by Cliff Rold
Devastating knockouts light a special fire in fight fandom.
It doesn’t really matter who they come against. Maybe the guy across the ring is a great opponent; maybe they showed up looking scared to death or disinterested.
The memory remains.
Decades later, the path of destruction Mike Tyson left behind him in the 1980s still fuels an almost fanatical devotion in some. They’d rather watch an hour of Tyson steamrolling the Donnie Long’s of the world than watch the craft of a Leonard-Benitez.
On Saturday, Deontay Wilder scored the sort of memorable knockout that elevated him. Bermane Stiverne looked in no mood to fight, much less fight back. Wilder did exactly what he was supposed to, what he needed to, do.
He obliterated him.
Judging by the reaction among fans and media, it was the sort of performance that made a showdown with Anthony Joshua loom that much larger.
We have a big fight on our hands. Will it have to wait just a little more to be the superfight it could be? Everyone is playing their parts to suggest it might.
Joshua, the rainmaker in the situation, the guy who sold 160,000 tickets and change in 2017, and his team are playing a little coy. The frenzy of ducking accusations, public negotiating poses, and geography harping is building. Names like Dillian Whyte, Tyson Fury, and Joseph Parker will all come up in the near term, teasing fans who want to see Joshua-Wilder into thinking it might slip away.
Joshua and Wilder have got the world right where they want them.
Probably some time in 2018, they’ll make sure everyone pays to find out who the better man is in a battle that, for the moment, would pit two heavyweights in their prime, undefeated, who have a knockout victory over every opponent they’ve faced.
This should be fun as far as marinades go.
Let’s go to the report cards.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Wilder A-; Stiverne B/Post: A; C ?
Pre-Fight: Power – Wilder A; Stiverne A-/Post: A+; C
Pre-Fight: Defense – Wilder B-; Stiverne B/Post: A; D
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Wilder B+; Stiverne B/Post: A; D
The weight of Stiverne, some fifteen pounds higher than in the first fight, wasn’t inherently concerning. It could have been a sign of coming down from heavy after two years of inactivity. The way he fought on Saturday, it wouldn’t have mattered what he weighed.
Stiverne fought like a near 40-year old man who didn’t really want to be there. Stiverne hardly threw a punch in anger and offered no resistance despite getting up from the first two knockdowns.
Wilder was a big part of that. The first right hand he dropped Stiverne with was a doozy, a true and straight power shot that landed right on the chin. Stiverne looked lethargic from the start. After that right hand, he looked lost.
Concussive power shots do that. Wilder used the moment to not just knock him out but also add some showmanship to it. He dropped his hands and threw some careless, contemptuous haymakers. They were statement shots, a moment for him to say I can wind up, let you know it’s coming, and there isn’t anything stopping it.
Stiverne covered up a little. He couldn’t cover up from the whole assault. Against the man who still stands as the best win of his career, Wilder put his lone decision victory in the rear view mirror.
Wilder still has technical flaws. His feet are often too wide, he loops too many shots, and he can be outboxed. That right hand erases a lot of flaws and is something no heavyweight, including Joshua, is going to want to tempt getting caught flush with.
Joshua should be favored on paper right now but Wilder’s power is enough to raise doubt in the eyes of the public. The question of which of the two, Wilder or Joshua, can take the other man’s shot is all we really need.
Wilder made that question more exciting on Saturday night. Until they face off, it will be a game of can you top it. The ball is now back to Joshua.
The road to Joshua-Wilder is begun. All that’s left is to see how long the journey will be until the final destination. Let’s hope nobody veers off the road along the way.
Report Card and Staff Picks 2017: 42-17
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]