By Tom Donelson / Member Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA)
Deontay Wilder won a unanimous decision but what impressed me was not his victory but the ease that he dominated the fight and showed himself to be a vastly improved fighter. The first thing that was surprising was that the inexperienced Wilder showed more nuance in his fight game than the supposedly more experience Stiverne. (While Wilder had more pro fights; Stiverne had fought the tougher fighters and had already been in two big events against Chris Arreola.)
Wilder used his longer reach and jab to set the real estate between the two fighters. Stirvene, whose jab was an effective weapon against Arreola, fail to even effectively jab nor did he cut off the ring. Repeatedly Wilder was able to escape and move away from the on charging Stirvene. Stirvene attempted to walk Wilder down but he never attack the body of Wilder; which would have paid dividend in the later rounds against Wilder. Instead, he rarely jabbed his way nor did he attack the body with much conviction or consistently.
Wilder showed discipline against Stiverne as he rarely got sucked into a firefight unless it was on his terms and not Stiverne. He was able to hurt Stiverne throughout the fight with his right hand and while he couldn’t finish Stiverne off; he did hurt Stiverne and this too had its effect as Stiverne over the last third of the fight looked more exhausted than Wilder, who never went beyond four rounds.
Wilder discipline allowed him the ability to dictate the fight and the pace; which aided in his ability to go the distance for the first time.
Another aspect of Wilder’s game plan was his ability to adapt in the ring to what was occurring. In the final round, Wilder often smothered his opponent’s punches as a mean to run out the clock and make sure he didn’t get hurt.
While I won’t anoint Wilder as the next great American heavyweight just yet, there is no doubt that he has the physical tools to become even a better fighter. His athletic skills combined with increase awareness in the ring will allow Wilder to become a potential superstar. One intriguing aspect is that Wilder came in at 219 pounds on a six foot seven inch frame. He came into this fight in shape and it would appear that he treats his profession with respect. For Wilder, it may appear that he views this as a 24/7 job but then do does Wladimir Klitschko and his older brother Vitali. Contrast Wilder coming into this fight in top flight shape with Chris Arreola who often over the past years had a weight problem when he wasn’t in the gym. Arreola own penchant for weight gain in between fights hurt his career and his chances to be an American Champion.
Wilder still have much to learn before becoming one of the elite heavyweights and be able to challenge Wladimir Klitschko but his height and natural talent gives him a leg up. If one was to draw up the perfect fighter against Wladimir Klitschko, that fighter would look like Wilder. Boxing could use an American heavyweight who can put folks in the stands and highlight the sport. Wladimir is 38 years old and while he is still the best heavyweight, Father Time waits for no one and the moment may be close at hand where the perfect storm arrives in which a year from now; a more mature Wilder could be ready to take advantage of a Klitschko who loses just enough skills due to age. Bryant Jennings is the other undefeated American heavyweight and while he is a skill fighter; he is five inches shorter and doesn’t’ have the knock out power Wilder has. (And it appear that he will be fighting Wladimir Klitschko.)
Wilder now has elite status within reach and the ability to the recognized Heavyweight champion of the world; to replace Wladimir Klitschko as the king of the Heavyweights. Wilder took advantage of his opportunity and gave boxing fans a glimpse into the future. Wilder is a work in the progress but against Bermane Stiverne, he showed himself willing to stick to a fight plan and defeat the reigning WBC Heavyweight champion. Wilder must now take his fight game to another level if he hopes to achieve his goal, to unify the Heavyweight title.