As it was mentioned here a few weeks back, the WBC heavyweight title bout between title holder Bermane Stiverne 24-1-1 (21) and Deontay Wilder 32-0 (32) tomorrow night is the most talked-about heavyweight title bout since heavyweight champ Wladimir Klitschko defended the title against David Haye.
Like the Stiverne-Wilder bout, both Klitschko and Haye could really punch. The disappointing thing about what transpired between Klitschko and Haye was, both fighters were afraid to cut loose in fear of leaving themselves vulnerable to the others’ power, so the fight turned out to be a real dud. With the bad blood and words between Stiverne and Wilder, this shouldn’t be the case when they finally touch gloves. (EDITOR NOTE: Here’s hoping. The distance between talking and walking the walk doesn’t always correlate in regards to fury of trash talk pre-fight. I hope the fight matches the ire pre-fight!)
Last month I said the following about Stiverne and Wilder pertaining to their fighting/boxing style.
“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.”
That said, if Wilder, 29, is half as good as the hype that has accompanied him in the run up to this fight, he should be the one dictating the tempo of it with his long left jab. Obviously, the thing that stands out about Wilder physically is his tremendous height 6′-7″ and his 83 inch reach. If you notice, Stiverne, 36, also has long arms (80 inch reach) as well. But the difference in their height, roughly five inches, should enable Wilder to apply and impose his reach more. Wilder’s trainer Mark Breland, who was a 6′-1″ welterweight, was exceptional at imposing his reach and setting up big right hands during his days as a top contender and title holder. The book on Wilder is that he can punch – a statement that implies with both hands. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, there’s no question that his right hand is the Sunday punch in his arsenal. And to beat Stiverne, that’s the punch he’ll need to be successful getting off with and landing in order to, at the least, make Stiverne uncomfortable and perhaps beat him.
Wilder has two choices basically on how to execute his fight. Most likely he’ll try to push the action behind his long jab and try to open Stiverne up. By taking the fight to Stiverne, Wilder will look to force Bermane to engage with him by making him rush his offense, thus leaving himself open for the big right hand. If that doesn’t work, Wilder, if he’s smart, will try to draw Stiverne to him by jabbing hard and then stepping back slightly…..with the hope Stiverne falls for the trap and follows him back, thus leaving himself open for the big counter right. However, being that Wilder is supposed to be such a dynamite puncher, it’s most likely that he’ll want to impose himself via his power over Stiverne and dictate the fight.
As for Stiverne, he would be best served by allowing Wilder to push the fight and induce him to lunge and over commit to the bombs he’ll be looking to send his way. What Stiverne will be looking for is Wilder to get a little anxious and wide with his shots, then look to time and counter him on the way in. Sensing that Wilder will be trying to get him on his heels, Stiverne will probably play the wait and react game in accordance to the level of Wilder’s aggression. I doubt we’ll see Stiverne cut loose in a big way and go after Wilder unless he can get off on the inside or if he has Wilder in trouble or shook. And if he’s smart he’ll blast Wilder’s body with multiple left hooks when Wilder attempts to force the fight or get inside on him.
When all is said and done, it’s conceivable that both Stiverne and Wilder will be able to find each other’s chin without too much trouble. Therefore the fighter who can catch better and who owns the sturdier chin is the fighter who should prevail. It doesn’t take much of a boxing acumen to plot and devise the strategy for these two. Size and physicality will play a monumental role as to who fights as the predator and prey. One guy (Wilder) will be fighting as the puncher and looking to make it an early night, and the other (Stiverne) will be smartly looking to use his opponents’ power and aggression against him in order for him to get off with his best artillery.
It’s pretty vanilla and basic as to what each guy is going to do and wants to do. Stiverne is a little hindered by the reach and height advantage that Wilder owns…on the other hand Wilder is pretty basic with his attack, no deception or imagination at all, so it’s doubtful Stiverne will be caught off guard by anything that Deontay tries. But it’s still an intriguing fight and nothing is a given as to how it will unfold. Neither guy winning should be considered a shock or a surprise. Actually, the only ending that would surprise me would be if the fight went to a decision.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com