Boxing fans my age and older remember a time when certain things were taken for granted. The Heavyweight Championship of the World was universally regarded as “the biggest title in sports.” And it was almost always held by an American fighter.
For those of us who day-dream of those bygone days, Deontay Wilder has long seemed our greatest hope. The Bronze Bomber is natural puncher–lanky and athletic. He won a bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics, despite a very brief amateur career. As a professional, he is 37-0 with 36 fights ending inside of the distance.
But it’s been one of the most protected fighters in the division’s history. The only top-10 opponent he faced was Bermane Stiverne, who he defeated by unanimous decision for the WBC belt in January 2015. In my opinion, his next-best win was his January 2016 KO of Artur Szpilka. And the Polish contender was giving Wilder a tough fight, until Wilder knocked him out in spectacular fashion.
If you hold a belt and are going to call yourself a “world champion,” you should be fighting true contenders. Szpilka qualified as such, but nobody else Wilder has faced since winning his belt does.
To be fair to Wilder, he was set to face Alexander Povetkin last year, until the Russian failed a PED test. But after that fight fell through, he settled for Chris Arreola, a well-worn and well-past-his-prime slugger.
Wilder is set to defend his belt against Gerald Washington on February 25. Washington is 18-0-1, but I do not think he deserved the draw he got against Amir Mansour in October 2015. His best win is a decision victory over the much smaller Eddie Chambers, last April. “Fast Eddie” looked downright lethargic and over-the-hill in that fight.
Washington is nearly as tall and long as Wilder, and the former football player is also heavier. It’s definitely his most interesting opponent since Szpilka.
On Thursday, Wilder told The Ring that he wants the winner of Joseph Parker vs. Hughie Fury for his next fight, in a bout that would unify the WBC and WBO belts. He even stated he would be willing to travel to Parker’s native New Zealand.
This is the kind of talk American fans want to hear from Wilder. The sport needs a new, unified champion in the glamorous, heavyweight division. But the winner will need to face the winner of Anthony Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko.