By Jackie Kallen
This Saturday on NBC, Deontay Wilder will defend his WBC Heavyweight against Johann Duhaupas. The 34 year-old Frenchman will fight in the US for the first time when he steps into the ring to face Wilder at Legacy Arena in Birmingham, AL. This will be Wilder’s second title defense. He won the belt against Bermane Stiverne in January and defeated it successfully against Eric Molina in June.
Duhaupas is 32-2 against names that will not sound the least bit familiar to most fight fans over here. He has KOed 20 of his opponents and has never been stopped. But since he’s an unknown entity on this side of the Atlantic, it’s hard to predict how he’ll fare. A lot of viewers will be able to see, since this fight is being offered on free network TV, which is rare for a heavyweight title fight. It’s been three decades since Larry Holmes fought Carl Williams on NBC in 1985. It’s about time.
Things may be changing and this fight is a good sign of that. Fight fans were disappointed when they handed over big bucks for Mayweather/Pacquiao fight. They were left unsatisfied and have since spent their PPV dollars more frugally. The Mayweather/Berto fight was a total flop. No one cared. So it’s refreshing to be able to watch title fights for free.
No one is expecting this fight to be Ali-Frazier, but it is another step in the 6’7” Wilder’s march to the top of the hill. At 34-0, with 33 of those by way of KO, he is one of the hardest hitters in the division and only Bermane Stiverne has gone the distance with him. The Klitschko era cannot last forever and Wilder plans to bring all the belts back to America.
Looking at the elite heavyweights, there isn’t really a lot of competition. Most of the Top 10 are not American. Tony Thompson has lost five times, Tarver is 46 years old, and Bryant Jennings was beat by Klitschko. So it is up to Wilder to return the most desired belt in boxing to US turf. On paper, it doesn’t appear that Duhaupas can derail his train. Not that we haven’t seen upsets in the past, but is Duhuapas another Buster Douglas or will he simply be another unfamiliar name on Wilder’s resume as he climbs to greater heights?
The word from insiders is that Duhaupas is better than most people think. Though he’s not a big puncher, he is a skilled boxer whose defensive game has kept him in fights that he was picked to lose. The odds of him stopping Wilder are astronomical; but can he outbox him and make it an interesting fight? I hope so. If it’s a compelling fight we can expect more top-level fights on free TV.
As for Wilder’s take on the fight, he has been quoted as saying that he’ll “burn this reptile,” referring to his opponent’s nickname. Let’s see how fire-proof Duhaupas is.