There were heated scenes in Los Angeles as Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury traded verbal blows ahead of their heavyweight bout Saturday.
Tempers flared at the Staples Center as the pair, both unbeaten ahead of the highly anticipated bout, were forcibly separated by their teams and security as the news conference descended into chaos.
Wilder had started to shout in his opponent’s face, while Fury was bare-chested after removing his shirt.
American Wilder, the WBC heavyweight champion, was clearly the more incensed of the two, telling Fury: “You say your people having been fighting for 200 years? My people have been fighting for 400 years.”
Fury, who has battled to overcome depression and drug abuse after securing the biggest victory of his career over Wladimir Klitschko in 2015, played down Wilder’s remarks
“I don’t think we should bring this fight into a battle of races, or a battle of cultures or all that,” said the Irishman, who is dubbed “The Gypsy King” because of his traveler heritage.
“This is above all that. We’re fighting for the most gentlemanly, prized, heavyweight championship of the world. He instigated all that. I didn’t get up there and start screaming and shouting in his face.
“He started with all the ‘400 years of pain’ and all this. He must think that’s going to get in my mind, ‘Oh he’s had 400 years of pain, I won’t fight him on Saturday night because he’s had 400 years of pain.’ Well, my people have been persecuted for thousands of years. Let’s not go there.
“This isn’t a battle of who’s been persecuted longest. This is a battle between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder. It’s not a battle of races or cultures.”
Fury has been very vocal in the past about his gypsy heritage, saying in 2016 that he thought there was “hatred for travelers and Gypsies around the world” and that there was a “witch hunt” against him “because of my background, because of who I am and what I do.”
Alleged sexist and homophobic comments and self-confessed drug use followed Fury’s fight with Klitschko, rendering him one of boxing’s most controversial figures.
“I’m telling you now, Wilder is getting knocked out by me on Saturday night,” said the 30-year-old. “On Saturday night the whole world will know him as the person who Fury knocked out.
“This swagger is not genuine, it’s fake – a snide and a fraud. I look at him and don’t see a bad man, I see a pretender.”
Wilder, 33, nicknamed “The Bronze Bomber” after his third-place finish at the 2008 Olympics, is 40-0 in his professional career with 39 wins coming via knockout.
In 2015, he became the first American in nine years to hold a heavyweight title after defeating Bermane Stiverne and this weekend is the oddsmaker’s favorite to hold onto his title.
“This is a moment I’ve been waiting for my entire career; this is my time,” said Wilder. “Fury had his, when he beat Klitschko that was his window to do whatever he had to do. How he took up his responsibilities as a champion was up to him. But now it’s my time. I’ve sat patiently, waiting.
“I will knock Tyson Fury out. They say I’m the puncher and he’s the boxer but the same thing was said when I beat Stiverne. I’m going to show you how well I can box. He will go down.”