LAS VEGAS – It was reminiscent of a scene from "Rocky" in which Apollo Creed rocked Balboa and believed he had knocked out just to see how the outsider challenger got to his feet to continue his war.
This happened in the 12th round of the first meeting between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury in December 2018. It was the second time that Wilder Fury dropped in their fight at the Staples Center. Every time Fury got up and her 12-round battle for the heavyweight championship ended in a split draw.
You'll see each other again at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday night when the undefeated heavyweights are trying to determine the king of the division. The pay-per-view battle is presented by ESPN and Fox.
Fury, who is still considered the direct champion, says it was a divine intervention that got him off the screen in this brutal 12th round when the Englishman was dropped flat on his back by a right hand, followed by a left hook from Wilder from Tuscaloosa, Ala.
"When I look back personally, I think God got me off the canvas for a reason, because no other man living on the planet could get up from those blows in round 12," Fury said, adding later: "That's right – The best puncher couldn't keep a man down in round 12. This time I'll see if he can get up off the floor. I don't think he's tough. He's a bully and if he does Bullied, he fits every time. "
Of course, the fighters see the effects of this 12th round differently. It often happened during their controversial press conference on Wednesday when they exchanged a few bumps and an avalanche of verbal mockery.
"Thanks to Wilder. He caught me with two of the best punches I've ever seen in a 12-round heavyweight fight, ”said Fury. "But what Wilder has to think is:" I hit this guy with the best two punches I ever threw on round 12 and he got up. "
Wilder, who has eliminated all of his previous opponents, does not see this as a negative.
"It felt good to hit and drop him and it felt good to see him get up," said Wilder. “The fight lived up to the hype. Fans want to see knockdowns. If you knock down a guy and he gets up like this, big fights will ensue. Now there is more exposure and more attention. "
It was not the first time that Fury (29-0-1, 20 KOs) came off the screen. He won the WBC title by defeating long-time champion Wladimir Klitschko in November 2015. But then Fury encountered drug abuse and mental health problems and rose to over £ 400. He never lost his belt in the ring, which is why he is considered a direct champion. This will be the sixth fight of his comeback, and Fury says that his improved conditioning will make a difference.
"I was out of the ring for three years before the first fierce fight and climbed to £ 400," he said. "It was no secret what I went through. This time I've been fit and active for over two years. I had five fights in a row now. "
Fury's confidence is so great that he predicted a second round knockout, an astonishing proclamation considering that he could expose himself to Wilder's destructive powers.
"It's a bold move, that's for sure, but we're fighting fire with fire," said Fury. "I've never lost a dogfight. I'm working on my 21st knockout victim, and it would be nice to have a 6-foot-7, 21st knockout victim in my file."
A lot has changed since their first fight. Fury (29-0-1, 20 KOs) signed a $ 100 million contract with Top Rank and ESPN and fought twice more in Las Vegas. In June 2019, he prevailed against Tom Schwarz and survived a bad cut over his eye. 47 stitches are required for Otto Wallin's decision last September. Wilder (42-0-1, 41 KOs) easily eliminated Dominic Breazeale and lost points when he stopped Luis Ortiz in their rematch last September.
Fury switched coaches for the rematch and changed from Ben Davidson to Javan "Sugarhill" Steward, the nephew of the legendary Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward.
"What I did last time was clearly not good enough, so we had to change and look for the knockout," said Fury, who wants to be more technical and aggressive.
There is a lot at stake for both fighters.
"We both have a lot to lose: 12 years of unbeaten records, reputation, career," said Fury. "This is a crucial career battle against me. This will definitely determine the best boxer of our time. "