With just a matter of seconds on the clock, the writing was already on the wall for Deontay Wilder as he was emphatically stopped by Tyson Fury in their rematch in February last year.
That’s according to two-time heavyweight champion Tim Witherspoon, who insists the opening exchanges will prove significant once more as the great rivals go to battle for a third, and most likely final time, this weekend in Las Vegas.
It’s the first time either man will enter the ring since their one-sided match-up 20 months ago, where a devastating Fury – who delivered on his initially quaffed at promise to be the aggressor – handed Wilder his first career defeat in seven brutal rounds.
The typically ferocious Wilder was pushed back and unable to land any of his trademark right hands throughout, and Witherspoon – who became only the third man in boxing history to regain a heavyweight title in 1985 – insists the eventual result was evident from the opening bell.
Tyson Fury (left) and Deontay Wilder (right) square off for a third time this weekend
Two-time heavyweight champion Tim Witherspoon (right) believes we’ll know a winner of the eagerly-anticipated fight within the first 30 seconds
‘In the very first round I thought something was wrong with Deontay Wilder,’ Witherspoon, who will be part of talkSPORT’S commentary team for the big fight, told Sportsmail. ‘When Fury came out and put those combinations on him, Wilder almost didn’t seem like he was motivated.
‘Maybe he was just lacking skills, and maybe he didn’t have a lot of push behind him because of that, but something was wrong. Early in that first round, I knew he was in trouble.’
Wilder has since offered a plethora of excuses, claiming his water was spiked, his ring-walk costume was too heavy and accusing Fury of tampering with his gloves. The 35-year-old has even been adamant his opponent’s positive Covid-19 test – which saw their trilogy bout pushed back from July – was nothing more than a fabrication.
But most tellingly, Wilder split with trainer Mark Breland after he threw the towel in and surrendered, a decision which incensed the Bronze Bomber at the time and still does to this day. He now works with former opponent Malik Scott.
Witherspoon, who believes Wilder’s barrage of excuses were a sign of the times, insists promoters and managers in his day would have advised him to stay quiet, claiming it’s the American’s reliance on his punch power – rather than any conspiracy theories – that caused his downfall.
Fury demolished Wilder in seven brutal rounds in their rematch back in February 2020
The one-sided fight was stopped after Wilder’s trainer Mark Breland threw in the towel
Wilder has since sacked Breland (right) and labelled his former coach a ‘weak individual’
‘The problem with Wilder is that he does have a good, strong right hand which would scare anybody,’ Witherspoon continued. ‘It’s devastating, but he needs to sharpen up his left side.
‘He made excuses because he didn’t perform but he actually needs more skills, he needs a defence. Everyone knows it’s the right hand will kill you, so he needs to make sure he’s using his left side more.
‘He’s going to need more than that right hand to beat Tyson Fury. Tyson will get up and fight him, he’s not scared. He’ll get up close, call you names and try to knock you right out.’
For Witherspoon, the decision to appoint Scott as his new trainer is questionable. Particularly, the former champion is critical of the decision to post videos of their training sessions online, insisting Fury will be able to scan for weaknesses and plan accordingly.
But perhaps more worryingly, Witherspoon has seen no progression in Wilder’s tactics or technique.
Wilder is being trained by former heavyweight opponent Malik Scott (right) for the Fury trilogy
‘I’m curious about Wilder,’ he said. ‘He’s been training with Malik Scott, who was a sparring partner for everyone; he was a sparring partner for me.
‘They’ve been putting videos up online – that’s a mistake. All Fury has to go is look at those videos, see the mistakes and capitalise on them. That’s why you don’t put videos up to show off.
‘From what I’ve seen in those videos, I saw no defensive mechanism, it was all offence. All I saw was showing off, throwing a jab, the right hand – and Tyson Fury will just come straight at you.’
The general consensus is that Wilder needs a serious rethink – or more likely a punch from the gods – if he’s to be successful in the trilogy.
He was comprehensively out-boxed by Fury, who had fought only Sefer Seferi and Francesco Pianeta in the three years since his historic victory over Wladamir Klitschko, a timeframe in which he suffered heavily with mental health issues and blew up in weight to 27 stone.
The Gypsy King was just about able to withstand Wilder’s best punches as he went the 12-round distance in their first encounter, albeit miraculously climbing off the canvas twice. But in their second bout, a fit-again Fury looked levels above his opponent as he delivered a truly stunning performance.
Witherspoon says it’s now up to Wilder – rather than Fury – to make the adjustments, and insists the direction in which the fight heads will once again be evident from the opening exchanges.
Fury miraculously rose from the canvas twice as he and Wilder shared a draw back in 2018
Fury had most recently taken on the largely unknown Francesco Pianeta in a 10-round contest
‘You know Tyson’s coming out to fight, but we have to wait for Deontay Wilder (to see how the bout develops),’ he said. ‘We’ve got to see what he looks like in the first 20 to 30 seconds of the fight.
‘I’m not making a prediction on the winner because Wilder could take you out at any point with his right hand. If they worked on his left side, if it was busy and strong, the right hand could take Fury out.
‘But I don’t think they worked on that, just hitting the pads. So the fight could turn out the same as the last time.
‘I do believe in the first 30 seconds we’ll know who’s going to win the fight.’
While Witherspoon insists it’s up to Wilder to make the adjustments, Fury’s trainer SugarHill Steward has claimed his fighter will likely weigh 20lbs heavier than in their previous outing.
Witherspoon believes that would only be detrimental to Fury’s widely-renowned speed and movement.
Fury’s trainer SugarHill Steward (right) says his fighter will come in 20lbs heavier this weekend
‘I don’t think he should do that,’ Witherspoon explained. ‘It’s all about skills; putting on weight makes you sluggish, I’ve done it a number of times.
‘He doesn’t need to put on weight to beat Deontay Wilder, he’s a heavyweight! When I came in lighter, that’s when everything worked out. Putting on the weight will only slow him down.
‘He was doing well before, he just needs to keep working on a few things – even him – just to get over the hill. He should have stayed the same weight or weighed in even lighter.’
Tune into talkSPORT’s Wilder v Fury III coverage via DAB, online, by smart speaker, via the app or on 1089 or 1053 AM. Coverage starts at 1am on Sunday morning on talkSPORT.