Power Shots: News and Views on the Heavyweight Division
By Johnny Walker
When American heavyweight hopeful Deontay “The Bronze Bomber” Wilder made his network TV debut last weekend with an easy stoppage win over the hapless Kertson Manswell on Fox Sports, you’d think the Alabama-based fighter had just beaten an all time great.
In the post-fight interview, the 6’7″ tall Wilder (24-0, 24 KOs), in what seemed like a speech he had rehearsed in front of a mirror, made it clear that while his rival Seth Mitchell may be what we’ve called a “new kind of American heavyweight,” he is out to tap the market that already exists for stereotypes from the past (specifically, for post-Marciano brand of narcissistic, trash-talking heavyweight braggarts).
Judging from anecdotal evidence gathered on numerous boxing web forums, it seems that the American public in general has equated the “death of boxing” as a sport with the demise of the Ali-Tyson type of heavyweight kingpin and the subsequent rise of the mild-mannered and decorous (often translating to “boring”) Klitschko brothers. While it’s true that if the Klitschkos were American, they’d be a much bigger deal here, it’s not just the citizenship of the brothers that makes them so alien to American fight fans.
Most American boxing fans today consider the “golden era” of the heavyweight division–and thus of boxing itself–roughly as the period of American dominance that began with trash-talking pioneer Cassius Clay / Muhammad Ali and ended with the demise of the semi-unhinged Mike Tyson at the hands of foreigner Lennox Lewis. The more mild-mannered, chess-playing Lewis was also loathed by a good portion of American fight fans while he was still fighting, and the Klitschkos have followed on more in the tradition of Lewis, than of the loud-mouthed American kingpins.
And while the appeal of the trash talkers may mystify some, for many others, overheated rhetoric and edgy posturing are obviously the stuff of heavyweight dreams, nearly as important as the fights themselves in boxing’s scheme of things.
Watching Deontay Wilder’s interview on Fox, it became clear that the fighter realizes that there is a void out there that the other rising American heavyweight, Seth Mitchell, is never going to fill. Mitchell, a thoughtful individual outside of the ring who talks admiringly about his wife, is far more in the Klitschko behavioral mode than he is in the aformentioned Ali-Tyson paradigm.
Wilder was obviously determined not to let his first big media exposure in the US go to waste.
“I’m the answer,” said the Bronze Bomber to the question of America’s heavyweight problem. “Ain’t nobody else gonna be able to do it.”
“I got the power, I got the speed, I got the height, I got the talent, and most of all, I look good, baby.”
Wilder went on to kind-of, sort-of, call out the Klitschko brothers, but even he seemed to realize how silly that sounded coming off a win over Kertson Manswell.
Wilder’s Ali-style braggadocio, along with numerous references to his posse “the Bomb Squad” for that requisite hip-hop flavor, made it clear that he wants to be the next big thing by looking to the recent past of heavyweight division — a past still mourned by many American boxing fans.
WLAD READY TO WACH AND ROLL
World heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko (58-3, 51 KOs) is apparently set to take on rising Polish giant Mariusz Wach (27-0, 15 KOs) on a date to be determined this fall in Germany.
This matchup has set off the usual moaning about the calibre of the Klitschkos’ opponents, but don’t look to Power Shots for sympathy on this one.
We at Boxing Insider are big Wach fans, and not only because we love to make puns with his last name. Wach has made great strides lately, and his one-punch knockout of Mike Tyson conqueror Kevin McBride (who had just taken highly ranked Tomasz Adamek the distance) was for us the KO of year in 2011.
Also, no one can say that Klitschko is taking on a little guy in this voluntary defense: Wach is a least two inches taller than Wladimir. That is a refreshing change from the champ’s last voluntary, a farcical stoppage win over the diminutive Jean Marc Mormeck of France.
We concede that Wach might not be the fastest heavyweight out there, but a shot on the Klitschko chin similar to the one landed on McBride could make “The Viking” the new heavyweight champion of the world.
So quit moaning, haters and … don’t knock the Wach!
POVETKIN AND RAHMAN RESET; PULEV TO TAKE ON USTINOV
Meanwhile, the somewhat comical reign of WBA “regular” (does that mean mediocre?) heavyweight champion Alexander Povetkin (24-0, 16 KOs) is set to continue with the rescheduled bout between the Russian and his mandatory, the long past it (if he ever really had it) Hasim Rahman (50-7-2, 41 KOs).
Former WBC world heavyweight champion and Lennox Lewis conqueror Rahman had to withdraw from a previously scheduled meeting with Povetkin due to a wrist injury, but the fight has now been reset for September 29 at the Sporthalle in Hamburg, Germany.
The aging Rahman hasn’t had a meaningful win in recent memory, so how he merits this title shot–surely his last?–is a mystery.
As for Povetkin, he is surely the least legitimate world heavyweight champion out there not named James Toney: not only has he avoided WBA “super champion” Wladimir Klitschko like the proverbial plague, but he also arguably lost last time out to WBO cruiserweight champion Marco Huck, who moved up in weight and battered the Russian around the ring, yet still somehow lost via a split decision in Germany.
A more interesting bout on the same card pits European heavyweight champion Kubrat Pulev (16-0, 8 KOs) of Bulgaria against Russian giant Alexander Ustinov (27-0, 21 KOs) in a battle of unbeaten heavyweights.
Somebody’s “0” has got to go in this one, and Power Shots likes the Bulgarian bad boy–who dates a sexy pop music diva back home–to beat up on Ustinov.
Pulev–whose brother Tervel has already medalled for Bulgaria at the London Olympics at heavyweight–is already one of the top heavyweights in the world, and he looked much improved in demolishing Alexander Dimitrenko last time out.
Klitschko protege Ustinov, meanwhile, got all he could handle from Jason Gavern in his last fight, only gaining the upper hand after a questionable punch to the side of the head messed with the scrappy American’s balance. Ustinov appears vulnerable to a right hand lead, so expect Pulev to offer plenty of those when they meet.
With Tervel planning to turn pro after the Olympics, perhaps the the Pulev brothers will be the heir apparents to the Klitschkos.
No word yet on whether they would fight each other.