John McDermott was controversially scored the loser when he largely outfought the then inexperienced Fury in 2009, forcing the undefeated former world heavyweight champion into what remains his toughest fight.
A rivalry that captured the imagination of both the boxing and travelling communities – like Fury, the 37-year-old McDermott is also of travelling stock – only concluded the following year when Fury adapted and improved to win in nine rounds.
If McDermott had undermined the reputation of an already-promising fighter, his own has since grown with Fury’s impressive accomplishments.
On Saturday at Los Angeles’ Staples Center, Fury challenges the heavy-handed Wilder – and despite concerns about his inactivity and still maintaining he beat him, McDermott has predicted Fury will win once again.
“The only thing against him is he’d had a long lay-off [of almost three years], and he’s not boxed anywhere near the class he needs to now,” he told Press Association Sport.
“If he’d had another two fights, a bit of a step-up in class – but I still think he’s going to win on points.
“Fury’s not a renowned knockout specialist like [Anthony] Joshua or Wilder, but his boxing skills are too good for both of them.
“If anybody can beat both of them it’s Fury. Not because of his punching power – because he’s very quick, he’s awkward, he’s tall. He knows how to use his height.
“What he did [in 2015 to Wladimir] Klitschko was a bit embarrassing, wasn’t it? They were talking as though the man was unbeatable, and Tyson just wiped the floor with him. I didn’t think he had a chance, that Klitschko would land a big shot and that’d be it.
“Fury’s also been down, got up and found a way to win.”
It was before his fights with McDermott that Fury’s trash-talking was brought to the attention of a wider public.
Long considered an exciting talent, he was under intense pressure from within his community to win – and it is that which McDermott believes contributed to the composure that has become such a strength.
“I knew he’d be a good fighter,” said McDermott, whose 19 rounds against Fury are surpassed by only Dereck Chisora, and who today works on the Crossrail.
McDermott added: “The first time he came to fight with me. In the second fight, he changed completely.
“At first he was coming forward and I had a chance to hit him; this time he used his size, it was completely different. Every time I got in close he tied me up – that would wear me out because I was trying to fight him off. He’d improved massively.
“Everyone was talking about it – the travelling community as well as the boxing community.
“[So] the pressure won’t bother him – he’s used to it. The only thing that’ll get to him is Wilder’s punches if he gets caught.
“He’ll enjoy the pressure. He’s been in big fights before; obviously he’s been through things in his life, but that’ll prepare him as well. Those things make you stronger.”