Hauser Report: Heavyweights – Saturday night, January 16, marked the sixteenth fight card at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The show was billed as featuring two world heavyweight championship fights, which is a little like saying there will be two Olympic gold-medal races in the 100-meter dash on the same afternoon with different participants in each race. But that’s what boxing is like these days.
The four combatants – Deontay Wilder, Artur Szpilka, Vyacheslav Glazkov, and Charles Martin – had a composite ring record of 98 wins, 1 loss, and 2 draws between them. But of those wins, only one (Wilder’s 2015 decision over Bermane Stiverne) was against an opponent who could be considered “world-class” at the time the fight took place. Most of the opponents were on the order of Kertson Manswell, who was knocked out by Wilder, Glazkov, and Martin, and probably would have been knocked out by Szpilka had they fought.
Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson were among the 12,668 fans at Barclay’s Center on fight night to remind people of what a heavyweight champion used to be.
The first “championship” bout of the evening matched Vyacheslav Glazkov (21-0-1, 13 KOs) against Charles Martin (22-0-1, 20 KOs) for the IBF title, which the sanctioning body declared vacated when Tyson Fury opted for a rematch against Wladimir Klitschko rather than fight a “mandatory” defense against Glazkov.
Glazkov came out of the Ukrainian amateur system and won a bronze medal in the super-heavyweight division at the 2008 Beijing Oympics. But he has struggled as a professional, fighting to a draw against Malik Scott and eking out controversial decisions over Derrik Rossy and Steve Cunningham.
Martin, a southpaw, is one of the heavyweights that promoter Michael King was trying to develop before his untimely death last year. He has been fighting professionally for less than forty months and had never fought a world-class opponent. Indeed, an argument could be made that Martin had never fought a good club fighter. He can punch a bit and outweighed Glazkov by 31 pounds (249 to 218). But the assumption was that the more-technically-proficient Glazkov would outbox him.
Round one of Glazkov-Martin was a feeling-out stanza. Martin brings his jab back slowly and low, but at least he was throwing something (which Glazkov wasn’t). To outbox an opponent, which Vyacheslav was expected to do, a fighter has to throw punches.
Round two saw more inaction. Then, 48 seconds into round three, Martin stepped with his lead foot (the right) onto Glazkov’s lead foot (the left), and Vyacheslav went down awkwardly. As soon as the action resumed, Showtime commentator Al Bernstein observed, “Something bothered Glazkov during that slip. His demeanor as a fighter has changed.” Seconds later, as Glazkow was throwing a right to the body, he tumbled to the canvas and rose, limping bady.
“He was hurt from before,” Bernstein said.
At that point, without a meaningful punch having been landed, referee Earl Brown had no choice but to stop the fight. A subsequent examination by NYSAC ring doctor Gerald Varlotta led to the pronouncement that Glazkov’s anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) had been torn clean through.
Martin was declared the winner on a third-round TKO. But it’s likely that Glazkov tore his ACL when the fighters’ feet got tangled and he went down for the first time. Thus, an argument can be made that the decision should be changed to “no contest.” Should that happen, it would remove the loss from Glazkov’s record and vacate the IBF title.
Meanwhile, for the time being at least, Martin has a “world championship” belt. It’s hard to imagine the heavyweight title being more devalued than it has been in recent years. But this fight did just that.
The Hauser Report: Heavyweights at Barclays Center
The second “heavyweight championship” contest on the card saw Deontay Wilder (35-0, 34 KOs) put his WBC strap on the line against Artur Szpilka (20-1, 15 KOs).
Wilder was a 19-year-old community college student in Alabama when his daughter, Naieya (who is now ten) was born with spina bifida. At that point, he dropped out of college to support her. He began going to a boxing gym in 2005 and won a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Deontay’s nickname (“The Bronze Bomber”) references his Olympic medal and is a nod toward another Alabama-born heavyweight champion, Joe Louis (“The Brown Bomber”).
Wilder is trained by Mark Breland. The two men make an odd couple. Breland is quiet and introspective. Deontay is out there and loves to talk. “He’s a little quieter in camp than he is in public,” Breland notes. “But not much. He likes to clown around a lot.”
With regard to Wilder’s ring skills, Breland says, “There’s a lot of room for improvement. But he’s doing everything we tell him to do.”
At a media sitdown last month, Wilder declared, “I ain’t scared to fight nobody.”
Whether his matchmakers share that confidence is another matter. Deontay has been protected. He’s no longer a novice. He has been fighting professionally for seven years. But his resume is short on credible opponents.
Szpilka was within Team Wilder’s comfort range. Artur was obliterated by Bryant Jennings and was on the canvas three times in two fights against Mike Mollo. And he isn’t a big puncher.
Mike Tyson put matters in perspective when asked about Wilder by Showtime’s Jim Gray before the fight:
Tyson: I don’t know the guy he’s fighting.
Jim Gray: Szpilka.
Tyson: Spilky? I have no idea who he is.
Here it might be noted that Szpilka’s curriculum vitae includes an eighteen-month stint in prison in his native Poland for brawling as a “soccer hooligan.” Wilder had his own run-in with the law when he was arrested in 2013 after an incident in a Las Vegas hotel room and charged with domestic battery by strangulation. According to a police report, the woman in question had a possible broken nose, swelling around her eyes, a cut lip, and red marks on her neck. Wilder’s attorney later said that Deontay was apologetic and had mistakenly thought the woman was planning to rob him. The matter was settled out of court.
Wilder, at 6-feet-7-inches tall, towered over Szpilka, although Artur outweighed him by four pounds. Deontay was a 15-to-1 betting favorite.
As for the fight; Szpilka fought as well as he could, which is to say that he fought gamely and with the ring craftsmanship of a soccer hooligan. Wilder seemed uncertain as to how to fight a southpaw and failed to jab effectively, which would have made it an easier fight. Neither guy went to the body.
As round nine neared an end, Szpilka repeated one of the many fundamental mistakes he’d been making throughout the fight. To wit; he squared up and leaned in with his head as he was throwing a wide overhand left. Wilder beat him to the punch with perfectly-thrown straight right that landed flush on Artur’s jaw and rendered Szpilka unconscious. It was a dramatic end to a sloppy fight.
After the bout, Tyson Fury (who holds the WBA and WBO heavyweight belts by virtue of his recent victory over Wladimir Klitschko) clamored into the ring and carried on like he was at a WWE spectacle.
Fury beat The Man. And his first defense will be against the man he beat. That’s where the true heavyweight championship resides for now. But Wilder is an intriguing presence.
Fury-Wilder might happen at some point in the future. Meanwhile, Deontay keeps talking Klitschko-Fury-Povetkin and keeps fighting Molina-Duhaupas-Szpilka.
Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His most recent book – A Hurting Sport: An Inside Look at Another Year in Boxing – was published by the University of Arkansas Press.
Check out this video about the heavyweight division at The Boxing Channel