IN less than half-an-hour, Deontay Wilder was transformed from statistically one of history’s biggest heavyweight punchers to being condemned as a useless, crude novice.

In one fell swoop, a man with an Olympic bronze, a five-year reign as the WBC champion who mustered 10 defences was deemed useless, over-hyped and under-skilled.

After being stopped in the seventh-round by Tyson Fury in Las Vegas, all those who put a man or woman on the cross after one defeat took out their mallets and nails and started hammering away.

The one-trick pony had run out of tricks. At 34, he was too old to change. He’d never mastered the basics. He was on the boxing scrapheap with a record of 42-1-1 (41). 

He only had Luis Ortiz on his record. Dominic Breazeale was only a footballer. Bermane Stiverne didn’t count. The draw with Fury? A gift. Forget former WBO champ Liakhovich, or Molina, or Szpilka or Arreola. Useless. All of them.

While I concur, the resume doesn’t indicate greatness, it wasn’t always about who he was beating but how he was beating them. It was the inevitable knockout.

You don’t beat fighters like that if the only thing you have is a punch. That’s not how the sport works.

You need something about you. You need more than a few crumbs of talent. You need more than to be a one-hit wonder. You need to take your licks. You need to do the work. These fighters didn’t just bow down before him, roll over and play dead.

There were some seasoned observers who noted that to get as far as he had, you can’t just rely on Thor’s hammer for a weapon. That was a gift, but not the only thing that made him a champion.

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Yes, I’ll intentionally fall short of calling him great because greatness can and is frequently only revealed in adversity, and goodness me is he facing it now.

Sure, he didn’t have fancy feet, he might have depended upon his punch, never worked downstairs too much but that didn’t make him rubbish.

The significant problem was that while other historic punchers might have had stronger all-round games, the disparity between Wilder’s power and his overall skills was particularly glaring. And yes, the ability to use it as a get out of jail card may have stunted his development. Technically there might not have been a lot to admire but a 6ft 7inch gangly puncher was never going to be a demon inside fighter. But what he was, was effective. What he was, was good. You can’t be rubbish and do what he did. You can’t.

It didn’t take a genius to work out that when the punch wasn’t enough, or when it couldn’t be landed, he might not have enough strings to his bow against the best. But the fact was that until last Saturday it had almost always been enough.

By writing this column, I’m not saying Wilder was Muhammad Ali reincarnated, or Rocky Marciano, Frazier, Liston, Louis, Tunney or Papa Jack.

But he didn’t deserve the career obituaries of people who immediately condemned him to the “I knew he was going to get exposed” pile.  

No wonder fighters don’t want to stake their unbeaten records if this is what the fallout is like. No talk of redemption – maybe because the loss was so resounding – and it’s getting to the point where boxers are judged on any performance that is not perfect, certainly any result that starts with anything other than a ‘W’.

It’s a hard world, played out live on social media. And it got even worse for Wilder.

In less than 24 hours he was turned into a GIF, a meme, smashed to smithereens by a torrent of social media criticism, the world cracking jokes at his expense.

That was self-inflicted. Whether his 45lbs suit did play a part in his spectacular demise on the night we will never know. But that he hadn’t tested the suit, tried it and seen what it felt like, and how he felt after he’d worn it was no excuse. There is such a thing as due diligence. No one made him wear it. It was on him and in that sense the blame lies with only one man – and not one suit.

But to dwell on one of sport’s greatest excuses is to ignore the much more serious issue here and this returns us to our starting point.

Wilder is no Willie Pep, Ray Leonard or even a Jake LaMotta. But what he’s done has worked for him, and there’s no telling that it wouldn’t work against any other leading heavyweights. Of course, there are many who will be quick to sharpen the blade. And maybe that loss will change him forever; perhaps it makes the gunslinger gun-shy, maybe it shatters that brash overconfidence and maybe it has knocked the fight out of him. But it’s so easy to write someone off after a loss. Too easy.

Fighters should be judged at the end of their careers, not off the back of their worst nights.

Perhaps it’s easier now to draw comparisons with Mac Foster, the 30-6 (30) heavyweight puncher who was found out almost every time he moved up in class.

But ‘almost’ doesn’t make him bad. Ask Thad Spencer, Cleveland Williams and the guys he did beat. Or just say they were washed up and start slamming everyone for everything they achieved or every loss they suffered.

The fickle nature of the difference between a win and a loss has never caused a wider divide and it’s not a good thing.

Look at previous heavyweight eras, where Tyson lost to Lewis and Holyfield but was still deemed great. Where Holyfield lost to Bowe and Lewis but was still a bona fide Hall of Famer and where Lewis lost to McCall and Rahman but was arguably the best of the group. And that’s before you go into the who beat who of Ali, Frazier, Foreman, Norton et al.

Sure, Wilder’s got technical flaws. You won’t find many of his defensive or offensive moves in a textbook. But it’s got him really bloody far.

Sure, don’t buy into the suit excuse. You don’t have to. I don’t even know if he does.

But let’s not kick a man when he’s down. Let’s not also detract from Fury’s win by saying he beat someone who wasn’t much good. Let’s hope we get the heavyweight fights we want, and Wilder should still be in the picture, against Whyte, Joshua or anyone else. Just maybe not for Fury. But let’s not bury him.

Bury the suit. Bury the excuse. Don’t bury the fighter.