Deontay Wilder is explosive. Deontay Wilder is flawed. Deontay Wilder is box office entertainment.
It’s the perfect recipe to concoct a heavyweight star. When Wilder enters the ring, those inside the arena need pay for just 10% of their seat – they’ll inevitably only need the edge of it.
This formula was demonstrated to perfection on Saturday night, as the “Bronze Bomber” found a punch from the gods to stop Luis Ortiz in the seventh round of their heavyweight world championship contest. In a fight that Ortiz was dominating from the first bell to the sixth, Wilder underlined his one-punch power in devastating fashion, undoing 18 minutes of sustained pressure from the technically superior Cuban.
Wilder fights have now become laced with an aura of suspense that can’t be ignored. Eyes become dry with a fixed glare on the ring, wary of one blink causing yourself to miss the all-important turning point of the contest. What precedes Wilder’s – often inevitable – knockout punch can often flatter to deceive, with his vulnerability in the early rounds often leading his opponent into a false sense of control and security.
Only Tommy Burns (11), Vitali Klitschko (11), Wladimir Klitschko (18), Larry Holmes (20) and Joe Louis (25) have managed to defend the heavyweight crown more times in a row successfully than the 34-year-old from Alabama.
It was the type of performance that makes it hard to dispute Wilder’s claims of being the “baddest man in boxing”, notching up the 41st knockout win of his professional career. As Wilder’s inevitable “BOMMMB ZQUAAAAD” echoed around the MGM Grand, Luis Ortiz simply smiled – “King Kong” could have zero complaints about the emphatic nature of his second loss to the WBC king.
Over 8,000 km away in Liverpool, England, John Ryder’s smile wasn’t as broad. London’s “Gorilla” had just been dealt three joker cards from the judges inside the Echo Arena, dropping a unanimous decision loss to Callum Smith for the WBA and Ring Magazine super-middleweight titles.
“I won that fight very clearly,” Ryder told iFL TV cameras in the aftermath of the fight. Having heard Michael Buffer announce scores of 117-111, 116-112, 116-112 in favour of Liverpool’s hometown hero “Mundo”, the 31-year-old southpaw looked dismayed yet unsurprised at the decision the three unwise men on Merseyside had combined to make. I scored the fight 115-113 to Ryder while watching live.
Smith – a sizable 168 pounder, widely regarded as the division’s best – failed to cope with Ryder’s aggressive tactics and commitment to fighting on the inside. Slippery feints from left-hander allowed the Islington fighter to glide into range throughout the fight, crouching in front of the champion on the ropes, unleashing overhand rights with increasing venom. Three nasty cuts to the right eye of Smith highlight the precision of the underdog’s attacks.
Smith fired thudding, rangy combinations whenever he could establish breathing space away from the challenger. The champion looked to have landed the more substantial, cleaner work but with less frequency; Ryder’s impressive output was effectively ignored by Francisco Alloza Rosa, Terry O’Connor and Jose Roberto Torres ringside. The smaller man by some distance, Ryder’s surprisingly fruitful footwork created angles of attack that Smith struggled to defend.
Either side of the pond, both champions retained their titles on Saturday night, but the dichotomy between performances emphasised the best and worst sides of our sport.
Drama, destruction and detonation in Las Vegas were caveated by deceit, distaste and disbelief in Liverpool as twelve rounds of action was once again overshadowed by three onlookers who didn’t break a sweat.
“I have proven myself on the world scene and deserve to come again,” Ryder said inside the ring following the announcement of the cards. ”He is a great fighter, but I live and breathe this. I re-locate, I am there day in and day out. We have not had the rub of the green, but that is boxing.”
Ryder was right. He didn’t get the rub of the green in Liverpool this weekend, but there’s an overriding sense that he would have needed more than a bit of luck to get the nod. He claims “that is boxing,” but it shouldn’t be.