by Andreas Hale
Deontay Wilder should be a bigger star than he is. But that’s not entirely his fault. When it comes to what the 6’7” has done inside of a boxing ring, he’s done nothing short of take care of business. He lit lesser opposition up from the day he made his professional debut in November of 2008 until he finally saw a judges’ scorecard against Bermaine Stiverne in January of 2015. Thirty-two straight knockouts should make you a star because, well, everybody loves knockouts like everybody loves home runs.
But Wilder took a while to catch one because boxing was more infatuated with the likes of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao than The Bronze Bomber. It certainly has something to do with the fact that he beat the brakes off of 32 tomato cans before facing Stiverne. But it’s still a admirable feat to make sure that none of those 32 opponents can survive until the final bell.
Nevertheless, Wilder wasn’t quite a household name until he showcased his boxing ability in a WBC heavyweight title fight against Stiverne in 2015. A lot of eyes were on Wilder and he impressed by using a stiff jab to keep Stiverne from getting off any real offense over the course of 12 rounds. Many heralded him as the savior of the heavyweight division as well as the torchbearer who would carry the sport into the future.
Deontay Wilder is supposed to be a catalyst for the resurgence of the heavyweight division in the wake of the Klitschko Brothers reign. Everything appeared to be heading in the right direction after beating Stiverne. His next two fights against Eric Molina and Johann Duhaupas attracted viewers, with the later peaking at 3 million viewers as the main event of PBC on NBC.
Then the fight with Artur Szpilka happened in January of 2016 Wilder was somewhat exposed in the first three rounds by the awkward Spitzka. As the fight carried on, Wilder struggled to land and, although he was winning, didn’t look like the world beater that everyone anticipated. But then a tremendous right hand from Wilder cut the lights out on Szpilka in the 9th round. It was brutal and nearly made everyone forget what happened in the previous eight rounds.
Then the newly minted heavyweight champion Tyson Fury stepped into the ring and we thought we were looking at the dawn of a new era. The prevailing thought was that Wilder and Fury would battle to crown a new king of the heavyweight division. But then drugs and depression happened to Fury and a whole different set of strange circumstances happened to Wilder.
For some reason, Wilder’s opponents started dropping like flies. A highly anticipated showdown with Alexander Povetkin was slated for Moscow, Russia in May of 2016. Then, Povetkin failed a drug test. The fight went up in smoke. After stopping the overmatched Chris Arreola in the eighth round, Wilder was sat on the shelf with a pair of surgeries.
There was talk of Wilder facing Hughie Fury but the WBC made sure that didn’t happen. So the 33-1 Andrzej Wawrzyk was on the slate. Once again, a Wilder opponent failed a drug test as Wawrzyk was popped in January. Team Wilder sought after a short notice opponent. Ironically, Luis Ortiz stepped up but was ruled out because he had failed drug tests in the past. Wilder ended up facing the unheralded Gerald Washington and putting him down in five rounds.
Wilder’s momentum was on pause. Meanwhile, Anthony Joshua would snare all of Wilder’s steam when he upended Wladimir Klitschko in a thrilling Fight of the Year candidate to retain the IBF and claim the vacant WBA (Super) and IBO heavyweight titles. Instead of Wilder, Joshua was recognized by many as the future of heavyweight division.
In order to put himself back on the map, Wilder needed a legitimate opponent. And the guy who Wilder wouldn’t face because of his past drug testing issues came back around. Good ol’ Luis Ortiz was back in the picture to face Wilder on November 4th at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The fight would be going head to head with the UFC’s return to Madison Square Garden. But there was confidence that a Wilder-Ortiz fight would have enough juice to hold its own against the UFC’s pay per view.
But, you guessed it, Ortiz failed a drug test. Certainly not a big shocker as this was the exact reason why Wilder didn’t face him on short notice earlier this year. Instead, Wilder will face the WBC’s mandatory challenger Bermane Stiverne for a second time despite the one sided victory he had in 2015.
Simply put, it’s a fight nobody is looking forward to and stymies Wilder’s momentum. No matter how many ways you slice it, Wilder’s resume remains a thin one. Some fans will blame him and the soft matchmaking but the past 18 months haven’t been kind to The Bronze Bomber. He’s done what he was supposed to do but his opponents don’t seem interested in coming into the fight without tainted blood. An Ortiz fight would have silenced the naysayers. As would a fight with Povetkin. But they aren’t going to happen and Wilder’s skeptics will continue to soil the 31-year-old’s name. Hopefully, if both Wilder and Joshua get past their opponents with little issue, we’ll get a Joshua-Wilder fight in 2018. But this is boxing and you never really know what the hell is going to happen next.
The true coronation of Deontay Wilder is going to have to wait...again. We’ve just got to be patient and not blame him for the failure of others.