LOS ANGELES -- Throughout the dealmaking process and the promotion of their fight, it is obvious that heavyweight world titleholder Deontay Wilder and lineal champion Tyson Fury like and respect each other. They don't even deny it.
But despite their positive feelings for each other, they are just days away from trying to inflict bodily harm on each other, so both were a bit on edge as emotions spilled over at their final prefight news conference on Wednesday inside a downtown hotel ballroom in advance of their much-anticipated bout on Saturday (Showtime PPV, 9 p.m. ET) at Staples Center.
What began as a typical boxing news conference filled with boasts, jokes, hyperbole and hype ended with the fighters in a scuffle and shouting obscenities at each other before they were quickly separated and the stage was filled with humanity.
Perhaps it was legitimate emotion from fighters known to wear their hearts on their sleeve, or perhaps it was a ploy to bring attention to their fight and goose the publicity, but after the fighters made their remarks things began to get heated during a question-and-answer session moderated by Showtime's Jim Gray.
The fighters began to talk over each other and by the time they moved to the center of the stage for the traditional faceoff they were jawing with each other and it seemed inevitable things would not end well.
Wilder, inches from Fury's face, was yelling at him, over and over, "I'm gonna knock you the f--- out, I promise you!"
Fury smiled and began to mock Wilder by bobbing his head side-to-side to move away from Wilder, who continued yelling at him before they eventually put their hands on each other. A brief scuffle ensued, they were separated and continued to yell and point at each other, and for some reason Fury stripped off his suit jacket and shirt in a hilarious scene.
Following the near fisticuffs, both fighters spoke separately to gathered media and Fury offered his view on what prompted Wilder's outburst.
"I think Wilder is very nervous," he said. "He felt that he needed to scream and shout at me and do all that sort of stuff to try start a bit of a tussle. But we're fighting men. He had his big team and I was up there with me and [trainer] Ben [Davison], on our own. He had all his teammates at the back of the stage when my brothers were in the crowd. But it is what it is. We're not afraid of anybody.
"I believe Wilder wanted me to hit him with a left hook so he could cancel the fight. That's what I believe. I believe Wilder got in my face so that he could trigger me to hit him so he could get out of the fight. But I ain't going to make that mistake. I ain't going to lose half my purse for that idiot, Deontay Wilder. He knows he can't win and I think it's clear for everyone to see now the nerves in him with the way that he's conducting himself."
Wednesday's news conference took place on the three-year anniversary of Fury's monumental upset of Wladimir Klitschko, whom he outpointed in Germany to end his long title reign. But Fury never defended the belts and wound up in a 31-month layoff because of drug and alcohol addiction, mental health issues and enormous weight gain.
But Fury (27-0, 19 KOs), 30, of England, got his life together, returned in June and won two fights before making the deal to fight Wilder (40-0, 39 KOs), 33, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, who will be defending his belt for the eighth time.
Fury, in good spirits and good shape, reminded everyone of the anniversary.
"It's my anniversary today," he said from the podium. "It's three years since I went to Germany and kicked Wladimir Klitschko's arse all over Dusseldorf, and I'll do the same to Deontay on Saturday. I'm here to do a job and enjoy myself, and I hope the boxing fans around the world are going to enjoy this fight as much as I will.
"I'm going to punch his face in for him. I've heard a lot of people say, 'Wilder by knockout or Fury on points.' But I'm telling you now, Wilder's going to get knocked out."
When asked about dealing with his mental health issues, Fury turned more serious.
"I stand for more than a championship," he said. "I stand here as an ambassador for mental health. I'm the people's champion. I've got millions of people around the world who look up to me and I'm on a mission to inspire these people."
Wilder, who has been desperate for a big fight, has one now and said he relishes the moment.
"I can't wait," he said. "I cannot wait. Time is clicking, it's boiling down. Can you feel the energy?
"This is a moment I've been waiting for my entire career. This is the time, it's my time. Fury had his time. When he beat Klitschko that was his time, that was his window. Now it's my time."
Wilder also took a shot at Fury's performance against Klitschko.
"He didn't beat Klitschko; Klitschko beat himself. If Klitschko had shown up and thrown more punches he'd have won. Everybody knows that," Wilder said. "So much emotion is running through my body right now. I was ready two weeks ago. I can't wait to put these hands on you. When I get in the ring, it'll be no more Mr. Nice Guy."
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