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Deontay Wilder is in "amazing physical shape" ahead of his third fight with Tyson Fury, according to undefeated heavyweight prospect Raphael Akpejiori.
Nigerian-born Akpejiori is close to Wilder, who has offered him guidance throughout his early career. The two share a strength and conditioning coach and have gone through the same intensive speed and stamina drills in Miami.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Akpejiori shared his knowledge of Wilder's training, stating: "Based on what I know, the only person that can beat Deontay right now, is Deontay. He will beat Fury if he sticks to the game plan from his coaching staff, and I know that he has all the physical tools."
"Right now he is in amazing physical shape, that I can tell you for sure. You will see a completely different Deontay, mentally and physically in the ring, when that bell rings again for that third fight."
Akpejiori (above with Wilder) is a big puncher himself, boasting seven knockout wins in his seven pro fights.
However Wilder's vaunted power couldn't save him in his February fight with Fury, a one-sided seven-round bludgeoning. The former champ will undoubtedly have to do something different if he's to win the rematch - reportedly set for December - so it makes sense he's switching up his training routine.
While both Fury and Wilder came in heavier in February than for their first fight in 2018, the extra bulk suited Fury better as he bullied the American around the ring. Perhaps Wilder, the naturally lighter boxer, will look to maximise his speed in order to gain revenge when they next meet.
Certainly the delay to the third fight can only help Wilder to recover from the physical and mental damage of the beating he took earlier this year. While he produced a series of bizarre excuses in the aftermath - blaming his performance on everything from his ring entrance outfit to a mysterious pre-fight injury - Akpejiori claims his friend is in terrific shape.
"Listen, I can tell you from my conversations with Deontay that he was ready to fight Tyson Fury in July," the prospect told Sky Sports.
"The only reason why he didn't fight Tyson Fury in July, was because the fight was moved due to the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown that came after that.
"He does the same workouts that we've been doing. I don't know how somebody can be injured and do all that. It's really hard stuff, I can tell you that for sure."
He also added that whatever armchair psychologists might say about the damaging impact of Wilder's first pro loss, with Fury taking the fight to such a feared puncher, the 34-year-old's mental state remains strong.
"He's extremely confident," said Akpejiori. "He's very excited about that third fight. I can tell you for sure that he's very hungry, and he's trying to get back into the ring as soon as possible. He's in great spirits, excited to get back to fight Tyson Fury."
In a way, Wilder has nothing to lose in a third contest (well, except another fight, clearly). Their second bout was so alarmingly one-sided that he almost has no choice but to shake up everything - from his physical conditioning to his fight tactics - to try and land on a winning formula.
The odds are against the ex-champ, but at least it sounds like he's whipping his body into superb shape before the hard graft of sparring begins.
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