By Lyle Fitzsimmons
As boxing goes, it's a tale as old as time and a song as old as rhyme.
If you're looking to spice up a fight that might struggle for traction on a weekend full of football, MMA and other options, a good, old-fashioned press conference death threat is a go-to means of diversion.
To that end, an argument could be made that all the fight-week blathering between WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder and returning rival Bermane Stiverne was as much made-for-retweet posing as genuine combative territory marking.
The two met on Saturday night atop a three-bout Showtime card from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. And while Wilder is now six successful defenses into a reign that began with a decisive 12-round toppling of Stiverne, an argument could have been made prior to the rematch that the Bronze Bomber’s nearly three-year run had left him further from the spotlight than when it began.
He entered the first Stiverne fight with 32 KOs in 32 fights, an Olympic medal and a tear-jerking backstory involving a young father who entered the ring as a means of generating funds to pay for an ailing child.
The medal was no less shiny and the parenting no less respectable all this time later, but the performances Wilder had put on while dispatching suspect challengers – high school teacher Eric Molina and overmatched Frenchman Johann Duhaupas among them – have more closely resembled those witnessed during the reigns of Bruce Seldon and Bonecrusher Smith than Muhammad Ali and Joe Louis.
Hence the necessity for new pre-fight sound to erase the thus far middling fury.
Of course, it hadn’t helped Wilder’s cause that the rest of the heavyweight division had experienced some significant plate-shifting since his arrival to the championship summit.
Upon copping his shiny green belt, the then-29-year-old was instantly deemed a 6-foot-7, 220-pound lady-in-waiting to decade-long kingpin Wladimir Klitschko.
And many assumed he’d ascend to the kingdom’s top spot when the jewelry-hoarding Ukrainian walked away from a win streak that had stretched back to when Manny Pacquiao was a featherweight.
Problem was, Tyson Fury had some other ideas about succession.
When the brash Englishman beat Klitschko in a dreary dance that got folks nostalgic for the days of Seldon, Smith and Herbie Hide, he not only interrupted Dr. Steelhammer’s lope into the sunset, but he cut ahead of Wilder in the line of suitors angling to be the next consensus kingpin.
Fury hasn’t fought in two years, but he’s still the Ring Magazine champion.
And the more the Alabama native struggled with the likes of Molina and extended the likes of Duhaupas, the less it appeared he’d be able to dominate the likes of Fury and other rising big men like Anthony Joshua, who’s since beaten Klitschko, too, and gobbled up three of the belts Fury had swiped.
It figured, then, that Wilder and his team wanted much more than just a W to continue claiming the “it guy” status he insisted he’d warranted even before the first Stiverne victory.
So, a devastating KO of a foe who’d not lost to anyone else in 10 years couldn’t hurt.
“I know I'm good for the sport,” Wilder said. “I know I'm going to be a mega-superstar.”
In all fairness, and in spite of his ho-hum run as champion, many maintain he’s not altered that arc.
“Deontay just needs to keep being Deontay,” said Kevin Rooney Jr., director of public relations for DiBella Entertainment and son of Mike Tyson’s ex-trainer.
“Winning. Winning impressively. And being that colorful charismatic guy on the outside. He has star power. That is unquestionable. And I think that will continue to grow with each performance.”
So long as he exited Brooklyn with an intact 0, he’d be given many more chances to succeed.
"People who know me know that if I say I'm going to do something, I'm doing it,” Wilder said. “I am hungry. I am determined. I'm not playing with anybody. I don't say things just to sound good. My actions will speak for themselves.”
But it’ll be a lot easier to buy what he’s selling in the future if he spends less time making mean faces for the cameras and more time living up to lofty promises of big-fight destruction, like he eventually did Saturday night after the yapping subsided.
Or, as boxing goes, a little less beauty and a little more beast.
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Weekly title-fight schedule:
Vacant IBF light heavyweight title – Fresno, California
Artur Beterbiev (No. 2 IBF/No. 9 IWBR) vs. Enrico Koelling (No. 3 IBF/No. 13 IWBR)
Beterbiev (11-0, 11 KO): First title fight; Only one fight beyond four rounds (31 total rounds)
Koelling (23-1, 6 KO): First title fight; Only eight of 24 foes were coming off a win
Fitzbitz says: Beterbiev may not be the next Andre Ward, but it’s hard to imagine – based on what he’s done – that he’ll have too much trouble against an opponent with such a suspect resume. Beterviev in 8
Last week's picks: 3-0 (WIN: Lipinets, Bivol, Wilder)
2017 picks record: 84-26 (76.3 percent)
Overall picks record: 906-300 (75.1 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.