You can keep saying that he lacks the fundamental skills of an elite-level fighter and wrap yourself up in fake outrage over him saying—in a sport that values brutality over all else—that he wants to brutalize an opponent, but you can’t deny the WBC champ his spot at the top of the heavyweight division anymore.
Saturday’s face-rattling one-round knockout of Dominic Breazeale at Barclays Center in Brooklyn was not a shocker. Wilder was heavily favored to win and the knockout, via right hand bomb blast, has always been his preferred method of attaining victory. But, still, what he did and the way he did it is what earns heavyweight champions star power. And from the way social media lit up after the KO, it seems that “The Bronze Bomber” has turned some sort of corner when it comes to how he’s regarded and where he stands among the elite of the sport.
In the lead-up to this ninth defense of his title, there was a begrudging acknowledgment by some in the media that Wilder had turned out to be a “pretty good” heavyweight champ after all. Before that, though, in defense number seven against Luis Ortiz, many of the critics were silenced with a tough, resilient performance against the well-regarded Cuban boxer-puncher where Wilder had to battle back from adversity to eventually stop his much more skilled opponent. Then, in defense number eight, he fought lineal champ and top three heavyweight Tyson Fury to a draw, albeit a controversial one, that saw him drop the crafty Irishman twice.
All of this recent work, like it or not, erases 39 previous fights where the competition has been iffy and the performances have been uneven.
In other words, Wilder has arrived.
At this point, it’s a cliché to say that he does everything wrong, but keeps winning anyway. It’s certainly true, though, that what he does well is so overwhelming that it becomes THE factor in every fight he has.
And, just as vital to his success as his big right hand money shot, is his unflappable belief in himself and his principal weapon. As evidenced by the Ortiz and Fury fights, he just never stops coming forward, never stops believing that, however deep the hole he finds himself in, he can turn things around for good with one big shot.
A man like that is dangerous from opening to closing bell.
As for post-Breazeale plans, Wilder insists that big fights are coming— a unification against three-belt champ Anthony Joshua and a rematch with Tyson Fury—and asks for patience from fans to hammer out financial and contractual terms.
"This fight [the Joshua fight] will happen,” Wilder insisted in Saturday’s post-fight ring interview on Showtime. “The big fight will happen, I promise you that, with patience, come time, and I just want you guys to have patience and give us a little time to make this thing happen so we all benefit from it, not only just you fans…We risk our lives in here so we want to make sure we get the best and the most money that's possible.”
That’s a reasonable request, especially considering that the last offer issued to Wilder from Joshua’s DAZN allies may have had some big money numbers on paper, but also required him to give up career autonomy by signing a multi-fight deal with the streaming service.
In this next round of negotiations, maybe a deal can be hammered out where Wilder doesn’t have to barter a piece of his career for the right to a fight he’s earned already.
Whatever the case, Wilder-Breazeale and the upcoming Joshua-Ruiz and Fury-Schwarz need to be one-and-done affairs. No more time-killers/time-fillers.
-- “The Tartan Tornado” Josh Taylor looked very good in beating a very good Ivan Baranchyk via unanimous decision Saturday for the IBF junior welterweight title. With the win, Taylor advances to the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) finals against new WBA champ Regis Prograis. Taylor-Prograis will be the rarest of all main stage boxing occurrences—a high-stakes bout between two fighters with superstar potential in their absolute physical primes, BEFORE there’s a whole lot of money in the fight. The winner of Prograis-Taylor could very well move on to next-level stardom in a 140 lb. class that is growing increasingly talented and interesting.
-- Also moving on to a WBSS finals Saturday was Japan’s Naoya Inoue, who blasted away previously undefeated Puerto Rican Emmanuel Rodriguez in two rounds to move on to the bantamweight finals against Nonito Donaire. Inoue has been a darling of the boxing intelligentsia and a fixture on pound-for-pound lists for a while now, and it’s easy to see why. Inoue is all-around sharp and aggression-minded. Donaire, who’s a bit ring worn at this point, will be in for a tough time, but if he chooses to stick and move like a boxer—something well within his skill set-- he could give Inoue a stylistic challenge he’s never seen before.
-- Gary Russell Jr. blessed the world with his once-a-year ring appearance on the Wilder-Breazeale undercard Saturday night, stopping the always game, but nearly always overmatched Spaniard, Kiko Martinez on cuts in five rounds. After the fight, the WBC featherweight champ Russell, who made the fourth successful defense of his title, kicked up some dust in calling for a unification bout with WBA featherweight champ (and PBC stablemate) Leo Santa Cruz. I’m crossing my fingers, but not holding my breath.
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NOTES FROM THE BOXING UNDERGROUND: WILDER HAS ARRIVEDBy Paul Magno | May 20, 2019