By: Sean Crose
Once upon a time, being a dominate Olympic boxer counted for something. Cassius Clay, Ray Leonard, Evander Holyfield, Roy Jones Jr., even those who didn’t win a gold medal could certainly bask in a lot of prestige after having had a successful Olympic run. Sadly, those days are largely over. Today most people are barely aware the Olympics still showcase boxing – if they’re aware at all. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that current WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder didn’t find himself on a box of Wheaties after earning a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Games.
No, it wasn’t an Olympic pedigree or a clever nickname (The Bronze Bomber) that brought Wilder to where he is today. It was power, thunderous, and frightening. There’s a legitimate case to be made that the 6’7 former football player is the hardest hitter in all of boxing history. That’s saying something when you think of the other names in the mix, like Shavers, Frazier, and Liston. Combined with his height and surprisingly lanky frame, Wilder’s shots, particularly his right, have ended many a night in highlight reel fashion. Wilder’s famous punching power even saved him from losing to the maddeningly slick Tyson Fury just last year.
A common refrain when it comes to the now 41-0-1 father of eight, however, is that his power is all he has, that Wilder doesn’t possess the skill to truly be a magnificent technician. As biting as that criticism may be, it’s better than the criticism Wilder received in earlier years, when skeptics were vocally unsure just how good the fighter, ferocious punching power and all, actually was. The heavyweight division might not be what it was in the 70’s and 90’s – at least not yet – but Wilder has shown that he can hang with the best of today’s big fighters. At least that’s true of those who actually get in the ring with him.
For failed drug tests and behind the scenes silliness have stunted what Wilder clearly sees as a rise to the top. Alexander Povetkin tested positive for a banned substance before facing Wilder. Same for Ortiz, who Wilder ended up fighting – and beating – at a later date. Then there was the matter of then-division star Anthony Joshua, the Adonisesque Englishman who many, if not most, viewed as the brightest light at heavyweight. There’s good reason to believe Joshua’s team kept Wilder at bay for a while, feeling they didn’t have to face the menacing American while their man remained so popular. A shock loss to Andy Ruiz flipped the picture upside down for Joshua, however. Although the verdict isn’t universal, there is now reason to at least argue that Wilder is presently the king of the heavyweight heap.
Wilder, though, doesn’t want there to be any questions lingering the air. He wants it known loud and clear that he and he alone is the best heavyweight on earth. What’s more, Wilder desires to be acknowledged as one of the greatest fighters of all time. “I just want to be the best in the world, Wilder said during a recent conference call to promote his rematch with Ortiz, which will go down this Saturday night in Las Vegas. “I want to be the best that’s ever done it.” If Wilder knows anything, however, it’s that the journey to the summit is never an easy one. “All I can do at this point in my career,” he claims, “is rack up numbers.” Wilder has already racked up quite a few in spite of the obstacles. And, at 34, he clearly feels there’s plenty of time to rack up more.