Deontay Wilder said he “rehabilitated” Tyson Fury from being “on coke and as big as a house” as they traded jibes at a final news conference for Saturday’s WBC world heavyweight title rematch.
The pair faced off at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas and shoved each other, prompting their teams to rush on stage.
Their verbal sparring was often circus-like and continued as US television networks paused for advertising breaks.
“I brought you back, put food on your table,” Wilder said.
“And I’m doing it for a second time,” he continued. “Don’t you forget that.
“I found you when you were strung out on coke, as big as a house and contemplating killing yourself.
“I brought you to big-time boxing. I rehabilitated him back.”
An underlying animosity
Fury fought WBC world heavyweight champion Wilder to a controversial draw in December 2018, six months after returning to the sport after 30 months away during which he used drugs and alcohol, gained 10st in weight and battled mental health issues.
The last time the two faced off at a pre-fight news conference in Los Angeles in 2018 things boiled over, resulting in an on-stage melee.
At the time, some back in the UK felt the altercation was conveniently staged. Those there largely felt it was genuine as the energy and air of nastiness in the room grew until it reached tipping point.
Since then the pair have shared stages to hype this rematch but have each spoken about their once friendly rapport becoming strained. At a UK TV studio last year, they were made to share a sofa in a waiting room and barely uttered a word or looked at one another.
This time around, the tone of Wilder’s comments regarding Fury’s mental health drew gasps among the hoards of assembled press.
Their initial face-to-face clash may have felt a little false, but some of the vitriol exchanged pointed to an underlying animosity sure to culminate in a fight that will captivate Las Vegas.
“He is spouting rubbish saying he gave me an opportunity,” Fury responded after Wilder’s tirade.
“I gave him the biggest payday of his life, brought him to Las Vegas and this is how he thanks me. He has a lot of appreciation for someone who put millions in his account.
“I will put you into permanent retirement, don’t you worry about that.
“This is a big act for him. He is nervous underneath, I can see his heart beating through his jumper, he is terrified and he is getting knocked out.”
Before questions were asked, Wilder yelled “timber” at his rival, pointing to the two knockdowns he scored 14 months ago.
Fury screamed back, saying Wilder “couldn’t keep me down” and asked the American to “hold on to my belt for me, keep it nice and clean and polish it”.
At one point Wilder was asked if the prospect of the biggest win of his career arriving in Black History Month was appealing, to which Fury made clear he would have no part in making this a “racial war”.
Biggest heavyweight contest in 50 years
The Briton has said the bout is the biggest heavyweight contest in 50 years. Half a century ago, at the start of 1970, Britain did not have a single world champion at any weight. If Fury were to win, all four belts in the most glamorous weight division of them all will be homed in the UK, with Anthony Joshua in possession of the other three.
It is a mouth-watering prospect but Wilder, who holds the highest knockout ratio in heavyweight history, has this week said he had a damaged right arm and was unwell in the lead-up to the first contest.
Fury in contrast should be better placed given how close their first meeting was to his comeback to boxing, though the horror cut he suffered in his most recent win against Otto Wallin in September is also giving Wilder added hope.
“It will be a big factor, not for me but him,” Wilder said. “That’s what he has been thinking about. There’s been nervous energy through his camp, secrets they have covered up.”
Fury joked the cut was “terrible” and pointed to adopting a new come-forward style against a fighter who has floored every man he has ever faced, and who remains undefeated in 43 bouts.
“I’m going to see if he is getting up off the floor, I don’t think he has the bottle,” said Fury.
“What helps me take confidence is I have never lost a dog fight ever.
“In round 12 last time when I went at him, he couldn’t contain me. If I do that from round one he will be gassed out by round five.”
The pair will next see one another at Friday’s weigh in before Saturday’s rematch, where Wilder can record an 11th consecutive defence of his world title and where Fury could reclaim the world champion status he never lost in the ring.