Another overmatched opponent bites the dust in Brooklyn as Deontay Wilder sets his sights on the big fish in the Heavyweight division.
Saturday night was all about perception for Deontay Wilder. The months preceding his latest knockout victory, filled with a predictable trend of anticipation making way for widespread disappointment left the 32 year old cutting an enraged and disconsolate figure within a fractured division.
Luis Ortiz was the third proposed Wilder foe in 18 months to be removed from competition for an anti-doping violation. A dreaded and depressing prospect for all involved parties, especially so for Wilder, considering that the WBC champion had to pay a large six figure fee to his mandatory challenger to step aside to make this fight occur. A fight constructed to add some much needed legitimacy to an ultimately farcical tenure for him as a heavyweight title holder.
Nonetheless, Ortiz was out and the mandatory was redrafted in – and to nobody’s surprise the man was unfit for practice.
In the two and a half years which followed their initial lopsided title encounter, Bermane Stiverne had been a pugilistic recluse in every shape and form. Amassing one unconvincing decision victory, some gym brawls, and many pounds in weight as a means for proving that this return encounter with Wilder would go any better for him. Whatever his sales pitch was, the WBC bought it – and by the time the Haitian carried his 18 stone frame to the ring on Saturday night, the viewing public were just waiting to be put out of their misery.
Thankfully for us all, Deontay Wilder had too much postfight smack-talking to do to burden fans with another prolonged or overcomplicated beatdown of an overmatched foe. Two knockdowns and multiple windmill blows later and Wilder had the brief release of months of concealed frustration he was looking for and Stiverne could now permanently take his rightful as a internet meme.
Wilder’s explosive one round blitz to retain his title was one worthy of gracing future highlight reels. But, contrary to the initial reaction, it was anything but a statement if you consider the mess of what was in front of the champion. Nonetheless, a power punching demon like Wilder always looks more menacing when fights are not prolonged, so more power to him for maintaining this positive perception of himself. It only aids his ability to cross over to a wider audience.
In the same way that Anthony Joshua receives the benefits and encumbrances of being on top of a uncharacteristically poor division, Wilder receives both in similar quantities but of an ultimately different nature. His style of fighting, as constantly documented, can be compared to a young child completely destroying a well packed box of chocolates just to get to what’s contained inside as quickly as possible. There may be initial thought behind the approach, but that immediately subsides for recklessness. As of such, Wilder is forever a ticking time bomb, always one counterpunch away from disaster.
But, whilst he benefits from an adversely weak heavyweight talent pool, he is disadvantaged by a low profile and the well detailed missteps of others. Recent attempts to prove his worth have fallen by the wayside and as of such he now becomes the pawn of a promotional game by men in suits who stay several steps ahead at all times.
The next fight of any substance in the division as it stands is Wilder vs Joshua. A sentiment made clear by both men and reiterated by the more observant of fight fans across crowds and forums alike.
But before we reach that end, as always, there are egos and politics to navigate. There may be additional overweight mandatory challengers who will need putting away and Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn, for merely his own benefit, is proposing that Wilder should defend his title vs former British champion Dillian Whyte in February without any contractual guarantee of a Joshua fight after. The Whyte fight is at best a sidewards step which has the makings of another faux statement like Saturday night’s. It is a proposal which no fight fan should be advocating for unless they stand to benefit from it financially.
There is something fascinating about this dynamic – Wilder and many American fighters of his ilk are seen as the ones culpable for the delay of meaningful fights, yet here we have the case of a hungry American ready and willing whilst the British side posture at their pleasure – more likely with lower levels of fan and media resentment.
Ultimately, in some shape or form Wilder and those around him will have to dance to the tune of the team of an individual who is arguably carries the most star power in the entire sport if he wants to make real statements in the division, making the required economic and geographical concessions.
Wilder may see himself as the “man” – but when he makes nondescript defences in front of the fractions of crowds Joshua pulls and whilst displaying fractions of the skill, his prophecy looks a world away from being fulfilled. And when faced with the type of resistance that Joshua will bring, he may see that door to fulfilment shut right in his face quicker than he could ever conceive.