He's 27 years old, stands 6'7" and has an 84 inch reach, he's undefeated, possesses a right hand that looks like a missile when it lands against the limited opposition that he's had in front of him, and some observers think he's perhaps the most promising American heavyweight to come along since Riddick Bowe. His name is Deontay Wilder and as of this writing he sports a perfect record of 29-0 (29) and is rumored to be fighting British heavyweight contender Dereck Chisora 17-4 (11) in his next fight. And yes, everyone who's seen a heavyweight knockout artist ascend up the ranks has the same questions: who has he fought, how good is his stamina and what kind of chin does he have? And until he's truly tested and fights a live fighter/contender we just don't know if he's closer to being the next Mac Foster or the next George Foreman.
From what can be garnered from watching him in his last few fights it can be said with impunity that when Wilder (seen above after last fight, a KO1 win over ex champ Sergei Liakhovich on Aug. 9) not worried about what's coming back at him, he's very willing to let his hands go and looks to end the fight with every right hand, left hook or uppercut that he launches. He's also over-anxious and doesn't seem to enter his bouts with anything on his mind other than landing his Sunday right hand. As to how he'll deliver it seems to be no more than a passing thought, as though he thinks, 'I'll figure something out once the fight starts.'
Again, against the journeymen and stepping stone type opponents he's faced, that's been more than enough.
Physically, at 6'7" and in the 235 pound range with his long arms, Wilder can present problems for any heavyweight in the world not named Klitschko once he blossoms and flowers into a first-tier contender down the road, assuming he doesn't get chin checked and stopped along the way like the last American prospect, Seth Mitchell. The fact that he has a big knockout record will draw interest in him, but most sophisticated fans know it's not how many you knock out, it's who you knock out that sets you apart.
Back in the late 70s rising KO artist Mac Foster had compiled a perfect 24-0 (24) record, then he met tough guy and top tier contender Jerry Quarry at Madison Square Garden, on June 17, 1970. To date, Wilder's biggest win is a first round knockout over former Olympic gold medalist and title challenger Audley Harrison. Heading into the Quarry fight, Foster's record was littered with former top contenders and title challengers who were on the wrong side of the hill like Harrison.
However, there was an unforeseen problem Foster encountered when he fought Quarry, and that was after tagging him with his Sunday punch, Jerry buckled for a second and then proceeded to punch back. Foster slowly lost his nerve and went on to be counted out in the sixth round. In his next big fight Foster lost a 15 round decision to Muhammad Ali who was on the comeback trail after losing to "Smokin" Joe Frazier. After losing to Ali, Mac lost to every name fighter and contender he fought and finally retired in 1976 with a career record of 30-6 (30).
Then there's George Foreman, who looked like a wild human wrecking machine on the way up. Prior to his title challenge against Joe Frazier, Foreman's biggest win was a three round stoppage over rugged George Chuvalo. And like Wilder, to a degree, Foreman appeared wild at times and only concerned with landing his "anywhere punch," as in, anywhere it lands it does damage. Prior to meeting Frazier, many ring observers questioned George's power and ability to take a punch. After being in the ring with Frazier, the boxing world found out that Foreman was a genuine life-taker with both hands and not only could he take a punch but was also stronger than a country ox. At the end of the day George's slight Achilles was his gas tank.
Deontay Wilder at this time is a good-looking prospect. The Chisora fight will give us only a slight indication as to who he really is as a fighter. And that's because Chisora can be nailed with right hands on the way in, as we saw against David Haye. As to if Wilder punches as good as Haye, that's anyone's guess, but something we will know a little better after the fight. Then again Chisora may be a little easier to get out of there now that Haye has done so. Maybe the most we will find out about Wilder is how he reacts to pressure from a fighter who is looking to bring it as much as he is, which we can no doubt count on Chisora to do.
I'm confident in saying that Wilder hasn't shown that he has the makings of the next great heavyweight, but in 2013/2014 one doesn't have to be great to rule the heavyweight division, especially once Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko retire and there's a scramble for their vacant title belts.
At this time no one can say for certain if Wilder is more Mac Foster than George Foreman. Although we may think we know, we really don't, but we will in due time. It would be a needed injection for a genuine KO artist to come along and wake up the heavyweight division that has been in the doldrums for a decade.
Then again, if Wilder is only half as good as Foster, he'll end up with a piece of the title sooner or later.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com