Seferi, but still punched erratically and with minimal movement, although he did use the jab more effectively. At the end of the fight, Fury invigorated the more than 25 thousand fans present at Windsor Park, by announcing that he had accepted the offer to fight Wilder for the WBC Heavyweight World Title.

“They called, I answered. I said send me the contract. I said ‘yes’. Now he gets his chance to fight the lineal heavyweight champion of the world. Believe me, I will go to Las Vegas and I will bring home the belt. I will knock this man out.” Said Fury, causing the crowd to roar in excitement.

Who Will Win Wilder or Fury?

My opinion is that if both giants decide to make it a slugfest from the very beginning, Wilder, 6’7” in height, will be the winner within no more than 2 thirds of the fight. His devastating right hand, lethal and effective, and his superior physical condition will be enough to put Fury to sleep, a fighter who was away from the ring for two years and seven months following the fight with Klitschko. Fury’s only true advantage will be his weight, carrying approximately 40 pounds more than his opponent on the day of the fight.

Add the fact that the “Gypsy King” Fury, 6’9” in height, is a clumsy fighter with predictable movements, who lacks defense, and he will be forced to go all out in the opening rounds, using the clinch as his main weapon, in order to avoid falling victim to one of the powerful punches of the Tuscaloosa-born fighter with dynamite in his right hand.

Only tactical errors on Wilder’s side (lowering his hands, not using the jab to maintain distance and avoiding falling into the clinch) will lead to Fury’s victory. In conclusion, the American will emerge victorious by knockout before the beginning of the 8th round.

Translated by E.G. for J.J. Alvarez of Boxeo.tv

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott / SHOWTIME

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The Ups and Downs of Hall of Fame Boxing Writer Jack Fiske

Arne K. Lang

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Hall of Fame boxing writer Jack Fiske passed away 15 years ago this coming Sunday, Jan. 24, 2006. Fiske was 88 years old.

Fiske was one of the last of the breed, a full-time boxing writer for a major metropolitan daily. They don’t make them like that anymore.

In his final years as a journalist, however, Fiske no longer worked for the San Francisco Chronicle, his longtime employer. To read his stuff required a subscription to a newsletter. And the newsletter, in common with Fiske, had become a dinosaur in a world where the only constant is change. It went belly-up several weeks before Fiske passed away.

Born in New York City in 1917, Jack Fiske attended the University of Alabama where he covered the school’s boxing team for the school newspaper. The star of the team, Fiske was fond of recollecting, was a fiery bantamweight, George Wallace. America would come to know Wallace as the fiery segregationist who served four terms as Governor of Alabama and was a failed U.S. presidential candidate.

After graduation, Fiske worked for a paper in Virginia and two small papers in the Bay Area before latching on with the Chronicle. In addition to covering the fights as a ringside reporter, Fiske authored a twice-weekly feature called “Punching The Bag” that circulated widely among hard-core fans and industry insiders.

Fiske had to be on his toes because for much of his tenure at the paper the arch-rival San Francisco Examiner had a fine full-time boxing man of their own, Eddie Muller, whose son of the same name hosts “Noir Alley” on Turner Classic Movies.

“Punching The Bag” was jam-packed with information and editorial content. Fiske had little tolerance for inept ring officials and regulators who owed their cushy jobs to political connections. First-time promoters, the lifeblood of the sport, were assured of positive ink. But once a promoter became established, he had to earn his props by making competitive matches.

During Fiske’s early days with the Chronicle, the top sports in terms of newspaper coverage were baseball, horseracing, and boxing, and the Bay Area was a beehive of boxing activity. In 1955, there were 73 boxing shows in San Francisco, Oakland, and nearby Richmond. The biggest shows were usually held at the Cow Palace. Ten title fights were staged here beginning with Ezzard Charles’ 1949 world heavyweight title defense against local fan favorite Pat Valentino.

One can guess where this is heading. Bit by bit, the Bay Area boxing scene became fallow. In the eyes of the Chronicle higher-ups, Fiske came to be seen as superfluous. In 1992, the paper let him go. “Punching The Bag” died after an amazing 43-year run.

Fiske hastened his demise as a newspaperman by his disinclination to become more versatile. He never wanted to cover any sport other than boxing. His attraction to the sweet science was manifested in his vast collection of boxing memorabilia which dominated every room of his home.

In 1994, Fiske was persuaded to resurrect his column for “Professional Boxing Update” and its sister publication, “Flash.” These were 12-page newsletters cranked out by a fellow from Capitola, CA, named Virgil Thrasher, a big boxing buff with a second sideline as a blues harmonica player.

At their peak, Thrasher’s newsletters had 6000 subscribers, 10 percent overseas. Circulation-wise, this was a big comedown for Fiske, but he was too professional to approach his assignments half-heartedly. Although he held a grudge against his former employer, his bitterness surfaced only once.

When the Chronicle made no mention of the passing of World War II era lightweight champion Ike Williams, Fiske carped that the sports department was run by clowns more attuned to women’s volleyball than to matters of significance.

“Professional Boxing Update” and “Flash” were modest endeavors, but the contributors were first-rate, most especially during the mid-1990s. Jack Fiske was then in good form, as was acerbic Las Vegas oddsmaker Herb Lambeck, a peerless boxing pricemaker. In those days, no one was better at dissecting a forthcoming fight than lead writer Graham Houston, himself a Future Hall of Famer. Houston, who was the North American correspondent for several British publications, stayed on with Thrasher’s newsletters until the very end.

For some subscribers, these publications functioned mostly as tip sheets. When the opinions of Houston and Lambeck dovetailed, one could wager with a high degree of confidence.

Within four years of joining PBU/Flash, Jack Fiske’s health began to fail and he was unable to meet his deadlines. To ease Fiske’s slide to infirmity, Thrasher took to reprinting some of his old Chronicle columns.

When Virgil Thrasher launched his newsletters in 1985, he stole readers from established magazines by delivering information in a timelier fashion. Ironically, he became a victim of the same force. A new generation of fight fans, weaned on the internet, demanded updates quicker than the mailman could bring.

It would have been nice if Thrasher had continued on for a few more weeks, thereby affording readers a tribute to Jack Fiske on the occasion of his passing. But at least Fiske wasn’t entirely forgotten.

In 2003, at age 85, Fiske was ushered into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. As is the custom when an inductee passes away, the flag atop the Canastota shrine was lowered to half-staff when news arrived of his passing.

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Michael Coffie vs. Darmani Rock Smacks of Joe Joyce vs. Daniel Dubois

Arne K. Lang

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Although it wasn’t a world title fight, the match between Joe Joyce and Daniel Dubois which took place in London on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, attracted a lot of buzz. Only one heavyweight bout in 2020 was more eagerly anticipated, that being the rematch in February between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder.

Joyce vs. Dubois was that rare pairing of two undefeated heavyweights who were roughly at the same stage of their career. Dubois was 15-0 (14 KOs) heading in; Joyce was 11-0 (10).

And that brings us to the crossroads fight on Jan. 30 at the LA Shrine Expo between Darmani Rock (17-0, 12 KOs) and Michael Coffie (11-0, 8 KOs). Unlike Joyce vs. Dubois, this is not a well-marinated showdown, but yet there are some parallels, most notably it’s a match between unbeaten heavyweights in which the victor will undoubtedly make a big jump in public esteem and the loser, more than likely, will be pushed back into the shadows.

There was a big age gap in the Joyce-Dubois fight. The 35-year-old Joyce was the older man by 12 years. Likewise, Rock vs. Coffie features a young old-timer vs. an opponent who is merely young.

Michael Coffie, 34, came to boxing late after serving eight years in the Marine Corps. He entered the New York City Golden Gloves tournament on a whim and with virtually no formal training and yet he succeeded in reaching the finals.

When Coffie (pictured)  turned pro, his manager was none other than Randy Gordon, the former chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission who has kept his hand in boxing as a journalist and radio personality, co-hosting a boxing-themed talk show on Sirius FM with Gerry Cooney. Gordon knows more than a little about heavyweights, having been involved with Bonecrusher Smith who was briefly (very briefly) the WBA world heavyweight champion.

“(Bonecrusher) was not anywhere near the fighter that Mike is,” Gordon told Hall of Fame boxing writer Bernard Fernandez on the occasion of Coffie’s pro debut in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. On that night, Coffie needed only 61 seconds to dismiss his opponent, ending the contest with a short right hand. The sacrificial lamb, wrote Fernandez, “went down like an anvil dropped in the ocean.”

In his most recent fight, on Nov. 7, Coffie was matched against Minnesota veteran Joey Abell, a noted spoiler. Abell would have been a good measuring rod for assessing Coffie’s progress, but unfortunately the bout was over almost before it started. Early in the second round, Abell suffered a biceps injury while throwing a punch and couldn’t continue.

The “A” side in this fight, however, isn’t Coffie but the other guy. Darmani Rock, 24, had an outstanding amateur career, winning several important tournaments including the 2014 Youth World Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria. Rock was upset in the finals of the 2016 Olympic Trials and then turned pro, signing with Roc Nation, the deep pockets sports management company founded by Jay-Z.

darmani

Darmani Rock on the right

Questions have been raised, however, about Rock’s dedication. He weighed 278 pounds in his last fight, 30 pounds more than in his pro debut. (Coffie’s fighting weight also hovers around 270 and he is the same approximate height – both are listed at 6’5” — but Coffie has always been big.)  Moreover, Rock has been inactive for 15 months and may have trouble shaking off the rust.

Darmani Rock hails from Philadelphia; Michael Coffie from Brooklyn, more fodder for the tub-thumpers. Philadelphia was the stomping grounds of Smokin’ Joe Frazier. The City of Brotherly Love has arguably produced more good prizefighters per capita than any city in the country. Brooklyn spawned Mike Tyson, Riddick Bowe, and Shannon Briggs, all of whom bubbled out of gritty Brownsville which also happens to be the neighborhood where Michael Coffie spent much of his youth until he was spirited away to a less threatening environment by foster parents.

I don’t want to get carried away with the Joyce-Dubois analogy. Joe Joyce had a stronger amateur pedigree than Darmani Rock. Daniel Dubois had a spectacular run leading up to his match with Joyce including a one-sided triumph over well-regarded Nathan Gorman. Moreover, neither Joyce nor Dubois had ever fought an opponent with a losing record. The same can’t be said of Coffie and Rock who have built their records on the backs of the usual suspects. Darmani Rock’s last two opponents were both 42 years old.

Moreover, Coffie vs. Rock isn’t the main attraction on the PBC card. Top billing goes to Caleb Plant’s 168-pound title defense against Caleb Truax.

As we recall, the Joyce-Dubois fight produced a major upset. Dubois was understood to be faster on his feet and more heavy-handed – considered more likely to turn the tide with a single punch – but youth was not served on that night at the historic Church House in Westminster. Joyce methodically peppered Dubois with his jab which caused a big lump to develop over Dubois’s left eye. The eye eventually shut completely and the fight ended in the 10th round with Dubois taking a knee and allowing himself to be counted out. Joyce’s victory elevated him to #2 in the WBO rankings, a notch below Oleksandr Usyk who is potentially his next opponent.

One doesn’t know what will transpire when Coffie fights Rock, but as Michael Buffer would say, “someone’s ‘O’ will have to go.” Fights of this nature are inherently intriguing and that goes double when the combatants are heavyweights.

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“One Night in Miami”: Film Review by Thomas Hauser

Thomas Hauser

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On February 25, 1964, Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. defeated Charles “Sonny” Liston in Miami Beach over the course of six remarkable rounds to claim the heavyweight championship of the world. Late that night, the new champion found himself in a room at Hampton House (a black hotel in segregated Miami) with Malcolm X, several other followers of Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad, and football great Jim Brown. Soul singer Sam Cooke (a friend of Clay’s) had been at the fight, but there’s no historical record of his being in the hotel room with the others at that time.

One Night in Miami is built around imagining what transpired in that room amongst Malcolm X, Cassius Clay, Jim Brown, and Sam Cooke. Directed by Regina King from a screenplay by Kemp Powers, it’s available on Amazon Prime.

The film fits into the genre known as historical fiction. Dramatic license was taken. Viewers should understand that, at times, it’s allegorical rather than an accurate factual recounting. The larger question is whether the film is impressionistically honest. The answer is “yes.”

One Night in Miami begins with the 1963 fight between Clay and Henry Cooper in London. It then segues to Cooke being treated rudely by an all-white audience at the Copacabana, followed by Jim Brown (the greatest running back in National Football League history) being reminded by a patronizing southern gentleman that he’s just a “n—–.” Next, we see Malcolm as the Nation of Islam’s most charismatic spokesman, after which the scene shifts to Liston-Clay I.

Thirty-four minutes into the film, the drama moves to Hampton House.

Malcolm X, Cassius Clay, Jim Brown, and Sam Cooke were prominent in different ways. Each was young, black, and famous. But Malcolm was a social and religious figure of considerable intellect while the other three were known as entertainers.

The dialogue between the four men is light at first and then turns serious.

Malcolm is played by Kingsley Ben-Adir. On what should have been one of the greatest nights of his life, his world is slipping away. His deadly rupture with Elijah Muhammad is almost complete. Soon, Clay will abandon him. Ben-Adir comes across as a bit weaker and more tentative than one might expect, although Malcolm’s intellect is evident in his performance.

It’s hard to imagine anyone playing Cassius Clay well except the young Muhammad Ali. But Eli Goree bears a resemblance to Clay and is pretty good in the role.

Jim Brown was an intimidating physical presence. Aldis Hodge lacks this physicality but his performance is solid.

Leslie Odom Jr, who plays Sam Cooke, has star quality. He’s the only one of the four major actors who has the charisma and presence of the man he’s portraying. But as a result, Cooke has a stronger on-screen persona than Malcolm. That’s a problem as tensions between the two men boil over.

Toward the end of the film, Malcolm reveals that he intends to leave the Nation of Islam because of differences with Elijah Muhammad and will found a new organization.

“Who’s gonna be in this new organization?” Clay asks.

“I think lots of people will follow me over,” Malcolm answers. “Especially if you come with me.”

Clay, of course, didn’t follow Malcolm. He sided with Elijah Muhammad. One year later, he and Jim Brown were the only participants from the hotel room gathering as portrayed in the film who were still alive. Sam Cooke was shot to death in a California motel on December 11, 1964. On February 21, 1965, Malcolm was assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem.

One Night in Miami cautions us that our icons are flesh and blood human beings with strengths and flaws. In its best moments, the film is a powerful reminder that the issues of self-respect, black empowerment, and racial equality are timeless.

Pictured left to right: Aldis Hodge (Jim Brown), Kingsley Ben-Adir (Malcolm X) Leslie Odom Jr (Sam Cooke) Eli Goree (Cassius Clay)

Thomas Hauser’s email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His most recent book – Staredown: Another Year Inside Boxing – was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism. In 2019, he was selected for induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

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