By Cliff Rold
Two years since his last fight in the ring, it’s a pleasure to note Bermane Stiverne has only put on a quarter of a pound since his win over Derric Rossy in November 2015.
The bad news is that’s still fifteen sloppy pounds heavier than Stiverne was for the first Deontay Wilder fight where he lost pretty much every round and the WBC heavyweight belt. Stiverne has managed to get back to the mandatory spot without having to fight for it and it doesn’t appear he fought too hard for it in camp here.
Can looks be deceiving?
Or is this a case where, if one of the guys fighting didn’t care enough to show up, why should anyone else care enough to watch?
Let’s go to the report cards.
Title: WBC heavyweight (2015-Present, 5 defenses)
Previous Titles: None
Weight: 220 ¾ lbs.
Hails from: Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Record: 38-0, 37 KO?
Record in Major Title Fights: 6-0, 5 KO
Rankings: #2 (ESPN, Ring, Boxing Monthly), #3 (TBRB, BoxRec), #4 (BoxingScene)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: Sergey Lyakhovich,
Previous Title: WBC Heavyweight (2014-15)
Previous Titles: None
Weight: 254 ¾ lbs.
Hails from: Las Vegas, Nevada (Born in Haiti)
Record: 25-2-1, 21 KO, 1 KOBY
Record in Major Title Fights: 1-1, 1 KO
Current/Former World Champions Faced: Deontay Wilder L12
Pre-Fight: Speed – Wilder A-; Stiverne B ?
Pre-Fight: Power – Wilder A; Stiverne A-
Pre-Fight: Defense – Wilder B-; Stiverne B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Wilder B+; Stiverne B
Sometimes the scales can fool. A great example was the rematch between Hasim Rahman and David Tua in 2003. Rahman was coming in off a nine month layoff and managed to weight 35 jiggling pounds more than he had in a loss to Evander Holyfield the previous year. Tua had won four in a row and many assumed he would destroy a Rahman who clearly didn’t care.
Except when the bell rang, Rahman cared more than enough. He jabbed Tua silly, and missed credit for a knockdown at the closing bell by a millisecond. He settled for a draw in a fight most thought he won. His physical form wasn’t the same as the shape he was in.
Could that be the case for Stiverne? Maybe, but Stiverne is no Rahman. Rahman, while flawed, competed with and defeated a hell of a lot deeper pool of fighters than Stiverne. When Rahman hit forty, he had more to show for it than beating a Chris Arreola twice who made his name making funny interviews and never beating anyone worth remembering.
Then again, he might not have to be Rahman. Stiverne just has to be a lot better than he was in the first Wilder fight. It seemed at times in the first fight that Stiverne rarely through a punch in anger. It was enough to be the only man to last the distance with Wilder so far. Stiverne, at his best, had quick hands for a heavyweight, power, and some nice countering ability. What he has after two years without a real fight is anyone’s guess.
Wilder has fought five times since their last. While he was won every time, results could still be called mixed. He struggled with journeyman Artur Szpilka and relative novice Gerald Washington before lowering the boom.
With Wilder, that’s the thing that counts: he’s got world-class speed and brings real thunder when he lands. His ring personality is naturally aggressive and that means even when he’s behind, he’s still in the fight.
It might not be enough to beat any of the other beltholders when the time comes. It might not even be enough to beat another consensus top ten contender when one finally makes it all the way to the fight instead of falling short of the ring in drug testing.
It’s been enough for what’s been asked of him. Since Stiverne the first time, while Wilder’s technical flaws (sometimes sloppy punching, iffy foot work) remain, he also has excellent stamina. His gas tank could count against the returning Stiverne.
Stiverne’s inactivity makes it impossible to pick him here. He was never much more than average when he was lighter, younger, and more active. Given naturally quick hands and decent power, he has the proverbial puncher’s chance.
That’s rarely all that much of a chance.
Wilder was better the first time and was making a jump in competitive class. Now he has that experience and a few more. His biggest danger could be trying to stay focused against a fighter who he beat going away last time. Wilder used his legs a lot in the first fight, not giving the power of Stiverne a chance to land. Expect Stiverne to have more success early this time than he did the last with Wilder coming out aggressive after some real trash talk. When the action settles, the younger man takes over and puts Stiverne away sometime in the middle third of the fight.
Report Card and Staff Picks 2017: 41-17
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]