Something happened on Friday night in Indio, California, and Twitter sure as hell noticed, as I suspect the Klitschko Brothers did. Deontay Wilder passed the toughest test of a career which to this point has featured not so much in the way of tough tests, and did so in the sort of conclusive fashion which got people talking, in 140 characters or less, and more than that.
Wilder (29-0 with 29 KOs), the 27 year old who won bronze in the 2008 Olympics and has at times drawn ridicule for being moved along too slowly in the eyes of the brilliant blogger brigade, Tased ex WBO champ Sergei Liakhovich in round one of their encounter, which unfolded on "ShoBox," able to be seen by those not affected by the standoff between Time Warner Cable and CBS, Showtime's parent company.
The time came at 1:43, as Wilder, he of the hellacious reach, touched Liakhovich ( seen on his back, in photo by Tom Hogan), the Belarus born hitter, with a long, stiff right, sent him back toward the ropes, and followed with a nastier version of the same. The loser hit the deck, hard and fast, his musles tensed and spastic, his brain sending emergency messages to his nerves, which wondered what train hit them. The ref didn't have to count, he knew Liakhovich was in no mode to continue, not after that Wilding session on his jaw. The finisher right snaked around Sergei's guard, around his left hand, which vainly tried to protect his chin.
I reached out to Liakhovich's advisor, Anthony Cardinale, to check to see if the vet is OK, and what the future holds for him, and for Wilder.
"Sergei is fine," Cardinale said. "He caught one right where it says 'Goodnight.' Wilder is going to be a problem for anyone who gets in the ring with him if he connects."
I asked if Liakhovich (25-6; has lost three straight, all by stoppage) will hang up the gloves after 15 years as a professional. "I won't comment on that," Cardinale said. "It is a decision that he has to make for himself." Cardinale was right there and helped John Ruiz engage in 12 title fights, against the best of the best in the later 90s and 2000s. His dad was a fighter so he grew up around the game, and has seen the heavy handed chin-smashers from the early 60s to today. I asked him to assess Wilders' power. Is it scary up close? "It's right up there with Ernie Shavers or Michael Dokes," he said.
For a second opinion, I reached out to Jameel McCline, the former contender who came within a point or so of winning a heavyweight crown himself in that same era Ruiz campaigned in. I asked Jameel if he thought Wilder, promoted by Golden Boy, could present a problem for the Klitschkos. McCline seconded Cardinale on the power issue.
"Wilder is the hardest puncher I have fought or sparred," said the man who boxed Lance Whitaker, Shannon Briggs, Wladimir Klitschko, Chris Byrd, Nikolay Valuev, John Ruiz, Samuel Petter, and sparred with Wilder to prep for the Liakhovich fight. "He has endless ability," McCline said.
But, I wondered, the kid started boxing at 21. He occasionally flails, looks green at times, gets overexcited. Is he not ripe to be dissected by a smart, cool technician? "No, he can box very well," McCline said. "He's a solid talent, with solid ability. He's a true student. I love his game. He will destroy any American."
Hmm, fighting words for Seth Mitchell, Cris Arreola, Bryant Jennings, et al....
Readers, your take on Wilder? Too green yet for a Klitschko test? Even if so, you have to respect a guy stopping all 29 men he has been in with. That ain't easy to do, not even if you're lining up cab drivers...Weigh in, in our Forum!
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Who will win? Wladimir Klitschko or Tyson Fury?