By Ivan G. Goldman
Deontay “The Bronze Bomber” Wilder versus Bermane “B. Ware” Stiverne next month offers fans tons of drama, excitement, and pre-fight anticipation, but unfortunately it figures to be not much of a contest. Wilder, challenging Stiverne for his WBC heavyweight title, has never faced a world-class heavyweight in any of his 32 outings.
Odd, isn’t it, that somehow he never managed to tangle with any of those tough East Europeans such as Alexander Povetkin or Vyacheslav Glazkov? Not even with smallish, aging Tomasz Adamek out of Poland. No bouts against mauling Brits like Tyson Fury or Derek Chisora either, unless you count last year’s bout with Audley Harrison, who was 42 and had already been exposed by David Haye and others.
Were all these other contenders really afraid to fight him? Is it possible their schedules were always out of synch? The answers are no and no.
When conniving, savvy handlers maneuver someone to a title shot without his ever having been fairly tested, it’s because those handlers know “something” about their fighter they want to keep concealed: that “something” has never been anything positive.
In this case, the savvy handler is mysterious Al Haymon, the man who controls much of boxing from wherever it is he keeps his secret headquarters. It’s rumored to be in or around New York City, but it might as well be deep inside North Korea because he won’t talk to anyone in the media, even though that’s part of his job description.
Still, I’m pulling for Haymon’s fighter, who hails from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It’s time for a solid American heavyweight to come forward and create excitement, and Wilder, though a braggart, seems to be a decent fellow. He does have 32 kayos in 32 outings, owns a 2008 Olympic Bronze medal, and is a rangy 6 foot 7 with good power and an awkward style that’s not so easy to figure out.
We know much more about Stiverne, 24-1-1 (21 KOs), who has weathered shots from rugged Chris Arreola and dominated him twice, knocking him down once en route to scoring a lopsided decision victory and then stopping him via a 6th-round kayo when they fought again for the vacant WBC title. Stiverne turned 36 in November. Physical deterioration could become a factor. Great heavyweights Muhammad Ali and Joe Louis, for example, were both washed up by then. On the other hand, 38-year-old Wladimir Klitschko, taking on all legitimate contenders except for his now retired brother Vitali (whose vacated WBC world heayvweight belt is now worn by Stiverne), has won 21 straight.
Stiverne has power, balance, a good work ethic, and great timing. His punches catch opponents at unexpected moments, especially the left hook. “Don’t blink,” he advises fan watching on the seventeenth.
His manager Camille Estephan calls him the new Mike Tyson. But if we ever get a new Tyson, he’s unlikely to pop up at age 36.
Wilder, who’s never been past the fourth round, calls this an easy fight and predicts victory by knockout.
Klitschko, who holds the other three major belts, would love to fight the winner, though that would require getting either Haymon or Don King, Stiverne’s promoter, to sign on to a unification. That’s no easy task.
Bernard Fernandez, a much-respected boxing writer who recently retired from the Philadelphia Daily News, told me he sees similarities between Wilder and Michael Grant, a tall heavyweight with a lot of knockouts against barely known opponents who in his 32nd outing was finally exposed by champion Lennox Lewis. Lennox got him out of there in round two.
Stiverne, the first world heavyweight titlist of Haitian descent, didn’t start boxing until age 19, turning pro at 26. He lived for years in Montreal and is a Canadian citizen. He was stopped in 2007 by journeyman Demetrice King, who at the time had 15 losses on his record.
Stiverne now lives and trains in Las Vegas.
Two months ago, the normally placid Stiverne allegedly created a bizarre, ugly incident at a UFC cage-fighting card in Las Vegas, where he repeatedly swore at and threatened former WBC bantamweight champion Wayne McCullough and his wife Cheryl, who were also in the stands. McCullough posted a narrative on Facebook, charging Stiverne and his seatmates with verbally abusing and menacing the McCulloughs when there was a mix-up in seating arrangements. Their daughter Wynona McCullough was seated with her parents.
When the story got out, Stiverne, perhaps realizing his application for U.S. citizenship could be jeopardized by such bullying, claimed easygoing McCullough, approximately one-half Stiverne’s size, was an obnoxious aggressor who called him the N-word.
Additionally, in May of 2013, Deontay Wilder was arrested and charged with “domestic abuse/strangulation” in Las Vegas. He later claimed he mistakenly thought he was being robbed. The disposition of that case remains unclear.
Stiverne-Wilder is set for the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and will be televised by Showtime.
New York Times best-selling author Ivan G. Goldman’s Sick Justice: Inside the American Gulag was released in 2013 by Potomac Books. Watch for The Debtor Class: A Novel from Permanent Press in spring, 2015. More information here.