When one thinks of a new chapter in a fighter’s career often the scenario that will come to mind is one where a fighter is looking to bounce back from a loss. There are times however, where an undefeated fighter looks to move on from what some saw was a controversial ending in their previous fight. Undefeated WBC Heavyweight world champion Deontay Wilder is about to take such a step.
In what was one of the most anticipated fights of 2018, Wilder defended his portion of the World Heavyweight championship against undefeated former Heavyweight champion Tyson Fury last December in Los Angeles, CA. Wilder, who has a reputation as one of the Heavyweight division’s feared “Knockout Artists “ was given the most significant test of his career thus far by the Awkward and bigger Fury. Fury’s awkwardness and movement appeared to give the champion trouble. Despite appearing to be behind on the scorecards, Wilder was able to make up ground by scoring two knockdowns of the 6’9 Fury. The first of the two knockdowns came in the ninth round, but it was the second knockdown in the twelfth and final round that turned heads and nearly turned what appeared to be a decision win in favor of Fury to a dramatic knockout for Wilder.
A right, left combination from Wilder sent Fury down on his back on the canvas. Although it appeared Fury was out, the former champion managed to beat the count and made it to the final bell. As dramatic as the knockdown in the final round was, as miraculous as Fury’s ability to get up from the canvas was, what the dominant topic of discussion at the end of that fight was the outcome. A split decision draw.
While the decision was seen as controversial by some, this observer did not feel that was as I expressed in my coverage of that fight. It is hard to argue however, that the two knockdowns Wilder was able to score played a significant part in his being able to retain his world championship. A chapter in the Heavyweight championship reign that has left a question mark will have to be continued at a later date as Wilder’s next title defense will not be against Fury in a rematch as Wilder will make the ninth defense of his WBC crown on Saturday night against top contender and former world title challenger Dominic Breazeale at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY.
Although there are plenty of circumstances that could be discussed, which led to this fight being made, this column will focus strictly on the fight itself. Like most encounters in the Heavyweight division, this will be a battle between two big men who are capable of scoring a knockout should the opportunity arise. This fight will also pit two former Olympians against each other for a portion of the World Heavyweight championship.
In Dominic Breazeale Wilder will face a fighter with a respectable record of 20-1, with 18 Knockouts having registered a career knockout percentage of 86%. This is in some ways a glaring statistic due to Wilder having scored knockouts in thirty-nine of his forty-one professional fights registering a career knockout percentage of 95%, a percentage that he currently shares with the only other current world champion in the division undefeated unified world champion Anthony Joshua, who has scored knockouts in twenty-one of his twenty-two career wins. If one were to base their opinion as to what may happen in this fight based strictly on statistics, it would be perhaps “Smart” to suggest that there might be a knockout.
In Breazeale’s lone career defeat, his previous world title shot against Anthony Joshua he was stopped in seven rounds in June 2016. Although Breazeale came out on the losing end of that fight, he was very “Game” and gave a good account of himself in being able to hang in there against a fighter who like Wilder is known as a “Knockout Artist.” Since the defeat nearly 3 years ago, Breazeale has won three straight fights and has scored knockouts in each one of those bouts.
The key to this fight in my eyes will be how Breazeale approaches Wilder. It is important to remember that even though Wilder did retain his title against Tyson Fury last December and remains the longest reigning world champion in the division as a result, there are those who feel that Wilder did not win that fight or deserved a draw. Based on this it is logical for one to expect that the champion will want to make a statement in his first outing since that fight to perhaps answer any skeptics that remain.
While I do not want to focus on what occurred outside the ring in terms of the business of the sport as a relates to Deontay Wilder in recent months, it is worth noting that there is a possibility that Breazeale may feel overlooked. Overlooked due to both the demand for a rematch between Wilder and Fury as well as on-again, off-again negotiations for a unification bout between Wilder and Joshua that would determine one Undisputed World Heavyweight champion. Despite the loss to Anthony Joshua, Breazeale has worked his way back into contention and will enter this fight rated number four in the world in the World Boxing Council (WBC) ratings.
If Wilder is in any way distracted over talks of what would be either a big money rematch against Tyson Fury or an encounter with Anthony Joshua for all the marbles in the Heavyweight division, it could play into Breazeale’s hands as he attempts to upset any potential plans Wilder might have beyond this fight. How can Breazeale accomplish this?
First and foremost I believe it will be to his benefit to take a tactical approach. As devastating as Deontay Wilder has been throughout his career, he has at times been known to miss wildly with punches and this is something that Tyson Fury was able to take advantage of in their fight last December. Although when one thinks of an encounter between two big Heavyweights the term “Tactical” does not always come to mind, this is still the sport of Boxing and a fighter who implements a tactical strategy more often than not has success. Both these fighters are equal in terms of height at 6’7, but Wilder has a two-inch reach advantage of 83” to Breazeale’s 81”.
It is indeed at times easier said than done when discussing a fighter’s fight plan and how they will be able to implement it as someone who does not have to enter the ring, but given Wilder’s style, which is very aggressive and has been known to end fights suddenly, I believe Breazeale must box if he is going to be successful in this fight. Tyson Fury’s awkwardness and lateral movement were successful in making Deontay Wilder miss with several wide punches throughout their encounter. Although Breazeale does not have a style similar to Tyson Fury, one way he can attempt to have success is by playing the role of counter puncher in looking to make Wilder miss and take advantage of any opening that is left.
Breazeale does have punching power in his own right, but I do not believe going into a toe to toe slugfest with a fighter like Wilder will be successful. Breazeale must avoid being a stationary target and look to out box Wilder over the course of the fight. While not necessarily the most entertaining strategy in the eyes of some fans, this could prove to be successful if Breazeale implements this type of approach.
The champion meanwhile must avoid throwing roundhouse, wild punches that will leave him open to being countered. Although Tyson Fury was able to have success in using his lateral movement against Wilder, the champion was able to land more frequently as he shortened his punches as the fight went on. Although the outcome of that fight remains a subject of debate among both Boxing fans and experts, Wilder must take from that fight what is available for him to learn from and implement it in future fights. One aspect of offense that I believe would serve the champion well is the use of a consistent jab. The jab is the most elementary of punches that a fighter learns, but it is a weapon that if used properly can be effective in not only winning rounds on scorecards, but also setting up potential knockouts.
Deontay Wilder has been one of the more devastating Heavyweights to come along in recent memory due to his punching power. If he were to implement more technique into his offense and learn from what Tyson Fury was able to do against him in their fight, he would become even more dangerous in this observer’s eyes.
Although Wilder had what amounted to be a “Close Call” against Tyson Fury, he must approach this fight as a new chapter. What I mean by that is to not necessarily go in looking to score a “Devastating KO” or to look to land one fight ending punch. An impressive performance no matter how it comes will serve the champion well if he is able to win this fight. If Wilder goes in intent on scoring a knockout, he might leave himself open to become the latest fighter to suffer an upset loss. An upset that if it indeed happens it will definitely have a major impact on any and all future plans that might be in the works for the Heavyweight division.
We will see what happens when these two Heavyweights square off for a portion of the World Heavyweight championship on Saturday night.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
Wilder vs. Breazeale takes place on Saturday, May 18th at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY. The fight can be seen in the United States on Showtime beginning at 9 PM ET/6 PM PT across cable and satellite providers and will also be streamed on both the Showtime and Showtime Anytime apps. For more information about Showtime, Showtime Sports, the Showtime and Showtime Anytime apps and schedules please visit: www.SHO.com. For more information about Wilder-Breazeale including the undercard please visit: www.PremierBoxingChampions.com
In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the fight can be seen on Sky Sports Main Event (Formerly Sky Sports 1) on Sunday, May 19 beginning at 2 AM (Local UK Time.) For more information about Sky Sports including schedules and availability in your area please visit: www.SkySports.com. Check your local listings internationally.
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