By Andreas Hale
They say that boxers that look for the knockout end up finding themselves on the wrong side of the decision. But in the case of Deontay Wilder, he absolutely has to look for the knockout against Bermane Stiverne when the two meet at the Barclays Center in a return bout after Stiverne forced Wilder to meet the judges for the first time back in 2015.
There are a number of reasons why Wilder should settle for nothing less than a knockout. Some of those reasons should be personal while the others are for the betterment of the sport.
Considering that Stiverne was the only fighter who managed to hear the final bell while facing The Bronze Bomber, Wilder should be incensed to put him away in a rematch. For one, Stiverne has only fought one other time since that January 2015 meeting when scored a unanimous decision against Derric Rossy in November of that same year. But it’s been two years since Stiverne last fought while Wilder has accumulated five more victories since they last met. Stiverne will enter the ring just a hair under 40 while Wilder is arguably meeting his boxing prime. To know that Stiverne is the one guy he couldn’t finish has to be eating at Wilder. Not to mention that he’s seen what Stiverne had to offer in their first meeting and shouldn’t expect to see anything new from B. Ware in the rematch.
Another reason that a knockout for Wilder is essential would be to help build toward the impending showdown with Anthony Joshua. With Joshua lighting up Wlad Klitschko and ultimately sending him into retirement, the Brit has a slight upper hand when it comes to the “what have you done for me lately department.” However, there were moments where Joshua looked vulnerable and short of superhuman. Although he stopped Carlos Takam last week in front of a rabid Wales crowd, it wasn’t his most spectacular performance. In order for Wilder to put himself in position for the heavyweight showdown and hype it up as one of the biggest fights in the sport, Wilder needs to look just as good, if not better, than Joshua when the two are fighting in close proximity to each other. Wilder has talked a good game on social media, but it is essential that he backs it up. Boxing fans will eat it up and the mainstream will begin to take notice of a resurrected heavyweight division that could shape up to be one of the best in over two decades.
There’s also this little event going on a few miles from Barclays that you may have heard of. The UFC will return to Madison Square Garden for the second time in as many years to put on a full loaded card with three title fights and headlined by the return of former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre. Although the UFC card is stacked with intriguing fights, Wilder is on free TV and has the opportunity to trump anything the UFC does by making the SportsCenter highlight reel with a finish of Stiverne. The UFC has steadily been losing ground in their silent war with boxing over the past year and going head to head with the sweet science is definitely something where the UFC wants to gain the upper hand with a stellar outing.
However, anyone who watches MMA knows that Georges St-Pierre has never been the most exciting fighter to watch. He’s essentially the MMA equivalent to Floyd Mayweather where he’s technically sound, rarely finishes his opponents in his later years but always puts together dominant performances. If that’s the case on Saturday night, Wilder has an opportunity to steal the show. Granted, the UFC’s two other title fights could be exciting shootouts. But it’s always about the main event when it comes to the mainstream.
There is one caveat to all of this, however. With the WBC announcing that the winner of the Dominic Breazeale versus Eric Molina fight would become the mandatory challenger for the Wilder’s WBC title, a monkey wrench could effectively be thrown into plans of a highly anticipated 2018 meeting between the two heavyweights. If Wilder wants to keep his title, he’ll be forced to face Molina a second time or Breazeale. Both opponents do nothing for Wilder and the only people who will be happy are those in the WBC.
Editor's Note: The WBC has since stated that the Breazeale-Molina bout is not a "final' eliminator.
The biggest takeaway from all of this is that Wilder has the potential to become a superstar if the chips fall the right way. Unfortunately, his past couple of opponents failed drug tests and left Wilder with opposition that nobody cared to see. The only way to remedy that is by destroying them and forcing the public to clamor for a fight with Joshua. To be clear, Joshua doesn’t necessarily need a fight with Wilder as bad as Wilder needs a fight with Joshua considering that Joshua could fight overseas and continue to fill up stadiums. But if Wilder begins banging the drum for that fight with a wicked knockout of Stiverne on Saturday night and then follow it up by cutting a promo on Joshua, he would be well on his way to becoming the big star most expect him to be.
But he absolutely has to get Stiverne out of there. Oh, and he has to win the fight.