As we fast approach Saturday’s heavyweight main event the significance of this event becomes more and more apparent. Although the combatants will be competing for the WBC heavyweight title, one of the most prestigious titles in the world, one could be forgiven for assuming that the outcome is a forgone conclusion.
Deontay Wilder appears to be a heavy favourite as he challenges Haitian born champion Bermane Stiverne and initially, I couldn’t understand why. Stiverne holds career best back-to-back victories over Chris Arreola, the second of which earned via TKO to win his title, which on paper is far more impressive than any of Wilders 31 stoppage victories with Malik Scott probably the best pick of Wilder’s victims.
Wilder is a very impressive athlete and his height, frame and power are massive attributes that are undeniable however, there is another contributing factor that outweighs any of his physical prowess… He’s American. Wilder is seen as not only the next heavyweight world champion but is being built up to be the man who finally knocks Wladimir Klitschko from his perch. The Americans are doing a massive hype job with Wilder evidenced in the recent ALL ACCESS programme where it was pretty much all Wilder – Stiverne being allotted minimal air time of him being interviewed in between Wilder’s outlandish behaviour and his tears for his daughter.
Granted, I may be being quite unsympathetic towards Wilder however, it seems obvious to me that the biased build up of this fighter is as standard and transparent as anything I’ve seen in recent years. The title of ‘American heavyweight champion of the world’ is one of the most financially rewarding possessions in sport for not only the fighter but also: manager, promoter, network, trainer etc. therefore, with a subjective outlook it is easy to see what this bias could lead to… The most controversial topic in boxing- corruption.
In a recent interview that Evander Holyfield underwent he discussed the dark subject of corruption in boxing when being questioned about the potential Pacquiao v Mayweather fight where he referred to the outcome as being decided by ‘who they want to win.’ Holyfield also drew out his controversial loss to John Ruiz as him being a victim of circumstance because Ruiz was the man who ‘they wanted to win’ because ‘they’ wanted to push a Spanish speaking heavyweight world champion. Holyfield also went on to assert that ‘they took it away’ from Larry Holmes referring to his unbeaten record (Holmes dropped a decision to Michael Spinks in 1985) due to some derogatory comments that he made about Rocky Marciano.
If history tells us one thing it is that it repeats itself and if this fight is starting to deter from the Wilder script, I predict some pretty unusual activities may take place. If the fight goes to the scorecards then I can’t see past Wilder getting a decision no matter what happens in the fight – at very worst a draw might be declared just to ensure a rematch takes place (whilst we are on the subject of Holyfield, heavyweight controversy and draws – anybody remember Holyfield v Lewis 1?)
However, the problem with the potential untoward activity is: I can’t see the fight lasting 12 rounds. One thing dodgy decisions cannot account for is a fighter being knocked out (unless you are involved in the Shane McPhilbin v Enzo Maccarinelli fight, then the time keeper just rings the bell with a minute left in the round to save the fighter). Both are massive hitters but there are a few things which I believe will swing the fight in Stiverne’s favour:
1. Stamina – Wilder has not been past 4 rounds in his career and with him being so muscle bound in his upper body I have a feeling that the longer this fight goes, the slower and more laboured he will become. Whilst Stiverne has only been the 12 round distance once, he has a number of 10 and 8 round contests under his belt and what’s more the one 12 round victory he does have came in a very tough and gruelling fight with Chris Arreola.
2. Chin – both fighters are big hitters but the edge in power definitely lies with the American which means that a solid chin will be a necessity for the winner of this bout. Stiverne has been stopped once in his pro career however, it was an awfully premature stoppage by the referee whilst it has been published that Wilder may be a tad chinny. Videos of Wilder being stopped in his amateur days as well as appearing very stiff legged when eating a shot from David Haye in sparring may contribute to this notion.
3. Composure – Stiverne (for me) boxes in a more composed manner than Wilder who seems to be in love with his power. Even when not throwing a shot, Wilder appears to have his right hand cocked at all times waiting for the chance to get it off. This could lead to problems for Wilder because if he is waiting for that shot and it doesn’t come, he could find rounds slipping away from him and become more and more desperate.
4. Technique – Stiverne is a technically better boxer than Wilder with a better variety of shots and can fight in the pocket however, pardon the pun, Wilder is very wild. His shots come from way out of range and he overreaches to cover that gap left, he negates his height advantages over his opponents because he boxes with a very wide stance, which leaves him a little heavy on his feet/flat footed and due to his shots being so wide this could be a nightmare when boxing a counterpuncher like Stiverne.
The biggest problem with this fight, is the SHOWTIME bias and my above assertions are that a lot of them are based on assumption – we simply don’t know enough at this point in time to be making judgements on whether one of these guys will go on to overthrow the heavyweight King. However, one thing is for sure: come Saturday night we will know who’s assumptions were correct.