By Michael Rosenthal, photo by Ryan Hafey
Deontay Wilder: The difference between Wilder in his two fights against Bermane Stiverne was more the result of confidence than progress.
In January 2015, the first (only?) big fight of Wilder’s career, he fought purposefully but cautiously to win a near-shutout decision and his heavyweight title.
Six fights later, on Saturday in Brooklyn, New York, Wilder opened the floodgates at the opening bell and needed less than three minutes to drown Stiverne.
Wilder (39-0, 38 knockouts) had no doubt whatsoever that he’d overwhelm Stiverne (25-3-1, 21 KOs) this time around. And I’m guessing he feels exactly the same way about Anthony Joshua, who he called out immediately after his victory.
"I declare war upon you. Do you accept my challenge?” he said in the ring.
The question is whether he’ll get that fight anytime soon.
The potential problem is that Wilder needs the fight more than Joshua does. The immensely popular Briton, who also surely sees himself as invincible, can fight any fringe contender and fill up stadiums in the U.K. That translates to huge paydays for easy victories.
Why risk everything against Wilder immediately when you can pad your bank account against the Carlos Takams of the world?
Wilder, a relative unknown in the U.S. who has lost three opponents to failed drug tests, doesn’t have that luxury. He could make a good living against mediocre opponents – as he has the past few years – but he won’t command enormous paydays or have the opportunity to prove how good he is against nobodies. He needs Joshua.
Another possible problem for Wilder lives in Manchester, England. Tyson Fury, the bloated former titleholder, has suggested he could be fit enough to fight Joshua next year. If he can pull that off – and secure a license, which isn’t guaranteed – that fight would be less risky than Wilder for Joshua and probably the richest fight ever in the U.K.
I think the Fury who outpointed Wladimir Klitschko in 2015 would beat both Wilder and Joshua but we might never see that fighter again.
So if I had to guess, I’d say Joshua, who holds two titles, will pursue this schedule for 2018: He will seek a unification bout with titleholder Joseph Parker (another easy victory) and then set his sights on Fury for a showdown at Wembley Stadium, which would leave Wilder in the cold for another year.
I hope I’m wrong. I hope Joshua announces, “No, I want the best possible opponent because that’s what the fans want,” and makes a fight with Wilder.
Joshua and Wilder, who would bring a combined record of 59-0 – with 58 knockouts – into the ring, is a rare matchup that would capture the attention of fans worldwide for all the right reasons.
Shawn Porter (28-2-1, 17 KOs) has to be one of the most underappreciated fighters in the world. The former welterweight titleholder is essentially as good as Keith Thurman, who has climbed onto some pound-for-pound lists. Thurman beat him in June of last year but by a razor-thin margin, after which Porter stopped Andre Berto and then outpointed Adrian Granados (18-6-2, 12 KOs) on the Wilder-Stiverne undercard Saturday. Porter had to work hard against his rugged opponent but won handily, 117-111 (nine rounds to three) on all three cards. I would give Porter a chance against any 147-pounder because of his ability and swarming style. … Dmitry Bivol (12-0, 10 KOs) didn’t prove a thing with his victory over Australian Trent Broadhurst (20-2, 12 KOs) but he still seized our attention. A single, tight right hand put Broadhurst down and out in the final second of the opening round on the Jamie McDonnell-Liborio Solis card Saturday in Monte Carlo. Bivol, a former amateur star from Russia, will face a legitimate challenge soon. Only then will we know whether he’s as good as he seems to be. … The McDonnell-Solis fight, a rematch of McDonnell’s victory in November, ended after only two-plus rounds because a clash of heads left McDonnell with a gruesome cut above his left eye. The fight was ruled a no-decision. … Scott Quigg (34-1-2, 25 KOs) won his third in a row after losing to Carl Frampton in February of last year, stopping Oleg Yefimovych (29-3-1, 16 KOs) on the McDonnell-Solis card. Quigg is now in line to face the winner of the Leo Santa Cruz-Abner Mares rematch, which should take place this spring. … Sergey Lipinets is another up-and-coming Russian to watch. Lipinets (13-0, 10 KOs) easily outpointed Akihiro Kondo (29-7-1, 16 KOs) to win the vacant IBF junior welterweight title on the Wilder-Stiverne card.