Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Was Wilder’s Victory Over Stiverne The Beginning Of A New Era In The Heavyweight Division?

On January 17th the Boxing world centered on the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada for the first World Heavyweight championship fight of 2015 as WBC champion Bermane Stiverne defended his title against undefeated number one contender and knockout artist Deontay Wilder. Prior to this fight, I discussed some of the similarities between this fight and Mike Tyson’s historic world championship victory over then WBC champion Trevor Berbick in November 1986.

On paper the fight between Stiverne and Wilder did seem to present a similar scenario as when Tyson dethroned Berbick. An undefeated challenger who was considered the favorite going into the fight to win the title based in large part on his ability to score quick knockouts going against a champion who was making the first defense of his world title, who was considered an underdog to retain his crown. This similarity between the Stiverne-Wilder fight and the Berbick-Tyson fight is where any similarity  between the two fights would end.

In contrast, to Mike Tyson’s quick knockout of Trevor Berbick nearly twenty-nine years ago, the fight between Bermane Stiverne and Deontay Wilder would not have a similar outcome. The fight would however, provide action, excitement, and would also answer some questions that some may have asked prior to this fight in the process. The challenger Wilder, who entered the fight unbeaten in thirty-two professional bouts with all thirty-two of his victories coming via knockout had never been extended beyond four rounds in his professional career.

Although some who picked Wilder to win the fight had expected an early knockout, Wilder would surprise many as he fought a disciplined fight where he elected to box instead of looking for a quick knockout. Wilder used a consistent jab to set up combinations and along with good lateral movement was able to control the action for much of the fight. Though Wilder was clearly the more active of the two fighters throughout much of the fight, there were also periods where Wilder’s chin was also tested. This was evident when the champion Stiverne was able to land counter punches on Wilder and have periods of success landing punches while pushing the challenger back.

Over the course of this fight three questions were asked of Deontay Wilder. How Wilder would respond to being taken into the middle and late rounds of a fight, how he would respond to an opponent who withstood his offense and kept coming forward, and how his chin would hold up against one of the best Heavyweights in the division. As the fight went on Wilder would answer all three of those questions. He did not fade as the fight progressed, he was not discouraged when his opponent kept coming forward, despite taking significant punishment throughout the fight, and Wilder also showed he had a solid chin and could take Stiverne’s punches.

Even though the result of this fight would ultimately be a lopsided twelve round unanimous decision in favor of Deontay Wilder, what should not be overlooked is the heart and will of the former champion Bermane Stiverne, who was quite “Game” and never stopped trying to turn the fight in his favor. Although Stiverne was unable to attack Wilder consistently throughout and was only able to have success in spurts, he does deserve credit for the effort he put forth. After all, there were some who felt that Stiverne would become Wilder’s thirty third knockout victim in as many fights. Not only did Stiverne go the distance with Wilder, he was also able to provide Wilder with his first significant test.

As for the new champion Deontay Wilder, the victory not only earned him the WBC Heavyweight world championship, but in winning the fight he became the first American to win a World Heavyweight championship in the sport in nearly eight years. Off of a very impressive performance in his first world championship fight, an interesting question that some might be asking is whether or not Wilder’s victory might be the beginning of a new era in the Heavyweight division.

Even though there is no disputing that Deontay Wilder has established himself as one of two world champions in the Heavyweight division and proved in his fight with Bermane Stiverne that he is more than just a power puncher, this observer is not sure that a new era for the Heavyweight division is on the horizon just yet. Although the division now has a new champion, the division is still largely ruled by unified IBF/WBO/WBA/IBO world champion Wladimir Klitschko, who has compiled seventeen successful title defenses in his second reign as Heavyweight champion, which began in 2006. As the years have gone on, Klitschko has continued to dominate opponents and has shown no signs as he approaches his thirty- ninth birthday in March, of diminishing skills.

As I stated prior to Deontay Wilder’s fight with Bermane Stiverne, an interesting storyline that some feel could play out in 2015 is the potential unification of the Heavyweight division. It will be interesting to see whether or not a fight for the undisputed Heavyweight championship of the world does indeed take place before the end of the year.

In terms of the immediate future, it has been announced that Klitschko will defend his unified world championship on April 25th against undefeated top contender Bryant Jennings at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. What makes this interesting in terms of how it might impact the WBC championship equation is that Bryant Jennings is currently a mandatory challenger for the WBC title.

Although one can assume that the WBC will sanction a fight between the next two available top contenders to determine a new mandatory challenger for Deontay Wilder, seeing as Bryant Jennings will be fighting Klitschko for his unified world title, this would theoretically in the meantime give Wilder the possibility of making an elective defense of the WBC title. For his part Wilder has stated that he would like to face undefeated top contender Tyson Fury. What makes that potential fight interesting is Fury is currently the WBO’s mandatory challenger for Wladimir Klitschko and is the only mandatory challenger as of this writing in either of the four sanctioning organizations’ who’s world titles Klitschko currently holds respective Heavyweight ratings.

This could theoretically present a scenario where the winner of the Klitschko-Jennings bout could face the winner of a potential Wilder-Fury bout for the undisputed Heavyweight world championship. Before a fight between Wilder and Fury can be signed however, Fury must first step into the ring as he is currently scheduled to face WBO number four rated Heavyweight contender Christian Hammer on February 28th in London, England.

It will be interesting to see how these two fights might play a role in who Deontay Wilder chooses to face in his first title defense. While it remains to be seen whether or not the Heavyweight division is approaching what might be a new era, it is clear that the division is heading for an intriguing  period of time with a couple of compelling storylines. A dominant Heavyweight champion in Wladimir Klitschko continuing his march towards Boxing history as he may challenge Joe Louis’ all-time record for consecutive title defenses in any weight class in the history of the sport. With seventeen successful title defenses Klitschko is eight successful defenses away from tying Louis’ record of twenty-five successful defenses. If Klitschko can continue his march, that storyline will become increasingly a focal point of the division.

Another storyline that has emerged along with the potential unification of the Heavyweight division just might be a fighter who could ultimately be viewed as Klitschko’s potential successor. As a new Heavyweight champion begins his reign it will surely be interesting to see whether he too in time will be viewed as a dominant champion.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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1 comment:

  1. Yes it is! Very interesting blog my friend. From a fellow combat sports blogger.