Deontay Wilder brings excitement back to the heavyweights
For years spectators proclaimed that our sport was dead, during the post-Lennox Lewis era, and throughout the entire Floyd Mayweather era. It was during this time the most prestigious crown in boxing – the heavyweight championship – was dominated by Klitschko brothers, Wladimir and Vitali, a title reign that span over a decade. With such a long and historic championship run, most boxing experts and fans alike can agree that it wasn’t the most exciting one. For the most part, the brothers defended their championships in the United Kingdom, taking the limelight that the boxing scene would get from major marquee heavyweight attractions. Potential heavyweight contenders turned to the NFL, NBA, WWE, and some would head to MMA during this time period.
The days of exciting American heavyweights like Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, George Foreman, and Muhammad Ali were a distant memory. Lennox Lewis, though a fellow Englishman his self, helped keep the light shone in the states with constant title defenses in the country. It’s not like we didn’t try, guys like Shannon Briggs, Hasim Rahman, and Chris Arreola all gave it their best, but couldn’t hold onto the thrown for long. Former Michigan State linebacker, Seth Mitchell, entered the scene and with the backing of Oscar De La Hoya we had our next great American hope. That hope didn’t last long as Mitchell would find out how brutal the sport of Boxing could be. After suffering two knockout losses within three fights, he called it a career.
Enter in Alabama’s own, Deontay Wilder. The look of a superstar standing at 6’7, weighing 220lbs of muscle and the mouthpiece that the sport hadn’t seen since Muhammad Ali, we had our new heir-apparent. Deontay had blown through every single opponent in story book fashion, winning every single fight by knockout. A record like this does come with doubts though as questions regarding his stamina, skill and level of opposition would arise. It wasn’t necessarily his fault, the dynamite in his right hand would dispatch of opponents before he could answer any questions. As he inched closer and closer to a mega fight with one of the Klitschko brothers the reigning WBC Champion, Vitali, decided to call it a career and retired thus vacating his WBC Championship. This move allowed Wilder and #2 contender, Bermane Stiverne, to battle for the vacant title.
For the first time in his career, Wilder was forced to go the distance and fight for all twelve rounds, winning his championship via unanimous decision. Finally we have our own heavyweight champion from the United States, but the general consensus was that Wilder is not skilled enough to retain the title for long and he still got by fighting less than stellar opposition, until last Saturday night that is. It’s not like Deontay wasn’t trying to fight the best guys out there, a majority of the time they would avoid him or he would knock them out fairly effortlessly. Even Bermane Stiverne, the one guy to go the distance with him had a rematch and was knocked out cold in just one round. So when Cuban heavyweight sensation, Luis “King Kong” Ortiz signed to fight him, fans around the world called for an upset. Ortiz had a similar rise to the top as Wilder with 28 wins, no losses, 24 of those wins coming by knockout.
The fight started off slowly with Ortiz countering many of Wilder’s wild shots which caused it to be a slow paced bout as both men were weary of one another. During this time however, Ortiz would begin piling up points on the scorecard with his effective counters. The fight took a quick detour in the fifth round when an explosive right hand landed at the top of Ortiz’s head, putting him down. With just a few seconds left in round Ortiz was able to get up and make it to his corner. The sixth round mainly saw some of the slower pace from earlier, but we did get some nice exchanges in the closing moments of the round. In the seventh round Ortiz landed a quick, powerful counter punch that visibly hurt Wilder and for the first time ever, he was legitimately in fear of losing his title. Referee David Fields watched close as it seemed the fight was near a stoppage. The ninth round was a very dramatic one which saw Deontay survive any way he possibly could to make it out of the round, finally gaining his composure in the end landing another bomb and briefly hurting Ortiz. The tenth round gave us a glimpse of the greatness that is Deontay Wilder. A display of power and athleticism put Ortiz down with over a half the round remaining. The killer instinct kicked in and he was relentless, landing a barrage of punches followed by a vicious uppercut that folded Ortiz securing his win via stoppage.
With the win, Deontay’s record is 40-0 with 39 knockouts. The boxing world is a buzz and completely ready to get behind the champion, all questions answered and proves he does indeed belong at the top. The other portion of the heavyweight thrown is still overseas in the U.K, held by Anthony Joshua. Sure Joshua didn’t dethrone Wladimir Klitschko initially, but their back and forth war last year cemented his place in the heavyweight division. Now we are a collision course to decide who will wear the crown and lead the next era of the heavyweight legacy. In three weeks Anthony Joshua will put his three championship titles up for grab when he fights Joseph Parker who will be putting up his version of the heavyweight championship as well. Deontay Wilder has expressed his interest in the unification showdown and is willing to travel to the U.K to make the fight happen, he will be in attendance March 31st when Joshua and Parker do battle.
So after the ten year slump, the division is thriving and has its American heavyweight champion. With the big unification bout looming, only time will tell how long before we crown one undisputed heavyweight champion. One thing is for sure, the sport is far from dead and the heavyweight division is more exciting than ever.