Wilder Erases Amateur Mistakes – Talk about a mixed bag and an uneven performance, that’s exactly what we saw this past Saturday night when WBC heavyweight title holder Deontay Wilder 36-0 (35) knocked out Polish challenger Artur Szpilka 20-2 (15) in the ninth round at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
I guess it’s that mixed bag which makes Wilder so intriguing. He’s not greatly skilled nor is he fundamentally sound and his boxing basics are flawed, but apparently he has one-punch altering power in his right hand, capable of turning out the lights at any moment. Evidenced by the short right he landed on Szpilka’s lower jaw that dropped Artur as if he were deposited by a low flying helicopter, leaving him stretched out on the canvas for over five minutes before leaving the ring on a stretcher on his way to a waiting ambulance.
Endings like that in heavyweight title bouts tend to make you forget about Wilder’s flaws as a ring technician.
Prior to the bout it was said in this space that Deontay Wilder had to be impressive against Artur Szpilka to be considered an elite heavyweight. With the result of the fight in, I think it’s safe to say that Wilder has a lot to learn, something his trainer Mark Breland endorsed after the bout. However, one cannot argue with a fighter who is capable of putting a willing guy like Szpilka away for the count with one short right to the chin. Sure, many will argue that stopping Artur Szpilka isn’t a herculean feat, but you must remember that Wilder only needed one short punch to do it. I don’t care who it is you knock out as a pro, one-punch knockouts are impressive and memorable, even though Szpilka walked into the punch which may have added to its potency.
Unlike former heavyweight champ George Foreman, who only had to graze his opponents to hurt them or get them in trouble……Wilder hit Szpilka with more than a few solid right hands flush on the chin and Artur didn’t even change the expression on his face. Which tells me Wilder isn’t a born puncher like Wladimir Klitschko and he must have everything set for him regarding his body positioning and his opponent totally defenseless in order to really crack with authentic single shot concussive power.
Wilder’s showing this past weekend was sloppy and wild for nearly the entire bout. He made plenty of amateurish mistakes. For example, he pulled straight back from punches, leaving him wide open in the line of fire, something an upper-tier fighter would surely look to capitalize on. Only Muhammad Ali could pull away from straight shots with his hands on his hips and get away with it. Wilder doesn’t have Ali’s instincts or reflexes and Muhammad had a cast iron chin as a last line of defense when he did misjudge an incoming punch. Wilder, I think it’s safe to say, doesn’t have a first tier chin as a back stop, based on him being wobbled a few times by Szpilka who isn’t a big puncher and never really caught him flush with his feet planted on the canvas in order to get everything on the shot.
Wilder Erases Amateur Mistakes Making Him the Ultimate Wildcard
Another issue that Wilder must correct is that he is simply too reliant on his right hand and depends on it way too much to erase his mistakes. You can count on one hand how many times Deontay double jabbed before he looked to fire the right hand. His offense was basically, shoot out a throw away jab to distract Szpilka, cut loose with a missile like right hand to the face, and if that misses….reset and start all over. Deontay also needed to put his punches together more against Szpilka, especially since Artur was giving him a lot of head and upper-body movement from his southpaw stance.
Wilder only landed 36 out of 158 (23%) jabs. That’s roughly 17 jabs per round, landing only four. It’s no wonder Szpilka had no trouble maneuvering Wilder around the ring for patches of most of the rounds, and occasionally nailing him to the head and face. Szpilka further exposed Wilder’s defensive weakness with just rudimentary head movement. He actually made Deontay miss so vividly that Wilder threw himself down on the canvas because his balance and footwork were so misplaced. Luckily for Wilder, his height, 6’7″, and reach kept Szpilka, who isn’t an elite fighter, from really getting through with something noteworthy. It’s not like Artur was having any trouble making Wilder miss….it’s just that because of the disparity in height and reach between them, he couldn’t make Deontay pay for his lack of defense and punch anticipation.
Wilder is trained by former Olympic and world champion Mark Breland. As a fighter, Breland, like Wilder, held a height and reach advantage over a majority of his welterweight opponents. But Breland, who registered a lot of knockouts, didn’t look to end the bout with one big right hand every time he let it go. Deontay, for some reason, hasn’t grasped that he needs to set up his power shots. So he waits for the perfect opportunity, and in doing so he seems to be leaving a hole between himself and his opponents. A smart fighter will fill that hole like a bridge with punches as Szpilka attempted to do; he just wasn’t good enough to make Wilder pay.
After watching the fight, it’s plain to me that Deontay still has much to learn and must become more imaginative offensively and tighter defensively. His performance was lacking until the final punch he threw, which landed behind the jaw below the ear from back to front and caused massive brain rotation resulting in a devastating knockout. It was as picturesque as any knockout by Joe Louis or George Foreman and will be on any highlight list for knockout of the year. And it erases the stench of an uninspired performance. So we’ll continue to watch him fight and continue to ask the same questions we did before he fought Szpilka.
Until then, Wilder’s style, power and lack of defense make for exciting fights resulting in him being the ultimate wildcard every time he steps into the ring regardless of who the opponent is in the opposite corner.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
Check out this video about the heavyweight division at The Boxing Channel