by Cliff Rold
Some longtime boxing fans and followers are good at lying to themselves.
They’ll discuss the finer points of the game and grow to admire the most sophisticated of slick boxers. It might even come to a point where they say they prefer to see a fine technical match over a brawl.
Then the big shot lands and every fan is an equal again. The knockout remains where the magic is. Before every fight, the ceremony is the same. The bell sounds and a ring announcer lets the spectator know what the stakes are, how many rounds are possible, and who the officials will be.
Next, the fighters are introduced by name and record. Wins, losses, draws, and knockouts.
They don’t announce how many unanimous decisions a fighter has achieved. How many times have they sent their opponents to the showers early? That number is bait for the crowd, a hint at the possibility of violence.
Right now, only a decision or an upset could mess up a perfect storm. Deontay Wilder has 39 stops in 40 wins, knocking out the only man to last the route in a rematch. Wilder can say he’s knocked out every opponent he’s faced. Anthony Joshua is still a perfect 20 for 20.
Since Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier became the first undefeated heavyweights to fight for the title, we’ve seen multiple clashes between unbeatens. Some were for history’s crown; others just for belts. In none of those fights could both men say they owned a knockout over every previous opponent.
If Joshua stops Joseph Parker in their unification bout later this month, the opportunity will be there.
After his back from the brink defeat of Luis Ortiz last Saturday, Wilder’s perceived chances against Joshua had to go up. Betting odds show he would still be an underdog. Ortiz showed why for much of the first eight rounds.
Ortiz spent a lot of time boxing Wilder’s ears off. Despite the scores of the judges, one could easily have had Ortiz winning six of the first eight rounds, even coming off the floor in the fifth. Ortiz couldn’t put him away. Wilder might not be able to box to the most sophisticated of tunes but it turns out he can take a pretty good shot, has the heart and will to overcome adversity.
And that right hand?
That right hand is the sort of thing that makes everyone a fan when it lands.
Let’s get into it.
The Future for Wilder: Wilder’s future, and the sport’s biggest money fight sooner than later, is all wrapped up in Joshua. Joshua may yet opt, if he defeats Parker (and that’s still if), to make his US debut against someone else before pushing in the chips with Wilder. Mandatories could interfere. One side or the other could set an unreasonable price. Let’s hope both men insist. This fight needs to happen while those knockout marks remain. It’s too good a promotional hook to let die.
If it doesn’t but they can’t make an immediate clash, Wilder could take WBC leading contender Dillian Whyte, a former Joshua foe, or in-house PBC rival Dominic Breazeale. The latter seems more likely given the business of boxing. Neither is what the world is waiting for. Regardless, Wilder goes forward with enhanced credibility. For years, his quality of opposition has been questioned. The first chance he got, he answered emphatically.
The Future for Ortiz: Ortiz, at 38, need not be seen as done but for him this had to be a heartbreaker. Time wasn’t on his side going into the fight and it will only get shorter going forward. This was his big chance and it slipped through his fingers. Like Wladimir Klitschko against Joshua last year, Ortiz will always have to wonder what might have happened if he’d gone for the kill the round after wounding his man. Ortiz retains credibility as an opponent and would beat most of the class fighting as he did against Wilder. It just wasn’t enough to manage twelve rounds without getting caught by the power of Wilder.
Additional Weekend Picks (3-0) (Uzcategui, Kovalev, Bivol)
Rold Picks 2018: 5-4
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]