In the past few days, promising signs have begun to emerge regarding the potential for undefeated WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder facing his No. 1 contender, Alexander Povetkin. According to Povetkin’s promoter, Andrey Ryanbinsky, the fight will take place May 21 in Russia.
This is exactly the fight Deontay Wilder needs to become a legitimate superstar. The 2008 Olympic bronze medalist has put together a stunning record on paper. He’s undefeated, with 35 KOs in 36 fights. He boxed well in his only fight that went the distance, a 12-round decision over Bermane Stiverne, to earn the WBC strap.
But Stiverne is the only top contender that he has faced. His record has been fattened against second-tier contenders, journeymen, gatekeepers and stepping stones. Povetkin, by contrast, is one of the best heavyweights on the planet. A victory over him would legitimize Wilder’s title and give him a good argument for top status in the division.
But to earn great rewards requires substantial risk. Povetkin will unquestionably be the toughest challenge of Wilder’s career. The 2004 gold medalist is a better technical boxer than Wilder and has faced a far higher quality of opposition. His only loss came against Wladimir Klitschko in October 2013. Since then, he’s knocked out four straight contenders in Manuel Charr, Carlos Takam, Mike Perez and Mariusz Wach.
It’s the best current four-fight win streak in the division, by far.
Wilder didn’t exactly look great in his last fight, a Round 9 KO of Artur Szpilka of Poland. But I think too much has been made of that performance. Szpilka is a smart, rugged brawler who did a very good job of applying pressure against Wilder. Even so, Wilder was up five rounds to three at the time of the stoppage.
And that dramatic stoppage demonstrated one thing for certain. Wilder’s power cannot be questioned. A fighter who can punch like the Bronze Bomber can make up for a lot of struggling rounds in a hurry.