By: Eric Lunger
WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder (38-0, 37 KOs) makes his sixth title defense this Saturday night against former champ Bermane Stiverne (25-2, 21 KOs) at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NYC. Wilder won the belt in January of 2015, defeating Stiverne in a 12 round unanimous decision, so what relevance does a second go-round have, especially when the first fight was not very competitive?
The answer to that question lies partially in what happened last weekend in Cardiff, Wales. Anthony Joshua, who dramatically dethroned the great Wladimir Klitschko last April, looked less than spectacular against the crafty and difficult-to-hit Carlos Takam. With a potential showdown with Joshua in the near future on the line, what questions can the Bronze Bomber answer this Saturday night which might help seal the deal?
We know that Wilder has KO power, but can he box? He’ll need more than power to hang with AJ. The Alabama native has a classic (and devastating) one-two, but has Wilder become a more multi-dimensional fighter? It would be great to see some variety from Deontay, some inside game, for example, or some new use of footwork and angles. The knock on Wilder has been that, while he has plenty of power, a technically proficient fighter would exploit those wide and wild punches that Wilder has thrown in the past. A tighter, more controlled performance from Wilder might silence that type of criticism.
Where is Wilder in terms of conditioning? The Bomber is known for staying in fighting trim, whereas at times Joshua looked tired, and seemed to be carrying too much weight for his frame. A lean and efficient Wilder might pose some real trouble for AJ, especially if he can take the British star into the late rounds.
Does Wilder need to score a dramatic knockout in order to stoke interest in a Joshua match-up? English promoter Eddie Hearn will not want to risk his star’s “zero” until conditions are optimal. There is already a high level of interest in the fight among boxing fans on both sides of the Atlantic — an exclamation point by Wilder would only add fuel to the fire. And a dominant win would make it harder for Joshua’s team to justify an interim opponent, especially after taking Takam deep into the fight and winning on a questionable stoppage.
The action will be live this Saturday night on Showtime (9 PM ET/6 PM PT)