There is a lot of hype and anticipation regarding the upcoming WBC heavyweight title bout between title holder Bermane Stiverne 24-1-1 (21) and top contender Deontay Wilder 32-0 (32).
I suppose that’s because combined they have a 95% knockout rate and of their apparent dislike of each other. The heavyweight division has been in the doldrums with the Klitschko brothers having a strangle-hold on it since Lennox Lewis retired in early 2004. Until Stiverne vs. Wilder the last heavyweight title bout that really had any juice was back in 2011, when Wladimir Klitschko won a 12-round snooze fest over British challenger David Haye.
“I’m expecting a short night because we have bad blood,” Wilder said. “I really want to hurt this guy, and I haven’t felt this way in a long time. I want to show him this is no joke, this is real. This is business. This is the hurt game and my power is real. I told him that I’ll whoop his (butt) and I’m going to keep my promise.”
Wilder, who won a bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, has fought a total of 58 rounds as a pro. He’s won all 32 of his fights by stoppage, and to me, something about them just doesn’t look quite right. Some of them looked to have been…in-organic… and it’s obvious that he really has gone untested.
Since the emergence of another former Olympian, George Foreman, who won a gold medal at the 1968 Games in Mexico City and built up a tremendous knockout record before challenging undisputed heavyweight champ Joe Frazier, many heavyweights have garnered a lot of hype because of their so-called power. The difference is, although Foreman was knocking out a lot of journeymen on his march to the title, you could glean that his power was for real and authentic. As it turned out, Foreman turned out to be more than just a once in a generation puncher – actually, he was a once in a lifetime puncher.
On the way up, heavyweight sensations Mike Tyson and David Tua scored impressive early round knockouts and both went on to prove that they really were once in a generation punchers. Even before Tyson won the title and Tua challenged for it, you knew for certain that they were dangerous and just going the distance with them would be a major feat. I don’t get that sense from watching Wilder. It seems he never lands clean and his opponents still fall over themselves going down.
I get the feeling that many boxing observers are hoping he’s a heavyweight Thomas Hearns housed in a 6′-7″ body weighing around 230 pounds with a reach that expands like a 747 airliner. However, the odds of him being Hearns at heavyweight are slim and none, and that’s being polite. Hearns was a terrific boxer-puncher who could attack and/or step back and counter. He also had a missile for a right hand and a debilitating left hook to the head and body. I just don’t see that in Wilder.
If I’m forced to quantify Wilder stylistically, I guess he’s a puncher. He’s not a very good boxer, his balance is lousy and for such a tall guy he’s easy to hit. For me, the question is how much of his power is legitimate? And that’s a really big question. And if Wilder is legit, he should have little trouble against Stiverne, who is very willing to mix it up and should be at the mercy of Wilder’s reach.
Stylistically, I see Stiverne primarily as a counter-punching puncher who can box. I’m not sure how well he takes a shot, and I’m not sure of his work ethic. But I see a guy who can box and punch, who’s totally relaxed in the ring, who keeps his power late into the fight, who’s a pretty strong guy, who has a terrific reach for someone his size, and who hits with both hands. By today’s standards especially, that looks very good in the heavyweight division.
Stiverne vs. Wilder is a very tough fight to handicap because of the total unknown regarding Wilder. If he’s the real deal, with his size and reach, not to mention if his power is legit, he has everything in his physical arsenal to beat Stiverne and provide him a difficult night. If he’s for real it’s easy to see him winning by knockout or decision. However, I can see Stiverne biding his time and then exploding when the time is right and Wilder going out and away like Michael Grant did a decade ago. And that’s what makes the fight so intriguing, at least for me. Whenever there is a fight on the horizon and there’s nothing that could surprise you regarding the outcome, that’s usually a fight you don’t want to miss.
I know this much…If Wilder was to beat Stiverne, it’d revamp my opinion of Stiverne a little bit, and it would totally revamp my opinion of Wilder. One thing I think is safe to say, and that is.. I don’t think this fight will go many rounds.
“Now I can make all my dreams come true, I can make it a reality,” Wilder said. “America is yearning for a heavyweight world champion. We haven’t had a real one since the days of Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield. Everyone just sits back and remembers the glory days. America has been waiting for their champion and I’ve arrived.”
If Wilder turns out to be the authentic article, a bout between him and Wladimir Klitschko for the undisputed heavyweight title on the line would really be something and have many ring observers talking the heavyweights a little longer. And that would be a welcome change. Can you say East meets West?
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com