Heavyweight boxing will make its triumphant return to the United States this weekend, Saturday, 17th Jan, with the biggest heavyweight boxing event of the past decade. Bermane Stiverne (24-1-1, 21 KOs) defends his WBC Heavyweight world title against undefeated challenger Deontay Wilder (32-0, 32 KOs) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Boxing’s heavyweight division was for decades the premier source of world class athletes and equally as exciting fights. However, after the turn of the millennium, with the lack of new talent and a stronghold of dominance from the Ukraine’s Klitschko brothers, Vitali and Wladimir, the excitement of the weight class has diminished.
In December of 2013, a spot at the pinnacle of the sport opened up, when Vitali vacated the WBC title announcing his retirement.
Stiverne would clash with Chris Arreola in April 2013. It was a tough fight for the Haitian, who faced the biggest test of his career. It was Arreola who started strong in the first few rounds, but after Stiverne was able to drop his opponent in round three, it lead to a pretty smooth decision for “B. Ware.”
Both men would meet over a year later, in May 2014, but this time with the vacant WBC title on the line. The rematch was a much different affair, Arreola was much leaner, nine pounds lighter than their previous meeting.
Despite a strong start from “Nightmare,” Stiverne would knock Arreola down twice in the sixth before the referee waved off the fight, meaning for the first time since 2008 we had a world heavyweight boxing champion without the last name Klitschko.
Since April of 2014, Stiverne has only fought twice, both against Arreola, whereas Wilder has shown more activity, knocking out five opponents, including former Olympic super heavyweight boxing gold medallist Audley Harrison.
The biggest criticism of Wilder is the level of opponents he has beaten. 32 knockouts in 32 fights in mightily impressive, and in fact the fourth highest streak in boxing history, but with Wilder’s record padded with questionable names, and weak opponents, fans have stagnated in their support for him.
Comparably, Stiverne has one defeat on his resume, in a fourth round TKO to Demetrice King, who has helped Wilder prepare for this fight. Although, it can be deduced that Stiverne is much improved from that loss. In his 14 fights that followed, the amount of times he has been wobbled is minuscule and his patient approach has been welcomed by many boxing analysts.
Wilder is notorious for his quick finishing, having never eclipsed the fourth round of a fight. In contrast, Stiverne has fought outside the fourth seven times in his career, but has only gone twelve once, in the Arreola rematch.
For Stiverne to succeed, he needs to control the fight early on. For too many of his bouts it takes him two to three rounds to find his rhythm; despite still finishing his opponents, if you look at the Ray Austin and Arreola match-ups, those fighters had the most success putting Stiverne up against the ropes.
One of the most underrated elements of Stiverne’s game is his body shots, the amount of venom he is able to generate with such small movement is unparalleled, and if Wilder tries to fight on the inside it could be a painful night.
Wilder’s power and precision are clearly his strength. Stiverne tends to drop his left hand as he likes to flick his jab, if Wilder can react quick enough, then expect him to look for the big right hook finish.
Stiverne will be Wilder’s toughest, and first true test of his career. However, at 29 years-old, Wilder, should he win, will be thrust into the spotlight, as America embrace their newest heavyweight superstar.
If Wilder wins, a super title fight with Wladimir could lay in wait, but for Stiverne, promoter Don King has announced he will look to coax Mike Tyson out of retirement for a heavyweight boxing super fight. Either way, it is clear that heavyweight boxing is finally in a period of resurgence.