Freshly crowned WBC heavyweight champion Bermane Stiverne (24-1-1, 21 KOs) defends against his mandatory, Deontay Wilder (32-0, 32 KOs) this Saturday, January 17 at the MGM in Las Vegas. Unfortunately for boxing, more specifically American boxing, Wilder is only a modest prospect by his limited achievements, yet by hook and crook has managed through dubious rankings in the WBC and shady maneuverings at Al Haymon/Golden Boy News of the Ring World to become top rated contender.
Perhaps more telling has been the tepid promotional push since the fight was announced. That this deal is a backroom deal seems more and more apparent as it flies under the usual radar of hyped American heavyweight title fights. The bigger story is news that Golden Boy Promotions has given up his interest in Al Hayman signed fighters and settled his lawsuit against Richard Schaefer the week before this fight.
In contrast look for the planned Wladimir Klitschko/Bryant Jennings fight at Barclays in Brooklyn to be very well promoted as a legitimate heavyweight challenge by a worthy American against the growing legacy of the long time champ. Though the monetary terms have been agreed to, the other big boxing story is the advances Roc Nation has made by the recent signing of Jennings which may complicate the final details.
The Don King promoted Stiverne manage to earn his limited chops and the WBC title by beating long time contender Chris Arreola, once in 2013 and again in 2014 for the belt. Arreola himself had something of a specious record after never having beat a top ten contender, the ultimate scourge of the last decade of faint hearted US heavyweight prospects and their promoters. The last US Olympic boxing medalist, Wilder, was last seen buried in California on the undercard of little known IBF Welter champ Shawn Porter when he defended against even less known British contender Kell Brook. In spite of Wilder’s bronze medal in 2008 and perfect 34-0, 34 KO record, only a couple dozen fans were in the seats of the Stubb Hub to watch him pad out his choreographed streak against long time journeyman Jason Gavern.
The physical aesthetics of this fight are something akin to a modern day rendition of the old Mutt & Jeff cartoon given the sleek 6-7 tattooed physiology of 29 year old Wilder in contrast to the stubby blubber of the 36 year old Stiverne, generously listed at 6-2 on boxrec in spite obviously challenging the 5-11 mark. In a styles make fights sport, the fight becomes a real puzzle since nobody knows what kind of style Wilder will use since he’s never faced any fighter near the danger of the limited Stiverne who can easily be outboxed in the early going. Does Wilder have the stamina to go the distance against a tough guy like Stiverne? Does he have the power to knock him out? Does Wilder have the chin to stand up to the inevitable shots landed on him? Does he have the innate moxie to know when to move and box and when to stand and land?
We know what Stiverne brings but in spite of 34 fights we don’t know what kind of fighter Wilder really is other than heavily protected and we may not find out given the shaky promotional natures of Don King and Al Hayman for whom fairly officiated fights are an anathema. This is a roll of unknown dice for the public, however there’s little doubt that young Wilder represents the future American boxing interests as opposed to the unheralded Haitian Stiverne who can never generate a decent sized purse unless the unspeakable happens and he knocks out Wilder. Then he would have to sign to fight Wladimir Klitschko in a unification bout, not likely given his promoter Don King’s reluctance to risk one of his last meal tickets.
Speculation aside, the model for this “event” is likely found in the first Michael Dokes vs Mike Weaver confrontation when the unsung Weaver was stopped controversially in the first round in spite of having all of his faculties just because he took some hard punches as was always his style. Naturally Don King secured the rematch which did nothing to settle the controversy with the draw result.
Stiverne is the closest heavyweight to the Weaver style today and there is no historical parallel to the limitations of Wilder, so the big question is whether the ref will favor Wilder or not. Regardless, I don’t see these guys going the distance and the potential for controversy is about as high as it can get for a fight.