By Ivan G. Goldman
Deontay Wilder says the wildest things.
No one under 6 feet 5, he brags, has a chance against him. None of those little guys, he says, can deal with his height and size. Undefeated Wilder is 6 feet 7.
Photo: Tom Casino/Showtime
If he believes what he says, he can beat just about every heavyweight out there with the possible exception of Wladimir Klitschko.
Consider this. If Wilder, 31-0 (31 KOs), is correct, that means he could have walked all over prime versions of Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Joe Louis, George Foreman, Larry Holmes, Joe Frazier, take your pick. Because they’re all hopelessly tiny, according to Wilder, and would have been wasting their time even stepping into the ring.
Joe Louis’s quick, deadly short right hand? A silly inept weapon against the mighty Wilder, thinks Wilder. After all, hasn’t he stopped a long string of no-name fighters since winning a bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics and then gaining a spot in the bejeweled stable of Boxing Godfather Al Haymon?
And just think how pulverized itty bitty Sonny Liston would get were he pitilessly pitted against the mighty Wilder, who recently kayoed the mighty Malik Scott. Then of course there’s inferior little Ali, who, according to Wilder, was fortunate to come along before Wilder, who’d have crushed the miserable little dwarf. Lucky Ali only had to deal with teensy-weensy Liston, Foreman, Ken Norton, Frazier, and similar midgets. Piece of cake.
And of course a young Tyson wading into Wilder with furious body shots, moving expertly side to side while throwing hooks, uppercuts, and right hands from hell would have been child’s play to Wilder, according to Wilder’s theory.
Ask anyone who’s stood next to Foreman how small he is. It’s like being next to Godzilla. No one makes Foreman look small. And Ali kayoed him.
What has Wilder done? Well, he’s defeated the likes of Nicolai Firtha, who’s 21-11-1 (8 KOs) and has lost four of his last six. Never heard of Firtha, you say? You’re not alone, but matching him and others like him with Wilder just might have something to do with why the “Bronze Bomber” from Alabama, has never had to go past four rounds.
Call me cynical, but in my experience, when handlers match their fighter against nothing but low-level competition, they usually do it because they don’t think he can beat anyone better. Generally when you’ve got a prospect you think you can groom into a champion you move him up gradually against tougher and tougher guys. You don’t go back to the same old shelf to lay your hands on another tomato can.
Yes, Deontay is a rangy 227-pounder who looks down on most opponents from a great height. But if he really believes his length as a human being is as important as he claims, he may know less about the sweet science than any bronze medalist in the history of the sport.
Wilder, thanks to his excellent backroom connections, is, we are told, slated to take on the winner of Bermane Stiverne and Chris Arreola, who on May 10 compete for the WBC title vacated by Vitali Klitschko. I expect he’ll take another tune-up or two between now and then. It may be that he’ll show us all something. It also may be that Wilder is yet another example of life imitating art, a reincarnation of the huge Toro Moreno in The Harder They Fall, Humphrey Bogart’s last film.
The Moreno character, a giant from South America, was managed by the mob and moved through a series of set-ups until he finally got his shot at the champ, played by real-life fighter Max Baer. Bogart, who played a down-on-his luck publicist, tried to warn Moreno, but he refused to stay on the canvas and got pulverized.
It’s no certainty that Arreola or Stiverne will do the same to Wilder. It’s possible Wilder is the real thing. But even if he is, he hasn’t been brought along in a way that would prepare him for either of them. And even if he somehow were to achieve victory, it wouldn’t be because he’s a few inches taller.
Sick Justice: Inside the American Gulag, by New York Times best-selling author Ivan G. Goldman, was released in 2013 by Potomac Books, a University of Nebraska Press imprint. It can be purchased here.