By Jackie Kallen
I can’t believe how many people have come up to me to talk about the heavyweight fight from last weekend. I didn’t even think that many people watched it. But apparently, people heard about it and tuned in to reruns. That’s how exciting it is to have an American heavyweight own at least the WBC part of the title.
Admittedly, it’s not a unified title since Wladimir Klitschko still possesses the WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO versions. But it’s a start. Someone born and raised here in the US can call himself the Heavyweight Champion of the World.
Whether Deontay Wilder fought the best fight of his life or Bermane Stiverne fought the worst of his career, the result was the same. Even if Stiverne was dehyrdated and ill as he now reports, we still have an American man wearing a belt for the first time in ages.
Can this revive boxing even further? Can it enhance viewership and build a strong fanbase for the heavyweight division? We’ll soon find out. The upcoming matchups in the division will form a blueprint for the future.
Klitschko is reportedly fighting Bryant Jennings in New York on April 25 at Madison Square Garden. So Wilder will have to wait to get his shot at Klitschko until later this year. Until then, he has to be careful not lose his title the way Stiverne did in his first defense.
At 19-0, the 30 year-old Jennings (from Philly) is not really expected to beat Klitschko and take home all the belts. If that should happen, however, Wilder will be gunning for him. Two American champs facing off. Pretty good stuff.
But assuming that Jennings loses, who should Wilder fight next? Gossip has it that 6’9″ tall British giant Tyson Fury has him on his wish list. He’s 23-0, has a solid European following and is a heavy hitter. Could be an interesting matchup, as Fury and Wilder can both trash talk with the best of them, and Irish gypsy Fury carries a grudge against Wilder from an earlier meeting at a boxing card in the UK.
If, for some reason, the Klitschko/Jennings fight doesn’t happen, would Klitschko fight Wilder–or take on the mouthy and older Shannon Briggs? So many possibilities. Klitschko is said to be looking at taking on Briggs in Germany following the Jennings fight. But ultimately it will be Klitschko/Wilder that satisfies a world-wide PPV audience.
Wilder has shown himself to be a devastating puncher who never lets a man walk out of the ring on his own two feet. But he was unable to dispose of a lackluster Stiverne. Even though Stiverne now says he was suffering from something called rhabdomyolysis, he was still able to avoid getting KOed. Did that slightly tarnish the myth of Wilder’s potency?
I personally believe that Wilder is good for the sport. He’s attractive, articulate and a seemingly good role model for young fans. Being from Tuscaloosa gives him the same flavor that a young Cassius Clay had hailing from Louisville. Humble beginning and a down-home sensibility. However, it’s way too soon to make comparisons to Ali when it comes to what happens inside the ring.
The good thing is that we’re talking about the heavyweight division again. There is something else in boxing besides Pacquaio/Mayweather to contemplate. That’s positive. The best possible outcome would be a Wilder sweep of all the titles this year. Then we’d really have something to brag about.