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Fury can join greats if he avoids Alabama hammer

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Tyson Fury. Photo: Getty Images

Tyson Fury. Photo: Getty Images

Tyson Fury. Photo: Getty Images

The best way to explain it is to list the fighters Tyson Fury will join if he seizes the most prestigious belt in boxing - the World Boxing Council (WBC) heavyweight title - which shines brightest in the neon city.

Sonny Liston, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Ken Norton, Mike Tyson, Larry Holmes, Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis and now Deontay Wilder, who has owned it since January 17, 2015. Modern boxing is littered with titles, but this one has retained its allure and authenticity.

Learning to love "fruit and veg", which he hated, and veering between highs and lows in his training camp, Fury heads to the MGM Grand Garden as many things: wisecracker, 'Gypsy King', Morecambe celebrity, mental health campaigner and deceptively skilled boxer taking on a fearsome one-punch finisher who strikes without warning.

The many former champions in the building will tell you that Wilder, who has won 40 of his 42 fights by knockout, does not set up his opponent in the traditional manner, as, say, Lewis did. "It's God-given," Wilder says of his talent for delivering a shot most opponents are oblivious to.

The defending champion has already inflicted this on Fury in Los Angeles in their first fight, where we witnessed a great resurrection: Fury, stretched out, eyes closed, suddenly blinking back to consciousness, and rising to fight back at the end of the 12th and final round.

Substance

"I'm a man of substance and minerals and I will travel anywhere and fight anybody," Fury says. Nobody could dispute that. Victory in the rematch, he argues, would represent the "best win by any British fighter overseas, for sure. Lennox Lewis did beat Mike Tyson, but Mike Tyson was washed up when he beat him, so I don't believe any British heavyweight has beaten an undefeated WBC champion who has made 10 defences of this title."

This is the most tantalisingly poised heavyweight title fight for 20 years or more. A disputed draw in Los Angeles is the driver. Fury (below) is sure he outboxed Wilder and should have won on points.

That belief has caused him to abandon hope of persuading three American judges to hand him the belt, should he again prevail in the art of boxing. So, the new plan is to occupy the centre of the ring, apply more pressure and go for a knockout if the chance presents itself to render the scorecards irrelevant.

Andy Lee, the Irish former middleweight champion and a relative who has spent many hours "talking" to Fury to keep him level, says: "I can see a huge difference in him. We spent a lot of time together when he was young, when he was 22, and he'd be up and down a lot. Really high - and then the next minute thinking he's useless. Now I can see there's a bit of maturity and a level.

"I think he has the perfect temperament for this type of platform. He's not overawed by it. He's not taken in by it. He treats it for what it is. It's a bit of a false reality, isn't it?

"It's going to be better because his jab's improved. His jab (in LA) was flicking - 'I'm going to occupy you.' His balance has improved. There are different ways to make people feel uncomfortable: just being more imposing in front of them. Tyson in the first fight was very side on.

"Now he's slightly more square and Wilder will have more to think about him in the ring because Tyson's more set, ready to throw. Even though they're small tweaks, they make big differences."

Wilder, who has been supremely calm this week, has no need of new tactics. He boasts of possessing a right arm "like Frankenstein" and says: "They have to be perfect for 36 minutes (12 rounds). I only have to be perfect for two seconds." He says he will settle the argument with "six-inch nails and a hammer from Alabama".

Only a conclusive early knockout from either side would kill interest in a third fight. A points win, a dramatic cuts stoppage or a KO towards the end of a thriller would all lay the foundations for a decider. (© The Daily Telegraph, London)

Deontay Wilder v Tyson Fury

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