Finally, a heavyweight world title fight returns to its natural home grounds, the United States of America.
Since 2004, when Ukraine’s Vitali Klitschko blasted out South Africa’s Corrie Sanders at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, the heavyweight world title has been held hostage by the brothers Klitschko.
Now, two heavyweights from North America, WBC titlist Bermane Stiverne (21-1-1, 21 Kos) and challenger Deontay Wilder (32-0, 32 Kos) will collide to decide the WBC champion. Their heavyweight battle takes place Saturday, Jan. 17, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Golden Boy Promotions and Don King Productions are the promoters.
Before the Klitschkos, an occasional European would win the heavyweight title, then immediately give it back to an American. That changed when the Klitschkos grabbed the titles and refused to fight each other. It went further than that. Heavyweight challenges were kept in Europe, where less than stellar challengers were pitted against the Klitschko brothers for a decade.
Some argue that American heavyweights didn’t exist that could challenge the Klitschkos. But that’s not exactly correct. John Ruiz beat Evander Holyfield and James Toney beat both of them convincingly. Then the title was stripped from Toney because he was found to have PED’s in his system, stemming from surgery to his bicep.
Neither Klitschko ever fought Ruiz, Holyfield or Toney. An entire decade passed and those boxers were ignored.
The late great trainer Emanuel Steward, who worked with Wladimir Klitschko, revealed to me on more than one occasion that he advised the Ukrainian brothers to stay away from Toney. That was 10 years ago and even now a 46-year-old Toney terrifies them.
That’s all coming to an end as Stiverne fights Wilder for the WBC version. Wladimir has the WBA, IBF, and WBO straps.
Who are they?
Sadly, few people know much about Stiverne and Wilder. Around Las Vegas people don’t know who the heavyweights are. In Southern California, despite constant promotion on the various hip hop radio stations, a very small percentage of people recognize Wilder or Stiverne.
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Stiverne, 36, a powerful roundish heavyweight from Haiti, Canada and Las Vegas, defeated Southern California’s Chris Arreola twice to pick up the crown. Both were impressive performances.
Wilder, 29, crushed almost all of the 32 competitors he faced with nary a glitch, except one opponent back in October 2010. In that fight at Fantasy Springs in Indio, Calif., Wilder fought Harold Sconiers in a preliminary bout on a Golden Boy event. Wilder hit the deck from an uppercut early in the fight. He got up. Then Sconiers attacked again and hit Wilder with another punch and down he went. The referee looked at Wilder and ruled it was a slip. He waved for the downed fighter to get up and he couldn’t. Wilder was still stunned and flopping around trying to get up. Then the referee actually helped him get up and the fight resumed. This was after a good 30 seconds had passed. If it had been ruled a knock down, Wilder would have been counted out.
The tall heavyweight exacted revenge by knocking down Sconiers four times. But for awhile, Sconiers knew if he could touch Wilder again he might take him out. Wilder caught him over and over but Sconiers got up and tried again. Finally, Wilder put him away in the fourth round.
It was evident that Wilder could be caught and we were reminded that all heavyweights pack a punch.
Now it’s time for American heavyweights to show they belong.
“I don’t expect this title to be given to me. I want to earn it. I hope he is in great health because I don’t want any excuse for my victory,” said Wilder.
Stiverne, who is promoted by Don King, said he has no words to express. He would rather prove his point in the boxing ring.
“It’s going to be a short night. It’s going to be painful. Really painful. And I will send him home with no belt,” Stiverne said.
Finally, after years without Americans holding a heavyweight title, the championship has returned to American shores. Let’s hope they can bring the heat.