This past weekend WBC heavyweight title holder Deontay Wilder 35-0 (34) stopped unheralded challenger Johann Duhaupas 32-3 (20) roughly a minute into the 11th round in front of a hometown crowd in Birmingham, Alabama.
This was the second successful defense of his title since he won it from Bermane Stiverne this past January.
Wilder, because he's an American heavyweight and a perceived puncher, has critics and fans coming out of the woodwork to try and get a true read on just how good he is or isn't every time he fights. And you'd think after 35 pro bouts there would be some sort of a consensus, but there's not.
Some think he's a legitimate life-taker in regards to his punching power while others insist he's overrated as a puncher and has feasted on third tier heavyweights since he turned pro. Due to his opposition the truth probably rests somewhere in the middle. However, I think we can say for certain he's definitely not the next George Foreman – but he's also not Michael Grant reincarnate either.
Here's what I know. In Johann Duhaupas, Wilder had an opponent in front of him who didn't possess an abundance of hand or foot speed, who also sported a very pedestrian unimaginative offense. Duhaupas also couldn't punch and was right there in front of Wilder to be hit. Yet, he had more than moderate success catching Deontay with straight lefts and rights to the head and face. In fact, he had Wilder's left eye swelling up by the end of the first round to the surprise of many. I was astonished how easily Duhaupas was able to reach Wilder's face with his jab. All Duhaupas did was move forward in a straight line with no head or upper body movement with his hands up protecting his face, and he was still able to expose Wilder's lack of defense and vulnerability to straight shots.
In the main, Wilder owned every advantage over Duhaupas that a fighter could own over another with the exception of chin and punch resistance. The fight was basically target practice for Wilder, excluding the fourth round. And even at that Deontay needed to rely on getting a second wind in order for him to start dominating the fight down the stretch. During the final rounds of the bout Wilder began to cut loose with left hooks and uppercuts and shied away from his routine left jab followed by the big right hand. When it was over, Wilder was dominating and beating up Duhaupas pretty good, but he never could drop him in spite of landing his Sunday punch repeatedly.
It's easy to scoff at Wilder for defending his title against a big but very limited opponent like Duhaupas. However, in his defense there are only three or four outstanding ranked heavyweights in the division. So it's not like Wilder can face a killer every time out. And if nothing else, due to Duhaupas' durability, we were exposed to 31 minutes observing Wilder in the heat of battle. And we can't lose sight that even though Deontay won all but one or two rounds of the fight, it wasn't an easy night for him and he was met with resistance and that gave us a little more data to assess Wilder the fighter.
On the negative side of the ledger, Wilder holds his hands entirely too low. He could get away with it if he kept his right hand a little higher and in position to guard from the middle. It was also noted during the broadcast that Wilder moves straight back and is susceptible to getting nailed before he's out of range. A fighter, even one with long arms and legs like Wilder, should never take more than three steps straight back without cutting to a side. Another thing that stood out profoundly that no one has mentioned is this: Wilder seldom double or triple jabs. He paws with it too much and only fully commits to his jab when the big right hand is coming behind it. And lastly, during the heat of battle Deontay tends to get wild with both hands and leaves his chin exposed because he never brings them back to a semblance of a high guard after he punches.
What I liked about Wilder was, yes he seems to tire during the middle rounds, but he always gets that second wind and comes back throwing bombs. The fact that he throws with bad intentions late in the bout makes him dangerous and unique among today's heavyweight lot. He also has tweaked his left-hook and didn't look to win the fight exclusively with the right hand. However, he has to disguise it and set it up a little better. It seems he has grasped that he needs more than the old reliable 1-2 as he moves up the ladder. Because even a limited guy like Duhaupas was prepared for it. Sure, he was tagged with that combo often, but he was ready for it and was able to take a little off the shot because he knew when it was coming.
My takeaway from the bout regarding Wilder is this: he has a good set of tools and things to work with and tweak. Based on what I saw of Wladimir Klitschko against Bryant Jennings in his last fight, I would pick Wladimir to stop Wilder. I just feel Klitschko is too strong and experienced for Deontay. That said, Wilder has captured my interest to the point that I want to see him when he fights. Prior to him fighting Duhaupas, I was pretty confident that Alexander Povetkin, who is Wilder's mandatory challenger, would beat him when they meet. Now, after watching Wilder against Duhaupas, I'm not as convinced as I was and look forward to the fight.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com