Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Deontay Wilder Emerges As A Top Contender

When the topic of current prospects turned contenders in the Heavyweight division is discussed and or, debated it is hard not to argue that fighters such as Tyson Fury, David Price, and Bryant Jennings have been at or near the top of the list. While Fury, Price, and Jennings have seen much attention shined on them; there is another hot rising prospect that has gradually been carving his own path through the Heavyweight division. The prospect’s name?  Deontay Wilder…
Wilder, the 2008 Olympic Bronze medalist has been quietly building one of the more impressive records you are likely to ever see out of a prospect turned contender.  Undefeated in his professional career Wilder compiled twenty-eight wins from when he turned pro in November of 2008 to April of this year.  What makes Wilder’s record intimidating for any would be opponent is not one of those twenty-eight opponents have been able to go the distance with the 6’7 American Heavyweight. Perhaps more intimidating than Wilder’s consecutive knockout streak is only one fighter, journeyman Heavyweight Marlon Hayes was able to extend Wilder beyond three rounds before being stopped in the fourth round of their fight in February of last year. 
When an undefeated Heavyweight prospect begins his career with a streak of knockouts it is hard not to remember another Heavyweight who began his career with his own consecutive knockout streak, Mike Tyson who scored eighteen consecutive knockouts to begin his career. Tyson’s streak of knockouts created somewhat of a debate as to how quickly Tyson was moved along up the ranks by his handlers.  Over the years when discussing this topic this observer has stated that despite debate and criticism of how Tyson was moved along that it is my opinion that the strategy of Tyson’s managers Jim Jacobs and Bill Cayton in managing Tyson was brilliant. 
Much like Tyson had to deal with questions regarding his stamina and what happens when a fight goes into the middle and late rounds, so too does Deontay Wilder. Unlike Tyson however one could argue that Wilder’s progression has been slower.  Tyson after all climbed to the top of the Heavyweight division and won his first world title in just a year and a half after turning professional. One could say that Tyson’s rise up the Heavyweight division although quick and devastating was not necessarily the norm.
As we have recently seen with the setbacks of David Price who suffered back to back losses to top contender Tony Thompson in his last two fights it was too much and too soon. Price had only fought thirteen fights as a professional prior to his two fights with Tony Thompson.  Although it can be a delicate task in determining when a fighter should move along and step up in the quality of opposition for a fighter’s management and promoter, this observer believes that in light of what has happened with David Price that it was probably a smart move by those who handle Deontay Wilder to progress him at a slower but steady rate.
After seeing Wilder’s knockout win over former world title challenger Audley Harrison, I began to wonder who Wilder would be put in against for his next fight and, whether or not that fighter would be able to extend Wilder deep into a fight.  The opponent  that Wilder would face would be former WBO Heavyweight world champion Sergei Liakhovich.  
This to me was an interesting choice of opponent for Wilder. Despite Liahovich coming into this fight having lost his last two fights, suffering knockout losses to contenders Robert Helenius and Bryant Jennings, Liakhovich was after all a former world champion. Although Liakhovich frankly suffered two brutal beatings at the hands of Helenius and Jennings, he was not a fighter to take lightly.
It was also an arguable point that Liakhovich was a fighter who was in decline. Liakhovich however had been able to take fights into the middle and late rounds.  Going into the fight I wondered whether or not Liakhovich would be able to withstand Wilder’s punching power and whether or not he could take this fight beyond the early rounds. 
When the two fighters entered the ring on August 9th in Indio, California the fight came to a sudden and frankly scary end midway through the first round.  Wilder floored Liakhovich with a right hand that knocking the former world champion down on the canvas. Referee Tom Taylor immediately stopped the fight as Liakhovich was convulsing.  Wilder had scored his twenty-ninth consecutive knockout at 1:43 of the first round. 
For Deontay Wilder the questions continues to be who can withstand his punching power and who may be able to extend Wilder into the middle and late rounds of a fight?  No one knows who might be able to answer that question however in terms of the immediate future perhaps Wilder could be a future opponent for Heavyweight contender and former world title challenger Dereck Chisora.
Chisora, who recently scored a somewhat controversial knockout over previously undefeated contender Malik Scott could view a potential fight with Wilder as a way to springboard back into the Heavyweight championship picture.  Malik Scott who filed a protest with the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC) following his loss to Chisora in an effort to have his knockout loss changed to a no contest should also be viewed as a possibility for Wilder.
Last week the BBBofC denied Scott’s protest. It remains to be seen if this will lead to a rematch between Chisora and Scott. One should not however overlook the possibility of a fighter like Deontay Wilder being figured into the plans for either fighter. 
Although Wilder’s knockout of Sergei Liakhovich is likely to be talked about for some time, Referee Tom Taylor should be applauded for stopping the fight immediately and not counting.  It was a scary knockout and although Liakhovich was able to sit on his stool shortly after the fight was stopped, it should not be overlooked that the appropriate call was made immediately and that the fighter’s safety was the top priority as it should be. 
For Sergei Liakhovich this would appear to be a career ending knockout.  As the safety standards in the sport of Boxing have greatly improved over the years, it would be logical to see perhaps the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) and or, the Association of Boxing Commissions issue a medical suspension after a fighter has suffered a knockout like this. 
What should not be overlooked is Liakhovich has now been knocked out in his last three fights and due to the beatings he has taken not just in those three fights but throughout his career, the long-term well-being of a fighter should now be taken into consideration.  Sergei Liakhovich has been a fighter who has always been very “Game” and has always given everything he has when he enters the ring. It is however the responsibility of those who regulate the sport worldwide to ensure the safety of fighters. Although Sergei Liakhovich’s heart cannot be questioned, you never want to see a fighter take one punch too many.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
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