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Does Deontay wilder still have enough to be a force at heavyweight?

By: Sean Crose

Deontay Wilder, the former WBC heavyweight champion of the world, returns to the ring this Saturday when he takes on the popular and powerful Zhilei Zhang in a scheduled 12 rounder in Saudi Arabia. Wilder, who some have believed is the most powerful puncher boxing has ever seen in its long and storied history, will be fighting for the first time since his decision loss to fellow former titlist Joseph Parker last December. Sure enough, Wilder’s power is well documented. All but 1 of his 43 wins have ended within the distance. What’s more, Wilder dropped Tyson Fury numerous times in their 2018 draw as well as in their 2021 rubber match (which Fury went on to win).

What, though, does the 38 year old Wilder have left? His three fights with Fury were hellacious affairs. Furthermore, the man looked nothing like his former self when he battled Parker last winter. And while Parker certainly looked good and deserved his upset win, it was odd seeing Wilder being so lackadaisical in the ring. Without doubt Parker employed a winning strategy, but it’s worth wondering if something else were in play. Was Wilder showing evidence of a career in decline? Saturday’s bout should provide some answers.

In truth, Zhang should be custom made for Wilder. The New Jersey fighter (by way of China) isn’t the most mobile or quick combatant on earth. The guy can hit, though. Hard. Very hard. Perhaps not as hard as Wilder, but hard enough to lay out opponent after opponent. BoxRec has him with an over 80% knockout ratio. Zhang also knows how to apply pressure on his foes. If Wilder isn’t in top form, he may be in trouble this weekend. At the very least this bout has the makings of an exciting affair.

Should Wilder appear impressive on Saturday, it will be interesting to see where he goes from a victory over Zhang – provided he earns that victory. Huge fights with the likes of Anthony Joshua and current undisputed champion Oleksandr Usyk might be in order. And let’s face it, would fans REALLY mind a fourth fight with Fury? It wasn’t like the first three battles were boring. They took their toll on each man, though, and neither one’s getting any younger. Perhaps three was enough in this particular case. Yet, no matter how things play out, it can never be said Wilder hasn’t kept things interesting.

15 Comments

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    06/01/2024 at 1:29 pm

    Hello, anything can happen at heavyweight at any time and one should be open to surprises.

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    I believe that even the “Bum Squad” has to admit that Wilder is cooked at this point. He can’t even beat his meat anymore and looks gun-shy.

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