One of 2021’s most anticipated bouts will roar into action in Las Vegas on Saturday as heavyweights Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder meet for a third time.
Britain’s Fury will defend his WBC crown against the American, who he stopped in the seventh round during their second fight 20 months ago.
It was Wilder’s first defeat of a 44-fight professional career and sparked him into accusing Fury of cheating.
“Deep down in his soul, he knows he lost and he’ll lose again,” said Fury.
“After this fight, he’ll be back working in that fast food chain that he was working at earlier on in his career. It’s retirement for him.
“You’re in denial and you’re getting knocked out. Do yourself a favour and retire – your legacy’s in bits, all the excuses, you’ve been destroyed. No one’s even believed you, everyone’s laughing at you. You’re a weak man.”
In the weigh-in both were the heaviest they have been for a professional fight with Fury at 125kg and Wilder coming in at 107kg.
There was no face-off as usual, with promoter Bob Arum having said he felt the process treats fighters like “animals” and that he did not want them getting hurt before their bout.
The pair first met in December 2018 in a bout that ended in a controversial draw, but Fury was rewarded for taking the fight to his opponent last time out.
Afterwards, Wilder blamed the weight of his ring walk costume for draining his energy but also suggested Fury’s gloves were tampered with.
Since then, the 35-year-old has parted ways with coach Mark Breland, who threw in the towel against Fury, and brought in former heavyweight opponent Malik Scott.
“I ask the question, if I only won because I cheated, what was the point of changing everything and doing all this other work?” said Fury in a heated final news conference.
“I don’t care because obviously it’s coming from an unwell person. He accused me of everything: His team, his trainer, the suit, injuries, the State Athletic Commission of Nevada, the referee.
“If he’d have come out with one of these excuses, it would have been believable but not 50 of them. He can believe what he wants, what it tells me is that he’s a weak person who I’m going to knock spark out on Saturday night.”
Following the coronavirus pandemic, Fury was set to take on Anthony Joshua – who has since lost his belts to Oleksandr Usyk – in an all-British undisputed contest in the summer.
But Wilder’s team took their case for a rematch clause to court and an arbitration ruling stated Fury had to fight the Alabaman again.
The trilogy bout was then delayed in July after Fury contracted coronavirus, meaning one year, seven months and 18 days after they last entered the ring the pair will finally meet again on Saturday.
“Deontay’s dream is to get this match and I don’t usually act arrogant, but I do believe Deontay is going to knock him out this time,” Wilder’s manager Shelly Finkel told the BBC’s 5 Live Boxing podcast.
“There is no rematch, this is it – anything is open to negotiation. After the fight, I don’t think Fury will want any more of Deontay – but if he does and we can’t get Joshua or Usyk because they are fighting each other, who knows? But my gut is we will have seen the last of each other.”
Former undisputed heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis believes Fury is the better boxer and is backing him to win if the fight goes the distance – but if it comes down to a knockout, he is going for Wilder.
“I believe that Tyson Fury has a lot more tools and weapons that he can use in his arsenal,” he told BBC Sport.
“I think if Deontay went back and learned a couple of tricks he can put to use, he’ll have a good time in there as well. So all around, it is going to be a good fight.”
Meanwhile, Frank Bruno, who won the WBC heavyweight title in 1995, is confident his fellow Briton can get the job done.
“I think Tyson won’t just beat him again – he’s a much better boxer than Wilder and he’ll school him,” said Bruno.
“Fury will be going in nearly five stone heavier than Wilder and, if he boxes smart, and wears him down, that will make a big difference.
“But you have to be wary of Wilder’s windmill punch. He’s got a big punch, not much else, but you have to give him a puncher’s chance.
“As long as Tyson Fury doesn’t get involved with this guy, a very dangerous hard puncher… don’t get stupid. This guy’s got pure power but nothing else.
“I think Tyson’s got it under control. I hope so. I think Tyson Fury will knock him out.”
In new trainer Scott, Wilder has brought in someone he says he “loves deeply” and makes it a “family team” but also someone he defeated in a first-round knockout in 2014.
“I am a student of boxing, Deontay ruled the division and was using one weapon but sometimes two or three,” said Scott.
“I’ve watched him in the gym for 10 years, sparring guys from different walks of life stylistically, and watched him be creative but when he gets in the fight, he’ll use just one or two tools.
“He got content using one weapon to knock people out – I went into his tool box and made sure we drilled it over and over again.
“I don’t have him doing choreographed pad work, ducking down to the ground – he is fighting a tall guy. I don’t want my fighter catching punches, I want him to slip punches, parry punches.
“He’s more dynamic, more open-minded and this is the best Deontay Wilder people are going to see.”
Two-time world heavyweight champion Joshua said he was “not too bothered” who won this bout but tipped Wilder for a knockout. However, British fans have been longing to see him face off against Fury.
Joshua’s loss to Usyk complicates matters further, with the winner on Saturday likely to want a chance to unify the division by fighting the Ukrainian.
Lewis, the last man to hold all the heavyweight belts at the turn of the century, believes Fury’s goal is “becoming undisputed heavyweight champion of the world”.
“I believe he will go for Usyk,” he said. “The Joshua fight will always be there but Usyk is there and that’s the ultimate goal right now, to get all the belts.
“Joshua is part of the top five, top six, so he can fight any of those guys.
“But the fact that the fight never came when they were champions, I think people are still excited by that fight, want to see that match up and still want to see who will win.”