He’s received some noteworthy attention in 2015, having won the WBC heavyweight title in January and then defending it this past weekend with a ninth round knockout over challenger Eric Molina 23-3 (17).
Because he’s built a reputation as being a puncher, most of the analysis on him is partisan. He’s either Thomas Hearns as a heavyweight, meaning he’s the real deal and can put anyone he hits cleanly to sleep……or he’s Alex Stewart with a more imposing build and projection, meaning he’s feasted on second and third tier opposition but will come up short in the big spot against the supposed elite heavyweights currently in the mix chasing Wladimir Klitschko.
Obviously I’m talking about the 6’7″ 230 pound WBC title holder Deontay Wilder 34-0 (33). And based on his showing against Molina, there’s a lot to chew on and dissect regarding his place among the best heavyweights in the world and who he’ll next fight. This being the week after he beat Molina, I’ve read three names being floated as possibly being his next opponent – Alexander Povetkin, Chris Arreola and Tony Thompson.
All three, in-spite of not being contenders like we had in the 1970s and 1990s, are a dramatic step up from Eric Molina, who was stopped twice before in the first round before facing Wilder and was barely a fringe contender. And yet Molina further exposed Wilder’s chin and some of his technical deficiencies and vulnerabilities in a losing effort.
However, that doesn’t make Wilder a bad guy for fighting him. Let’s be honest, if Wilder, Tyson Fury or Wladimir Klitschko were going to fight a killer every time out, they’d probably fight once every two years, if that. And yet I have no doubt and will suggest that it’s not likely we’ll see either Chris Arreola 36-4 (31) or Alexander Povetkin 29-1 (21) swapping punches with Wilder in his next bout. And if I’m looking at it from Wilder’s managerial perspective I can’t blame them. Arreola isn’t the most skilled or sophisticated stylistically fighter in the heavyweight division and everyone knows that – but Chris is very willing and fearless. Add to that he can punch and always lets his hands go, especially early in the bout. And if you noticed against Molina, who is known for having a decent right hand, Wilder fought cautiously and with trepidation early because he was concerned about it. Arreola, unlike Molina, who he stopped in the first round when they fought, would come out winging and looking to instill some fear and worry into Wilder’s psyche, something that if it happened would handcuff Wilder and make him glove-shy like we saw during too many patches versus Molina.
Because of his willingness to fight wide open and because of his mindset, Arreola is a bad match for Wilder. And that’s compounded by the prospect that Arreola is at a crossroads in his career and really needs a win over a name opponent. Make no mistake about it, Arreola would be sky high for the opportunity to get a shot against Wilder and be the first to derail him.
As for Alexander Povetkin, he presents a different set of obstacles for Wilder than Arreola. Arreola is easy to find and hit, and Wilder can punch. So it’s not like Wilder couldn’t catch Chris during one of his wild assaults and stop him. But that doesn’t apply to Povetkin. Actually, Povetkin would test Wilder’s stamina and chin. Alexander is very durable and determined. The only time he was out manned or out gunned occurred when he fought Wladimir Klitschko back in October of 2013. Wladimir, who is physically bigger and stronger than Wilder and is also a bigger puncher, had Povetkin down four times, yet Alexander still went the distance with him. And as overmatched as he was, I never got the feeling Povetkin really submitted or wanted out. Povetkin is a grinder and takes a good punch. In a Wilder vs. Povetkin clash, it’s a safe bet that the fight will go the distance. This is a scary thought if you are managing Wilder. Knowing Deontay will have to fight and hold off Povetkin for 12-rounds is a long time to hope nothing will go wrong for Wilder.
As of this writing Arreola and Povetkin look to be out of alignment for Wilder to fight when it comes to the risk/reward factor. If Wilder beat either Arreola or Povetkin, he wouldn’t get all that much credit for it. Actually, the conversation would go something like this……Arreola has been stopped twice and usually lost when he stepped up in class. On top of that he lost twice to Bermane Stiverne, who happens to be the fighter Wilder beat to win the WBC title. As for Povetkin, they’d say, he lost the biggest fight of his career and was never in it against Klitschko. He couldn’t put away a cruiserweight title holder in Marco Huck, who moved up to challenge him a few years ago. Plus, Povetkin is slow footed and there to be hit by someone with Wilder’s style and reach. So based on the factors mentioned, I just don’t see Wilder fighting either Arreola or Povetkin, although I wouldn’t mind being wrong.
The question is…”What would you do next if you were guiding Wilder?” Especially when his team knows their fighter will be torn apart the next day for beating either Arreola or Povetkin and won’t be lauded for the accomplishment. Keep in mind they have to bring him to the biggest money fight possible against Wladimir Klitschko. And at the same time juggle keeping him active and undefeated. Because if they know nothing else, the boxing public discards fighters wrongly once they’ve lost. If Wilder lost a split decision to Povetkin, he’d be written off as a future hope by the fans and media because that’s how they/me/we are.
I think we’ll see Wilder in the ring next again versus Tony Thompson 40-5 (27) or Carlos Takam 32-2-1 (25). Thompson is big and slow and can’t punch and he’s a big target. He’d be there for Wilder to pot shot and out speed. And Tony isn’t much of a threat to hurt or stop Wilder. Takam has an impressive record over washed up fighters and title challengers. The numbers suggest he can punch a little bit, but the names on his record dramatically refute that.
There will be interest in Wilder’s next fight. It won’t be against an opponent who the fans want to see, count on that. Unlike Floyd Mayweather, Wilder hasn’t made his money yet. And I’m quite sure the Wilder faction understands that once Deontay loses, the interest in him will suffer in a big way. So if you’re unhappy with whom Wilder defends his title against next, remember, because of the template set by fans not having much interest in prominent fighters once they lose, we can harbor some of the blame for how the game is played.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com