HOW GOOD IS DEONTAY WILDER? — He stands 6-7 and weighs 230 pounds. He’s the WBC heavyweight title holder and sports an impressive 37-0 (36) record. His name is Deontay Wilder. Mention him in boxing circles and you’ll be met with a plethora of varying opinions pertaining to how good he is or isn’t. This is unique, being that he’s fought 37 times as a pro and has successfully defended his title four times. And with all that, most observers, including myself, have questions regarding how authentically good he really is. He’s seems genuine and is an easy guy to root for and I believe he’s serious about boxing and is a hard trainer. He says he respects the game and other fighters and goes about his business. Wilder (pictured) seems to grasp the business of boxing and isn’t under any grand illusions. Recently he said the real money in boxing comes when fighters defend the title, not winning it…and he’s right.
Deontay, because of his George Foreman-esque knockout record, has to a degree captivated the attention of many fans that follow the heavyweight division. Opinions on Wilder are split. Some say he’s Thomas Hearns in a heavyweight body and others contend he’s the product of a manufactured and carefully crafted record. As of this writing, Wilder’s opposition, with the exception of Bermane Stiverne, who he defeated for the WBC title and is the only fighter to have gone the distance with him, has been very limited. Then again, the same thing could be said about Britain’s Anthony Joshua 18-0 (18), the IBF title holder. Joshua is fighting former champion Wladimir Klitschko on April 29th, so hopefully many of the questions about Joshua, a lot of the same ones surrounding Wilder, will be answered. The major difference between them is that Joshua hasn’t struggled in dispatching his foes with the exception of a few moments versus Dillan Whyte.
Wilder was in the midst of raising the level of his opposition last year when he was scheduled to fight former title holder Alexander Povetkin in May. He was even willing to go to Povetkin’s home country of Russia to defend his title. Then a week before the bout, Povetkin tested positive for meldonium, a banned substance, and the fight fell through. Wilder knew that beating Povetkin would’ve made a statement. Povetkin, at the time was 30-1 (22). His only setback came at the iron fist of the reigning heavyweight champ Wladimir Klitschko in 2013. At the time Klitschko was the most formidable and biggest puncher in the division. Klitschko had Povetkin down four times but wasn’t able to finish him. Fighting Povetkin, who is a grinder with a good chin and some boxing ability, would’ve gone a long way in defining Wilder’s standing among today’s elite heavyweights.
In his last bout this past July Wilder didn’t have much trouble handling former title challenger Chris Arreola. Deontay controlled Arreola with his left-jab, dropped him in the fourth round, and wisely, after losing every round, Arreola’s corner asked the referee to stop the fight before the bell rang for the ninth round. Wilder broke his right hand and tore his biceps during the fight and unable to fight for the rest of the year.
In mid-December Wilder announced that he would be returning to the ring against two-time Polish heavyweight champ and former title challenger Andrzej Wawrzyk 33-1 (19) on February 25th at the Legacy Arena in Alabama. Then on January 25th it was reported Wawrzyk tested positive for stanozolol, a banned substance, and he was out as an opponent. Names, most notably Luis Ortiz, were mentioned as a possible replacement. However, Wilder shot down fighting Ortiz due to the fact that Ortiz tested positive for a banned substance in October of 2014. Then on January 30th it was announced Wilder will face Gerald Washington 18-0-1 (12), who last fought on the undercard of Wilder-Arreola.
Washington is 34 years old. He got a late start to boxing owing to serving four years in the Navy and then playing college football. He stands 6-6 and weighs in the neighborhood of 240 pounds.
Promoter Lou DiBella said, “This is a more competitive opponent, a more dangerous guy. He’s a physically imposing, huge guy. He’s a physical specimen. He’s a great athlete.”
That’s great, but fans have eyes, and the astute ones are acutely aware that Washington doesn’t possess one discernible tool to trouble Wilder. In his defense, Wilder tried to make a fight with an upper-tier contender but the match fell through. But we are now at the point to where even his staunchest defenders want to see him fight somebody. I sense that this is the last pass Deontay will be given by those that have defended him. I can’t excoriate him for not fighting Luis Ortiz at this time because he is close to fighting the winner of Joshua-Klitschko. With Joshua campaigning to fight Wilder after he beats Klitschko, Deontay can’t chance fighting any contender who is a serious threat to beat him.
Wilder is one of the biggest enigmas in recent memory when it comes to his ability. Is he a rich man’s Alex Stewart or the next Lennox Lewis? Nobody knows for sure and it looks like we won’t find out until he fights Joshua, who may be the heavyweight to beat for the next five years, at the least, if he beats Klitschko.
So it looks like boxing fans won’t have a true read on Wilder’s place in the division until roughly his 40th fight.
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Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com