Posts Tagged With: Deontay Wilder

Younger, Not Better

This past Saturday Deontay Wilder, the top American heavyweight, took on Cuban veteran Luis Ortiz.  Their first fight was canceled due to Ortiz failing a drug test, but this time the event went on, bringing two of boxing’s biggest punchers together for the WBC title.  The fight started slowly, and as predicted, Wilder showed better movement than Ortiz but less precision and far less activity.  While Ortiz managed a slight reach advantage, Wilder is three inches taller, and made no use of his height (except to cheat).  In the end, , Wilder claimed he was just working on his inside punching and showing what he could do because he’s known as an outside puncher.  It’s not really true, but it’s plausible enough.

There’s been so much hype recently about the showdown between Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder (with so little else to talk about)  that you would expect Wilder to be looking like a man at the top his sport, but he didn’t look that way for most of the fight on Saturday.  I was immediately disappointed in Wilder’s volume and accuracy, and simultaneously impressed by his opponents’ demonstration of skill in those areas.  Ortiz was measured with his punches, using good straights to work inside, and then landing effective shots.  About halfway through the fight, Wilder started to look fatigued and desperate, winging shots as if he were trying to live up to his surname.  Ortiz took some punishment for having his hands too low, but was generally able to handle the onslaught and land a couple of much more effective counter shots.

At 38, Ortiz is nearing the end of his run in the sport, whereas Wilder, a former Olympian, is only 32 and has plenty of time to make his megafight and, if he wins, enjoy his reign.  That might explain why, when given the opportunity to prove himself ready for an Anthony Joshua–or even a Tyson Fury, Wilder treated it like another tune-up fight.  After about two rounds of taking multiple counter punches for every punch he landed, Wilder got wobbly and was unable to return fire.  Using all of his skill, he managed to lean, hold and push enough to get the ref to give him a knockdown in round 5, but by round 7 it was clear Ortiz was the stronger of the two in every way.  Had that round lasted a few seconds longer, or had the timekeeper let the round go a little long (as so often is the case), Ortiz would be the new WBC champion and Wilder would be on the defensive, trying to pick up the pieces of his once-lucrative career prospects.  Sadly, that wasn’t the case.  Everyone besides the referee was on their job, and the round ended.

Admittedly, Ortiz did not pursue the knockout enough in round 8 to make a convincing attempt, but there was enough in round 7 to call the fight for him or at least give his opponent a couple of standing eights.  Two standing 8 counts would have considerably changed the momentum and the scoring of the fight, but instead, Wilder was given extra time in his corner between rounds to recover.  Then, in round 9, his leaning and holding got him a few good shots as Ortiz began to tire.  In round 10, Wilder’s ability to manipulate the rules peaked when he held his opponent’s head down as he landed an uppercut equal only to the one Joshua used to fell Elder Klitschko.  Similarly, Ortiz made a valiant recovery but was unable to regain his balance completely.  Knockout for Wilder.

There’s no arguing that Ortiz was too hurt by the illegal punches and too exhausted from holding up 215 pounds of dead weight for 10 rounds to continue any further, but the ref could have prevented the fight from getting there.  If he had only resisted Wilder’s increasingly brazen attempts to flout the rules, the momentum would have stayed with the more skilled fighter.  It could even have held true despite the referee’s conduct, given Wilder’s condition, if Ortiz weren’t approaching 40.  His performance up until that point was impressive enough, but to expect him to pull out another stoppage-worthy round would have been unrealistic.

I would say this is a repeat of Joshua-Klitschko, except that I think Joshua would win the rematch.  I think Klitschko really was done, and probably got lucky to do as well as he did, even though he was actually beaten by an (accidental) illegal blow.  I’m not 100% sure Wilder’s shot was unintentional, and I’m not convinced he fought competitively enough to be compared to Joshua’s performance against Klitschko.


In the undercard, an overmatched Andre Direll finally lost without being bludgeoned after the bell.  It may be the beginning of the end for him, or at least, part of the process, which was probably initiated by the notoriously underhanded Arthur Abraham.


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Risk, Reward and Real Boxing

This weekend boxing fans will be witness to the conclusion of another exercise in delaying the inevitable.  Lamont Peterson will be challenging (if you can call it that) former Olympian Errol Spence Jr.  Spence has been rolling through opponent after opponent since his pro debut in 2012.  Admittedly, his early opponents were low risk by any standard, but when he decided to make the transition to legacy-making fights, he jumped right into the deep end, taking on Kell Brook.  In that fight, Brook was thoroughly dominated for his second consecutive fight.  His only previous loss, however, was a fight in which he moved up two weight classes and fought one of the best in the sport, Gennady Golovkin.  Spence had always looked good, but it was the fight against Brook that really made him shine.  It was a showcase both for Spence’s talent and his limitations, but it was clear that his future held big things.

One of those things arrives this weekend in the form of the perfect opponent.  Lamont Peterson has enjoyed extreme devotion from his hometown fans, enough that their loyalty and enthusiasm swung the judges’ favor his way when he fought Amir Khan.  He would likely have lost a rematch.  I have always been a fan of his, and not just because of his boxing ability.  He’s a classy, admirable guy outside the ring, and he just so happens to be a hell of an athlete who’s fun to watch.  Lately, though, his ambition seems to have left him, and he’s got a list of excuses for everything that goes wrong in a fight.  He’s always fallen well short of the mark against big opponents (Danny Garcia, Lucas Mathysse, Tim Bradley), but some of his less noteworthy challengers have given him trouble as well.  In his two past fights he’s struggled against David Avenesyan and Felix Diaz Jr.  Neither one is likely to hold a title any time soon, and while the record shows that Peterson won those fights, you wouldn’t know it to watch them.

One of the biggest reasons to see Lamont Peterson fight has always been his incredible stamina, but recently he’s seemed lazy and sluggish, and has chosen to fight less frequently.  I sat in a stadium full of Lamont Peterson fans the night he fought Felix Diaz Jr., and all of us expected the decision to go against him.  We all actually wanted him to lose that night, not because we weren’t fans of his, but because that’s what his performance deserved.  His most recent win was more convincing but similarly disappointing.  When he meets Spence this Saturday, he’ll have fought only three times since 2015.  Let’s hope he got the rest he needed, because stepping back up in competition so suddenly against someone so young and talented is a good way to end your career.  Lamont will come up with his formidable jab and hold Spence off for the first couple rounds, and he might move his hands enough to win one or both.  If he’s in good form, he’ll throw consistently for two or three rounds and defend well, but then he’ll slow down and stop throwing.  Once Spence feels comfortable letting his hands go, he’ll push Lamont to the ropes and they’ll call it.

In the heavies there’s been a lot of hubbub surrounding the showdown between Anthony Joshua and Joseph Parker.  Mostly because Parker has a big mouth.  It’s become a real trend in boxing for untalented, uneducated Brits to essentially rant their way to a contract.  I’m fine with Sky Sports using their airtime to broadcast David Haye-Tony Bellew 5, but let’s not pretend these exhibitions have anything to do with boxing.  Haye, Bellew, Chisora, Fury–none of them were ever relevant, yet they felt comfortable claiming they were going to easily defeat opponents with much greater experience, even threatening to kill them, then shamelessly taking the easy way out once in the ring.  Reminds me of Trump, actually.  Haye-Bellew?  That’s fake news.  Fake boxing.  It cheapens the efforts of the real athletes to allow guys like that to Paris-Hilton their way to a televised title shot.  (Sure, Fury beat Klitschko, but we’ll never know how the rematch would’ve gone.)

We spent so many years suffering through a total drought in the heavyweight division (save for the Klitschkos) that it’s now possible to become a known entity with very little experience.  In fact, it worked both ways, in that when we had no one else to compare them to, many fans were even critical of the Klitschkos.  Tyson Fury was a sideshow when he started his campaign to get a fight with Wladimir, the biggest win on his resume over Dereck Chisora, but suddenly he was a name.  The same thing has happened with Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua, their considerable reputations preceding their success and being met with a stubborn but well-founded skepticism.  Joseph Parker is yet another, possibly even more extreme example of the phenomenon.  The difference being that Wilder and Joshua actually have proven themselves.

How Parker was chosen as the opponent, I can’t imagine.  Aside from a unanimous decision over Joshua’s last opponent (who Joshua knocked out), and a much closer one over Hughie Fury, he has no credentials that would justify his selection.  I guess height is now considered a talent supplement in the heavyweight division (Parker is 6’4″).  Actually, that does show that we’re learning–we’ll never have to sit through another Klitschko-Haye, but I have a feeling the talent deficit for Parker will be similar.  There’s no doubt that Parker is an impressive athlete, but it’s unlikely he’ll dethrone one of the best British heavyweights of all time.  It’ll be a good learning experience for Joshua and should be entertaining to watch, but merely a formality.  There’ll be several more to come, I’m sure, before we get what we’re really waiting to see: Wilder-Joshua.  Given that both of them are young and the division is relatively vacant, their meeting seems inevitable.  I’d be surprised if both don’t end up carving out a place in the history books.

In March a fight will be held to determine the mandatory challenger for Sergey Lipinets.  More tantalizing is the co-feature, a bout between Viktor Postol (KO over Mathysse) and Regis Prograis.  Both are up-and-coming talents looking to establish their place on the ladder.  Plus, Prograis wears a werewolf mask to the ring.  While neither fighter has managed a career-defining win, Postol has taken on Terence Crawford, and a win here would go a long way to getting him back to the top of the division.  Expect real entertainment from this one.


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Giants of the Times

Image result for nikolai valuev

A lot has been made in the past week of Tyson Fury’s return to Trump-style communication, that is, harassing people on Twitter without using factual statements.  He used this strategy before with Klitschko, and it worked.  He got his shot at the title, and the big lazy manic-depressive actually pulled it off somehow.  He won.

Hey, it shocked me too–but now people who claim to know boxing are making a big deal about Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder avoiding Fury.  They treat a potential rematch between Klitschko and Fury as a foregone conclusion, that Klitschko will lose.  I’m pretty puzzled as to why anyone would feel that way.  Have you not been following heavyweights for the last 11-14 years?  Because that’s how long the Klitschko name has adorned the top of the division.  Sure, it was a lackluster era for the heavies, but the same was said about Floyd Mayweather before he started fighting Cottos and Pacquiaos.  While the first fight between Fury and Klitschko was one-sided, the sheer absurdity of the circumstances (Fury sang “Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” after his victory) made it clear that a rematch would be worth seeing.  Joshua-Klitschko will undoubtedly be less exciting to watch than that fever dream was, but it brings gravity and competition back to the division.

We have to keep in mind that Wladimir Klitschko turned 41 a few weeks ago while Tyson Fury is still only 28.  The older Klitschko gets, the less he’ll be able to compete with any young, large, skilled opponent, and the more likely it becomes that his successor will be just another pudgy Russian or technical Slavic fighter whose name will fade as quickly as it appeared (we’re looking at you, Ibragimov).  Remember Nikolay Valuev?  Do you remember how big he was?  A 7-foot tall 330-pound monster with enough chest hair to weave a bathroom mat.   He lost to David Haye (a man with a 100 pound weight disadvantage) 8 years ago.  Haye went on to fight Klistchko just 6 years ago, and was humiliated, unable to compete on any level.  In other words: just because you’re the biggest, or have the biggest mouth, doesn’t mean you’re competitive.

Fury is slightly less bound by his lumbering physique than Valuev, but no more talented.  It should come as a shock to everyone if he manages another win over Klitschko, and an even greater shock if he gets a match and can even compete with the other two, younger, more talented, more physically impressive champions.  Joshua probably isn’t as skilled as Wilder, but both are so far beyond Fury physically that skill won’t be as much of a factor, if they ever meet him in the ring.  It’s certainly impressive that Fury managed a win over a Klitschko, at any age, and he did it while suffering from mental illness.  I’m not saying Fury got lucky, but there’s a reason no one expected the fight to go the way it did.  Just as it was for Lennox Lewis-Oliver McCall II, the rematch is a clean slate for the more talented, and more physically and mentally fit fighter.

That being said, Joshua and Wilder are no small potatoes themselves.  I would expect either of them to handle everyone in the heavyweight division easily, except each other and Klitschko.  There are others on the periphery; Luis Ortiz comes to mind, but then so do the allegations of doping and use of banned substances.  As far as I’m concerned, however well it was concealed, there’s as much likelihood that Fury was using PEDs leading up to Klitschko as there is that Marquez did leading up to the last fight with Pacquiao.  As far as Helenius and Price, the behemoths seemed to have a better shelf life than Fury, but have faded out of the picture so completely that it’s not worth speculating about the reasons why.

When Klitschko and Joshua meet this Saturday, expect a real test of Klistchko’s viability and his skill.  If he can get past Joshua or even put up a convincing fight, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him solidly defeat Fury in a rematch at some point in the future.  If not, and they never meet, it’s very likely that Wilder and Joshua, in that order, will lead the division head and shoulders (no pun intended) above everyone else.

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I’ve been decompressing since my trip to Peru a few weeks ago, and since then there’ve been a lot of interesting fights, just not a lot of significant results.  For example, the recent showdown between Shawn Porter and Keith Thurman proved to be nothing less than what we’d hoped (for the most part).  The two former sparring partners went at each other with full ferocity for 12 rounds.

Porter was especially aggressive, using risky lunges to overcome Thurman’s distinct reach advantage.  The technique worked successfully, reducing Thurman’s output without putting Porter in real danger.  In fact, Porter landed as many or more flush shots than his opponent, but none were as effective as Thurman’s hardest shots.  While I think Thurman deserved the win, the cards were a little skewed by my recollection, and his performance was certainly discouraging to anyone who expects to see Thurman become the standout welterweight in the sport.  Fighting as he did against Porter, we can imagine similar problems against other fighters like Danny Garcia, Errol Spence Jr. or even Lamont Peterson.  I don’t include Khan in the list because while Khan could cause Thurman problems, he’s not likely to get the fight, and if he did, he’d be difficult for entirely different reasons.  The fight failed to show any improvement for Thurman, and even seemed to obscure his already confirmed talents, but the resulting stagnation also affected Porter.  While Porter’s performance was impressive based on our expectations, a loss against a lazy Thurman won’t keep anyone at the top of the division for long.  Despite the entertainment value, the fight doesn’t affect either fighter’s career much.

Thurman is still very young, though, and at least gives the impression of being hungry not only to win but to learn more after each fight.  If he’s sincere in his philosophical opposition to fighters like Amir Khan, he could keep improving and keep winning, and maybe even make it to the top one day.  If I were in his corner after the fight against Porter, I’d be telling him to work on two things: distance and timing.  Thurman uses his reach effectively when his opponent doesn’t try to take it away from him using timing and aggression, but when he’s forced to adapt, Thurman struggles.  Gaining confidence in his punches at full extension would make Thurman’s whole arsenal more formidable, and it would improve his ability on the outside tenfold.  Rhythm is an asset that can change the momentum of a fight immediately.  Some of the best fighters of our era, like Klitschko, Mayweather, Alvarez and Golovkin routinely give away the first 2-4 rounds in order to get a sense for how their opponents move and react.  Then, when they hit their “rhythm,” they’re unstoppable.  Thurman’s timing is impeccable and it’s usually noticeably superior to any opponent’s timing, and his speed is always on par.  What Thurman has showed less of in recent fights, and failed to show at all in his bout against Porter, is rhythm.  He needs to be able to fall back on muscle memory and a comfortable routine sometimes so he’s not always trying to improvise.  Oh, yeah.  And, you’re not Mayweather: keep your hands up.


Tonight Chris Arreola will serve as replacement for Deontay Wilder’s previous opponent, Alexander Povetkin.  Povetkin tested positive for a banned substance before the fight against Wilder in May, so Wilder started looking for replacements.   Chris Arreola, who has admitted how undeserving he his of the title shot, will once again give his all against a physically superior fighter.  In the past when he’s been met with top opposition, Arreola has shined, showing his world-class heart and chin.  At other times, against lesser, sometimes much lesser opponents, Arreola has looked like what you would expect from his someone in his physical form: lazy, slow, dangerous only for a few seconds at a time.  My theory is that such a rare opportunity will inspire Arreola to perform the more way he did in the years when he kept coming up as mandatory title challenger year after year.  Unfortunately for him, nobody really expects Arreola to do well enough to win or even make it through 12 rounds.  For Wilder, this is one more box checked in his route to the top of the division, and at least he’s fighting someone with real experience and talent.  Some day soon, we can hope, we’ll get to see him silence the intolerable Tyson Fury and bring American heavyweights back to prominence.

Rather than focus our attention on superfights and hypotheticals, though, we should really be appreciating the small things in our sport of kings.  There may be no fantasy fight on the horizon, but the Olympic games begin in less than three weeks and for the first time we’ll see professional boxers fighting for their countries (with no headgear) against the new generation of pugilists.   America’s beacon of hope from the last summer games, Errol Spence Jr., is still going strong, building his talent and making a name for himself in the hottest division in the sport.  The talent pool is calming down and the detritus is settling to the bottom.

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Competition Curbing

In a streak of recent mismatches, boxing fans have borne witness to an assortment of talented fighters dominating their opponents simply because they had taken easy fights.  On the positive side, each fight amounted to a showcase for the marquee fighter’s talent and because they were all successful in these less competitive matches, their future bouts of consequence are assured. Fans at least have those to look forward to, and considering the number of well-known fighters who competed in August, it was a good month for boxing overall.

The first event in the World Series of Sad came at the beginning of August when Sergey Kovalev trounced formerly undefeated Blake Caparello by second round TKO.  Initially the contest appeared to have potential when Caparello landed a straight right that caused an off-balance Kovalev to touch the canvas with a glove, but he quickly recovered and scored three knockdowns in the next three minutes.  Next, Daniel Jacobs realized a dream and achieved a legitimate accomplishment by winning a vacant middleweight title by beating Jarrod Fletcher after surviving bone cancer.  Fletcher fought well despite being obviously outmatched from the beginning, maintaining his form and working to stay in the fight, but Jacobs was sharper and stronger, and eventually scored a serious knockdown that left Fletcher open for a wild flurry that ended the fight in the fifth round.  The co-feature bouts on the card showcased Lamont Peterson and Danny Garcia.  Peterson scored a late-round TKO against Edgar Santana, whose experience included no one of consequence, after racking up points in every round.  This would be an understandable opponent if Peterson had just come off his recent loss to powerhouse Lucas Mathysse, who has since been dethroned, but he successfully handled a legitimate challenge against Dierry Jean months ago, so the choice was somewhat less appropriate.  Similarly, Garcia took a pass with the fairly inexperienced Rod Salka. Just a year ago Salka was taking on Osnel Charles at lightweight, whose record at the time was an unenviable 9-5-1, but 15 months later, Salka’s got a match with one of the top junior welterweights in boxing.  Finally, in an ironic twist of fate, Deontay Wilder’s first competitive fight was scheduled against Bermane Stiverne, which would have been a great matchup for both fighters, had Stiverne not pulled out, leaving an overweight Jason Gavern to fill in by being pummeled around the ring until he had had enough, capitulating between rounds four and five.

It seems silly to us that these fighters are on premium cable putting on an exhibition as if it were any other day at the gym, but we should also appreciate the possibilities that are now more likely to become reality as a result of these fights.  First, Hopkins watched critically as Kovalev pounded his way to an early victory and accepted a fight with the formidable slugger on the condition that he won that night.  Hopkins has performed miracles in the ring in recent years, beating legitimate opponents comprehensively who were half his age, but defeating a lion like Kovalev would be truly remarkable and set him apart from every other active fighter. While an unlikely scenario, the competitive spirit and historic potential behind the fight make it tantalizing.  Daniel Jacobs called out Peter Quillin, whose recent success has brought him into the spotlight.  Both fighters are active punchers in the ring, with considerable power to accompany their developing technique.  While less of a main event than some of the other potential matches, it would definitely be one to watch.  While analysts tell us Al Haymon isn’t any more likely to make the Garcia-Peterson match now that they’ve completed their “stay active” fights, neither fighter necessarily has the luxury of fighting unknowns for very long if he wants to maintain a fan base.  Garcia-Peterson would be great to watch.  Wilder might be persuaded to make another attempt at the Stiverne fight, and if he did, we’d probably see the first exciting heavyweight match I can remember in recent years.

Speaking of bad fights leading to good things, the Anthony Dirrell-Sakio Bika rematch wasn’t so bad, really.  The fight itself was dreadful and dirty, but referee Jack Reiss made it worthwhile with classic instructions such as “Stop complaining, dude!”  If you haven’t seen it, check it out and turn up the volume so you can hear the part that’s worth your time.

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