The Wait is Over…Next Deontay Wilder

The Wait is Over…Next Deontay Wilder

The Wait is Over: Next… Deontay Wilder

Wondering who’s next in the boxing world? Tired of the typical clinch and grab heavyweight who plods through every round as if he’s determined to exit the ring as soon as possible? Fortunately, relief is coming sooner than you think.  It is rare that a sports figure comes along who has such an upside that fans clamor to see that athlete perform. Whether it’s a high school basketball prospect or the next great young quarterback, you want to be a part of the spectacle, observing every nuance of that athlete’s growth. Often you wonder, can he deal with the pressure? What will he do to adapt when an opposing defense has figured him out? Yet, there’s something uniquely different about a boxer, and the maturation process of that fighter that stretches far beyond the individual pursuit. One’s performance in the ring is only a small part of the process. Everything inside and outside the ring often have to synthesize perfectly in order for a fighter to reach the expectations set by the people in his inner circle. When the stage is a boxing ring, and that fighter is a capable 6-foot-7 dynamo who can punch and box, the results can be as rewarding as the learning curve is steep. When heavyweight challenger Deontay Wilder steps into the ring tonight to face Bermane Stiverne for the WBC heavyweight title, a collective sigh of relief could echo throughout the arena. Why?

Well. For one thing, the wait is over.

Finally, an American heavyweight who is so captivating that we no longer have to focus on all of the skills a heavyweight doesn’t possess. Over more than a decade, boxing has not suffered from a lack of talent. In nearly every division, one can pinpoint great fighters, some more marketable than others. The problem lies in the question – could you name them? Pure boxing fans could, but the target audience of casual fans probably might only recognize a handful of names. Even now, how many boxers do you see marketed in ads selling sports products? Currently, there are prospects and newly crowned champions who are bona fide stars, so in a way we’ve been very fortunate. Conversely, the casual fan who still promises to never turn on a boxing match again because of the dearth of good heavyweights,  also makes a compelling argument.

Surely, we’ve all heard the popular refrain, “I stopped watching after Tyson. I had enough,” which makes sense. In his prime (mid-1980s), Tyson had a unique blend of speed and power that has not been duplicated since. Every time he walked into the ring, something was bound to happen, and it didn’t matter if it happened in 91 seconds or nine rounds, fans always felt that just Tyson’s presence was worth the price of admission. Speed draws boxing fans, and since Tyson possessed the speed of a middleweight, his lethal combinations led to quick knockouts. It was even okay when you missed the punch while grabbing a beer. Even when Tyson didn’t shine or win by a brutal knockout, it was still Tyson and you still showed up at your friend’s house for the next fight. It was an event, but when his skills quickly dissipated, and the reign abruptly ended, boxing suffered mightily.

Since then great heavyweight champions – Lennox Lewis, Riddick Bowe, Evander Holyfield – have graced the scene, but the casual boxing fan didn’t alter his or her Saturday night plans to watch them as they did with Tyson. Holyfield provided constant action and an unmatched courage in the ring, while Lewis and Bowe were also Hall of Fame type heavies. As great as they were, Tyson was a phenomenon, blisteringly fast and merciless. Ironically enough, Tyson was the one fighter who was able to reinvent himself after his career ended.

Young and inexperienced, Wilder isn’t the next Tyson, Holyfield, or Lewis, but he brings an element of intrigue that we haven’t seen in years. Having to suffer through a dearth of heavyweights who couldn’t punch, wouldn’t punch, wouldn’t train, or refused to engage, Wilder is cut from a seek-and-destroy cloth that forces you to watch. Even when his flaws are exposed, the notion that one huge right hand could change the tenor of the fight is enough to keep fans interested. For boxing, that’s a step in the right direction. But it doesn’t end there. At 6-foot-7,and a sculpted 225 pounds, Wilder doesn’t paw with his jab, shy away from violence, and he clearly isn’t economical with his punches. Everything you want out of an exciting fighter, Wilder possesses in abundance. More importantly, Wilder isn’t a one-dimensional, one-hit wonder who only relies on power. He moves well, has quick hands, and effectively sets up his power punches. Even in some of his victories, it’s easy to see that despite his size, he’s not your typical straightforward fighter. He doesn’t plod or chase fighters; instead, he cuts off the ring and traps smaller fighters. Wilder’s relentless combinations and attack will be his staples when he faces more accomplished fighters.

Occasionally, Wilder will use a jab to set up a right hand that is quick and accurate. It’s that right hand followed by a left hook that will hurt Stiverne early and often. This will not be an easy fight for Wilder, but a necessary one where he tests himself against legitimate opposition. Wilder’s too fast and powerful to allow Stiverne to last past the middle rounds. Finally a heavyweight with substance and layers, but more importantly with a fire and intensity to match his skill set. Tonight, the boxing world finally unveils a fighter who will begin to slowly bring back all of those fans who tuned out for so long.

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