By Andreas Hale
Although the heavyweight division is in the midst of a resurgence with one of the biggest fights that can be made in boxing seemingly close to coming to fruition, WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder insists that he has plans to move down to cruiserweight after he beats Anthony Joshua and unifies the world titles.
"I've been thinking about once I unify the heavyweight division, moving down to the cruiserweight division and taking over that division," Wilder said in a video post on Instagram. "I mean there has never been a heavyweight champion ever go down in weight. I mean just for the fun of it. Just take over the cruiserweight division while maintaining the heavyweight division.”
In theory this sounds like a commendable move. However, in practice, it makes little sense. Wilder is just now establishing himself as one of the top fighters in the world. Although he hovers around the bottom half of the Top 10 pound for pound fighters in the world on multiple outlets, Wilder’s arrival has been a long time coming.
It took 32 one-sided fights against relatively weak competition before The Bronze Bomber finally got a crack at a world title. He went the distance for the first time when he won the WBC title against Bermaine Stiverne in 2015. That was the fight where he formally announced his arrival and has since spent the past three years being a major component in the rebuilding of a heavyweight division that hasn’t been the apple of the boxing world’s eye in quite some time. He’s on the cusp of a huge heavyweight unification bout with WBA (Super), IBF and WBO champion Anthony Joshua. It’s easily the biggest fight that can be made in the heavyweight division and one that can reestablish the division as the glamour division that it used to be.
But Wilder appears to be more interested in moving down a division and going after world titles as a cruiserweight.
First, let’s take a closer look at why Wilder being a cruiserweight sounds pretty ridiculous.
Although it’s not unfathomable for the six foot seven Wilder to go down a weight class, it’s going to be a challenge. Wilder’s last fight against Luis Ortiz saw the 32-year-old come in at just a shade under 215 pounds. For a heavyweight, that is relatively small and for a fighter the height of Wilder, it’s leaves him pretty thin. Shedding another fifteen pounds to get down to the cruiserweight limit feels like something someone the size of Wilder would have trouble with. But he knows his body better than we do so maybe he can drop down to 200 pounds.
But then there’s the question as to why Wilder would want to do such a thing. The division lacks star power and just about every fighter in the top 10 — with the exception of Andrew Tabiti — is from another country. If he’s looking to unify the titles at cruiserweight, he’d have to go after the following names: Oleksandr Usyk of Ukraine (WBC and WBO titleholder) and Russia’s Murat Gassiev (IBF & WBA titleholder). Neither are names that a casual boxing fan would recognize. And, certainly, there wouldn’t be a huge payday to accompany either fight. Surely, Wilder is banking on the fact that a win over Joshua would boost his marketability . While that is true, it’s still hard to believe that Wilder against either Usyk or Gassiev would be a fight that could draw on pay per view. It’s fun to fantasize about things such as this, but boxing is a business and it’s difficult to fathom that Wilder would do this.
Perhaps more important is the gaping hole it would leave in the heavyweight division. He did state that he wouldn’t be abandoning the division but would instead like to hold world titles in two weight classes. Again, in theory this sounds like a great idea. But when in practice, you start to see how it wouldn’t be beneficial for Wilder or the heavyweight division.
For one, Wilder is fighting roughly twice a year as a heavyweight. If he were to go after the cruiserweight titles, chances are he’d have to face both champions (as long as their still champions) in succession. This would take him out of the heavyweight division for an entire year. And what good is a division without a champion for a minimum of one year? It also doesn’t help -- assuming he beats Joshua — that a division that isn’t exactly filled with young talent, would have to wait for Wilder to collect titles elsewhere before he defends the heavyweight titles. That would be unfair to the likes of Alexander Povetkin, Dillian White, Joseph Parker, Luis Ortiz, Jarrell Miller and, of course, the returning Tyson Fury. They could fight each other in the interim and jockey for position while waiting for Wilder, but that leaves a bigger issue.
Wilder is pegged as the man who would bring heavyweight boxing back to the United States. Being visible is a big part of the equation and pulling himself out of the heavyweight division and into a division with little fanfare just doesn’t sound like a logical move. The division, and boxing, need Wilder to be active in the heavyweight division. Rather than unify the titles and immediately drop down to cruiserweight, it would make more sense for Wilder to defend those titles a couple of times and establish himself as the undeniable champion and a box office draw before heading down a weight class. Maybe then he’ll have the cache with boxing fans and can draw no matter who or where he fights. He’s simply not there just yet. Cashing in on a heavyweight fight with Tyson Fury would make the most sense if he were to beat Joshua.
Wilder is a big personality with big dreams, but maybe he shouldn’t count his eggs before they hatch. There’s a massive fight on the horizon and hopefully it gets locked in sooner than later. But after that, Wilder should remain a heavyweight and stamp himself as a bonafide mainstream attraction before making the move to cruiserweight.