By Cliff Rold
Who the hell is Johann Duhaupas?
That’s been the question for a lot of fight fans on this side of the Atlantic this week. The answer? He’s the guy who will challenge Alabama’s Deontay Wilder (34-0, 33 KO) for Wilder’s WBC Heavyweight belt on September 26th.
Note the word belt. Wilder has one. The Heavyweight Champion of the World is Wladimir Klitschko. Everyone knows it, and that includes Wilder if you caught him in a moment of pure honesty. To be the man, Klitschko is the man Wilder would eventually have to topple.
A mandatory challenge looms from former WBA sub-titlist Alexander Povetkin next year if Wilder wants to keep his belt. It would be the best opponent of his career to date. In the meantime, there is Duhaupas (32-2, 20 KO).
The best part of that equation, if you’re interested in the career of Wilder, is that the fight will finally usher him onto network television as part of the PBC. It’s been one of the more head scratching elements of the Al Haymon time buying experiment to date. Wilder has fought twice in 2015. Both times, he appeared on Showtime.
While Floyd Mayweather may be the high dollar king right now, the US is historically a Heavyweight market. There hasn’t been a marketable Heavyweight from the States in a long time. Wilder has upside in terms of marketability and legitimate power. He would seem the sort of poster child to build a promotional engine around.
Instead, like most of his career, Wilder has been moved into position at a tepid pace. It’s worked out. He has a belt and his credibility got a major boost from a lopsided decision over Bermane Stiverne winning it.
A struggle with knocked out artist Eric Molina in his first title defense was entertaining but not image enhancing. Is his next challenger a step back or a step forward from Molina?
Based on a viewing of a few of Duhaupas fights, he’s probably a step forward. Duhaupas has never been stopped and has some skills. He’s tall at 6’5, has a good jab, and appears to have decent defense for a man his size. When he plants his feet, he can string together some decent combinations and doesn’t neglect the body.
The Frenchman doesn’t appear to have a great deal of single shot power. He also looks slow. Those two factors might have played a part in his selection. He looks like a beatable foe that can go rounds and maybe even win a couple.
Maybe that’s the point.
Before Wilder can get to Povetkin and more importantly Klitschko, he needs more of just about everything he can get in the ring. His 34 wins have been carefully guided. At the beginning of his career, Wilder was often referred to as a project. His athleticism and physicality were enough for a Bronze Medal at the 2008 Olympics but he needed refinement.
He’s certainly improved. Questions remain about his chin and durability and the string of early knockouts that dotted his formative pre-title years didn’t test those often. The gap in quality of opposition from the Stiverne level to Povetkin is pretty big. From everyone else to Klitschko remains huge. There isn’t a particular depth of quality foes to help build across the Klitschko gap.
Is Duhaupas enough to build towards Povetkin? While not a stacked class, fighters like Carlos Takam and the aged but still capable Tony Thompson give Heavyweight some legitimate tough outs for fighters who need them. They hover just below the Povetkin line.
Nothing from Duhaupas yet says he does. He’s a guy who struggles with no-hope former title challengers like Francisco Pianeta (a loss) and Manuel Charr (a debatable win). There is no evidence that he can push Wilder towards being the better, more complete fighter he needs to be when it’s time to take the biggest steps up.
But he might last a while and eventually fall, continuing the building of Wilder as at least a knockout machine while stretching his stamina for opponents that will be there to do more than go rounds. It likely won’t be a huge lure for television, but it will be enough to draw eyeballs to a big man who will draw a crowd in his second straight home state appearance.
Duhaupas doesn’t look like a serious threat to Wilder. It remains to be seen if he is someone that can at least aid in his evolution.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at