Deontay Wilder – This past Saturday night WBC heavyweight title holder Deontay Wilder 37-0 (36) made the fourth successful defense of the title he won back in January of last year. His opponent was the ever willing but limited Chris Arreola 36-5-1 (31). Arreola received his third shot at the WBC belt when mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin tested positive for trace amounts of a banned substance. Povetkin 30-1 (22) is an aggressive grinder who has never been stopped and isn’t shopworn. He would have been a great test for Wilder and as a result of their clash we’d have a better idea of just how good Deontay is. However, we got Wilder-Arreola and the two things that stand out most after watching the bout are that Wilder really hasn’t improved that much and that Arreola is completely shot.
Let’s address Arreola who entered the ring a walking corpse. Chris doesn’t have much left physically and he’s never improved technically in all the years he’s been a pro. The last thing in the world he should have done against a tall long-armed guy like Wilder was come straight in with no head or upper-body movement at a measured pace. And that’s exactly what he did! Chris didn’t come in punching and when he did manage to get inside via his own doing or Wilder allowing him to, he was in so tight that he smothered his own attempt to get off. This was compounded when Chris did manage to get off because there’s nothing left of his punch; it’s gone. And the body punches he landed were barely hard slaps. At one time Arreola was dangerous and if he clipped you cleanly, he was capable of hurting you. Well, that’s no longer the case. Granted, he wasn’t all that successful hitting Wilder with anything really clean, but the few times he touched or grazed Deontay, Wilder didn’t change his expression, nor was he ever in trouble.
In fact Arreola was so out of the fight in spite of Wilder breaking his right hand during the bout that it looked as if Wilder was easing up and didn’t want to chance hurting Arreola seriously as the bout progressed. Luckily Arreola’s corner did the right thing and stopped the fight as soon as the eighth round ended. Chris had been down and saved by the bell in the fourth round and from that point on Wilder had everything going his way. I hope Arreola thinks long and hard before he goes back into the ring. He had a nice career, scored some memorable wins and earned three title shots. It’s time for him to do something else; it was a nice run but it’s over. Right now I’d pick both Charles Martin and Dominic Breazeale to beat Chris Arreola.
As for the 6’7” Wilder, who is entering his prime, I didn’t see all that much improvement. Deontay still rushes a lot of his shots and is very sloppy and off-balance when he cuts loose. This translates into poor punch placement. Yes, he was methodical and measured at times against Arreola, but that had a lot to do with him not being under any duress. Wilder has legitimate knockout power in both hands, by today’s standards, but he’d be so much more dangerous if he was more accurate. And to me, that’s the big difference between Wilder and IBF title holder Anthony Joshua. One can’t help but take note that Joshua has better form and balance than Wilder and is more accurate with his punch placement. Joshua in some ways reminds me of a taller Joe Louis, whereas Wilder looks at times like a taller version of Larry Holmes who is off-balance while looking to end the fight with every punch he throws.
Deontay Wilder is a very likable guy and really looks to be giving boxing his all while trying to ignite the heavyweight division. And you have to love that about him. His confidence seems to be authentic. He also seems to grasp that most avid boxing fans love the heavyweights and watch them to see knockouts and memorable conclusions to big fights. Yes, he’s fought 37 times as a pro, but he’s still very green fighting at the world class level. However, his height, reach and power have enabled him to outrun his mistakes and recklessness.
Perhaps we as boxing observers are too tough on Deontay Wilder and expect too much of him because of his tools and physicality. At 30 years old he’s still young and has only fought 107 rounds as a professional. Sure, you’d like to see more improvement, but who is out there so great that it requires him to be George Foreman or Lennox Lewis in order for him to have a major say in today’s heavyweight division? If by chance it turns out that Wilder has a dependable chin, a few tweaks here and there would go a long way.
If you survey the upper-tier heavyweights in the mix today, the list reads Wladimir Klitschko 64-4 (53), Tyson Fury 25-0 (18), Luis Ortiz 25-0 (22), Joseph Parker 19-0 (16) and David Haye 28-2 (26) along with Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder.
Can you say U.S.A. vs. U.K.? A closer look reveals that Wilder and Joshua could be on a collision course the way Riddick Bowe and Lennox Lewis were circa 1992-93. And I say that because, win or lose versus Tyson Fury in their upcoming rematch, Wladimir Klitschko is at the end of the line and I doubt he’ll be around much longer. As for Fury, if he beats Klitschko, he doesn’t scare anybody on the list, and if he loses I get the sense he’ll go away. To date I haven’t been blown away by watching Joseph Parker and he’s an underdog to everyone mentioned. Luis Ortiz will be avoided like the Zika virus by all of them, and at age 37 he can’t have much time left. And regarding David Haye, he’s in it for the short term and looking to cash out after a monstrosity type payday. He’ll probably fight Joshua after he beats Shannon Briggs and that will pretty much be a wrap for David Haye.
Based on the landscape in the division along with who is likely to fight whom, there’s an excellent chance that Wilder and Joshua could meet in one of the more widely anticipated bouts in recent heavyweight history – that’s assuming that Wilder improves and is matched correctly from this point forward. The management part of the equation is a given, but Wilder has to show some improvement because right now he’s not ready for Joshua and I believe he would get knocked out by Ortiz.
Deontay Wilder is starting to get noticed and he’s easy to root for. But I can’t help but hold my breath when he fights. He must improve his fundamentals and basics, because the heavyweight division is there for the taking by an outstanding big man. I’m not sure it’s Wilder, but he’s in the mix and he has the raw tools.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com