Friday, January 16, 2015

A Look At Stiverne-Wilder

As 2014 drew to a close, one of the interesting storylines that some feel could play out in 2015 is the potential unification of the Heavyweight division. Before any talk of a unification bout to determine an undisputed Heavyweight champion of the world can take place however, a fight that has become one of the more anticipated fights in the division in recent times will take place this weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Current WBC Heavyweight world champion Bermane Stiverne will make the first defense of his world title against undefeated current WBC number one contender Deontay Wilder at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Stiverne, the first Haitian to become a World Heavyweight champion, won the vacant WBC world title in May of last year when he scored a sixth round stoppage in his rematch with top contender Chris Arreola. In scoring his second victory over Arreola, Stiverne not only made Boxing history, but also became one of two world champions in the Heavyweight division joining unified IBF/WBA/WBO/IBO world champion Wladimir Klitschko.

The dominance of what this observer has often referred to as “The Two-Headed Heavyweight Championship Monster” known as the Klitschko brothers has for the moment been broken by former WBC champion Vitali Klitschko’s retirement. I stated prior to Stiverne’s rematch with Chris Arreola that no matter whom would emerge victorious as the new WBC world champion in the Heavyweight division that the winner would face a different battle. The battle for recognition that many past champions who succeeded fighters who had dominant reigns as world champion have had to take on. 

Stiverne’s first title defense will come in the form of the undefeated Deontay Wilder. Wilder, the 2008 Olympic Heavyweight Bronze Medalist has compiled thirty-two victories as a professional, winning all of those bouts by knockout. Wilder’s knockout streak is certainly one of the most impressive in the history of the entire sport as well as the Heavyweight division.

Some critics however, have stated that Wilder has not faced fighters who most consider top contenders. The criticism of Wilder’s level of opposition by some notwithstanding, his knockout streak is something that does deserve respect. Wilder has also been able to score knockout wins over fighters such as Jason Gavern, Audley Harrison, Malik Scott, and most notably over former WBO Heavyweight world champion Sergei Liakhovich. Even though the criticism in this observer’s eyes has been based on how quickly Wilder has been able to score these knockouts, as no opponent has been able to extend Wilder beyond four rounds, this observer believes that whatever criticism still exists regarding Wilder will be answered as he is now fighting at the top level of the Heavyweight division.

From a stylistic standpoint the fight between Stiverne and Wilder has the makings of what could be a shootout. Although Wilder, who has never gone the distance in his career is favored to win the WBC title over Stiverne, it is important to remember despite Wilder’s knockout streak, Stiverne comes into this fight with not only the WBC title, but also a career knockout percentage of over 80% in twenty-six professional fights. Stiverne, who has won twenty-four of those twenty-six bouts has been undefeated for nearly eight years since losing via what some feel was a controversial stoppage to journeyman Heavyweight Demetrice King in July 2007 and earning a draw against Charles Davis in April 2009. 

It will be interesting to see whether Stiverne will attempt a tactical approach in this fight and look to extend Wilder into the middle and late rounds. It will however, be equally as interesting to see if Wilder will look to conserve his stamina and not go for a quick knockout.

In thinking about this fight over the last couple of weeks, I started to have thoughts of the similarities between this fight between Stiverne and Wilder and the fight between former Heavyweight champion Trevor Berbick and a twenty year-old Phenom named Mike Tyson in November 1986. Much like the fight between Stiverne and Wilder, Berbick-Tyson was also for the WBC Heavyweight world championship.  As will be the case when Stiverne and Wilder enter the ring to do battle the fight between Berbick and Tyson pitted a champion in Berbick who was making his first title defense going against a fighter who like Wilder compiled an impressive undefeated record stopping twenty-five of twenty-seven opponents before challenging Berbick. Much like Wilder, Tyson was also considered a favorite prior to the fight to dethrone Berbick.

When Berbick and Tyson met on November 22, 1986 it served as the culmination of one fighter’s rise to a top of the Heavyweight division. Tyson scored a second round knockout of Berbick to win the WBC title and at age twenty became the youngest Heavyweight champion in Boxing history, a distinction that Tyson still holds to this day.

While the twenty-nine year old Deontay Wilder will not be attempting to become the youngest Heavyweight champion in history when he faces Stiverne, he will be attempting to become the first American to hold a Heavyweight world championship in nearly eight years. If Wilder is successful against Stiverne, he will become the first American Heavyweight champion since Shannon Briggs, who held the WBO Heavyweight world championship from 2006-2007 who lost his title in June 2007 to Sultan Ibragimov via twelve round unanimous decision.

Although Wilder is favored over the champion Bermane Stiverne, as this observer has often said over the years “Anything can happen at any given time in the sport of Boxing and that is what makes our sport great.” This is especially true in regard to the Heavyweight division.

Granted there may be some similarities between Mike Tyson’s fight against Trevor Berbick and the lead up to this fight between Stiverne and Wilder. Can the knockout artist in Wilder dethrone Stiverne? Yes this may be a similar scenario as when Tyson met Berbick for the WBC world championship nearly twenty-nine years ago, it does not however, necessarily mean that the similarities between that fight and this fight between Stiverne and Wilder will produce a similar outcome.

The outcome of the fight between Bermane Stiverne and Deontay Wilder will not only center on who will emerge with the WBC Heavyweight world championship, but also and perhaps more importantly, the winner of this fight could theoretically be in position to face Wladimir Klitschko for the undisputed Heavyweight championship of the world. With so much at stake for both champion and challenger the Boxing world now focuses its attention on the first Heavyweight championship fight of 2015. One can hardly wait to see what happens on Saturday night.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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