When a fighter is groomed and hyped to be the next sensation, but because of the way he was perhaps overly deliberate fashion which he was moved along and managed, it’s hard to get a true gauge on how good he really is.
This past weekend Deontay Wilder 33-0 (32) won a 12-round unanimous decision over Bermane Stiverne 24-2-1 (21) to capture the WBC heavyweight title. During the run-up to the bout, many, including myself, questioned Wilder’s knockout record, stamina, boxing skills and ability to take a punch.
During the 58 rounds he fought as a pro prior to fighting Stiverne, it was impossible to say for certain exactly what Wilder brought to the ring as an upper-tier heavyweight contender. Sure, he scored some impressive knockouts, he showed glimpses of good form and movement, but his stamina and chin were still x-factors.
It’s easy to look great against journeymen and has-beens the way most prospects do on the way up. But an untested quality like Wilder cannot be assessed fairly until he has someone noteworthy in front of him, like a Bermane Stiverne. Now, after fighting a live world-class fighter for the first time, we can make our deductions of what we see in Wilder as a fighter with more impunity.
This past weekend Deontay Wilder took and passed his first test as a world-class professional heavyweight boxer. And he passed with relative ease. Wilder out-boxed and out-fought WBC title holder Bermane Stiverne in at least eight of the 12-rounds they fought, and it could’ve been nine if he didn’t choose to run out the clock in the 12th and final round. Wilder showed that he does possess some versatility and is a more competent boxer than I thought he was. He used his long left jab to nullify Stiverne’s pedestrian aggression and at the same time exhibited the ability to fight effectively in retreat. In fact, Wilder was much more proficient and effective on the move and going backwards than Stiverne was moving forward.
Other questions lingered over Wilder before the fight, such as those concerning his stamina, being that he never fought past the fourth round before the bout, along with his durability and ability to absorb a big shot and fight back. As to the first question, Wilder showed terrific stamina. Granted, the pressure that Stiverne was applying didn’t rekindle any memories of “Smokin” Joe Frazier, but he was moving towards him, despite it being in the manner of a rudderless ship. (And I can’t help thinking how Wilder benefited by having a fighter in front of him who had literally no clue as to how to fight as the effective attacker.)
In regards to Wilder’s chin, it passed its first test. Most everyone agreed before the fight that Stiverne was more than an adequate puncher with both hands. And Stiverne landed some of his best left hooks and right hands on Wilder’s chin. Yes, he moved Deontay but was never close to having him in trouble or going down that I saw. As of this time it looks as though Wilder’s chin won’t be the liability that some thought it could be before the fight. However, I sure wouldn’t be surprised if he lost by stoppage in the near future. His defense isn’t terrific and I doubt he’ll be standing long if someone like Wladimir Klitschko dings him a few times cleanly if they eventually fight.
As to the result of Wilder’s fight against Stiverne, I think his superior size and physicality played a major role as to the way the fight unfolded, and give Wilder credit for seizing on what was presented to him. And by that I mean, Stiverne did Wilder a huge favor by trying to bring the fight to him. Bermane must have figured that Wilder was just too long and tall to try and sit back and counter. Deontay’s reach would’ve enabled him to hit and pot shot Stiverne all night long from outside without being susceptible to being countered, simply because without moving his feet, there’s no way Stiverne could’ve reached him, at least not with anything consequential. Prior to the bout I stressed that Wilder’s reach would be more applicable to Stiverne’s surprisingly long arms. And that really forced Stiverne into fighting a style that isn’t him and one that he’s totally inept at executing, especially against a bigger opponent who he couldn’t man-handle or walk over.
Going into the fight no one foresaw Stiverne bringing the fight to Wilder, that’s not who Stiverne is. However, as we saw Bermane had to get inside to have a chance to unravel Wilder, but he just didn’t know how to do it, and that’s why he looked so ordinary. He slowly followed Wilder around the ring in a straight line, throwing no punches, eating frequent jabs and occasional rights.
By bringing the fight to Wilder it may have looked like he was pressuring Deontay, but in reality all he was doing was moving forward, and that’s not pressure. Pressure is supposed to disrupt the opponent, force him to rush his offense and make him do things he doesn’t want to do. Which Stiverne didn’t achieve. Actually, his lack of head movement and ineptness at cutting the ring off provided Wilder the ideal target to pot-shot and pick his spots against.
Wilder showed great composure and took what Stiverne gave him. He pot-shotted when it was the right thing to do, and then loaded up when he had the openings and Stiverne was backing straight up. Wilder boxed smartly and trainer Mark Breland did a great job preparing him from a strategic vantage-point. Wilder was a little better than I thought and Stiverne couldn’t do anything because of his compromised physicality and ineptness regarding effective pressure.
Wilder looked good passing his first test, but he’s a work in progress and has a way to go before he can compete with Wladimir Klitschko. On a night that he looked more like a poor man’s Lennox Lewis than he did a poor man’s George Foreman, his stock rose and he will stimulate interest in the heavyweight division when he next fights.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com