As we wind down another year on the boxing calendar, 2015 has turned out to be a significant year for the Heavyweight division in particular. In January, Alabama KO artist Deontay Wilder won the WBC belt from Bermane Stiverne with a classy display of distance and skill (against many fans’ expectations) to capture the green belt by a wide decision. Suddenly, the U.S.A had a heavyweight fighter they could get behind; one who had already displayed his concussive punching power and now proved he could box the full twelve rounds as well.
So here we are, just hours after the “Fight Of The Century” and the world has a bitter taste in … more “Boxing Blows Its Chances On The Biggest Stage”
Heavyweight contender Tyson Fury is a polarising character indeed. Fond of antagonistic commentary leading up to, during, and after a fight, not to mention being partial to a bit of abusive chat on Twitter or Facebook, the 6’9’’ giant from Manchester isn’t at all bothered about upsetting fans or fellow boxers in the slightest. To many this makes him an entertaining and colourful character, bringing an element of theatre to the “big-man” division, which has been longing for such a shot of adrenaline in many people’s eyes. To others, he comes across as arrogant and unruly, rude and obnoxious, with little or no respect for his opponents or for the sport in general.
I remember a few years back, when the ingenious, six-man tournament conceived by Showtime, aptly titled The Super Six, had been organized and announced; the contracts were newly inked and the six combatants were confirmed. Proven warrior Mikkel Kessler was rightly the favourite going into the tourney, whilst several other, well-known names were guaranteed to be excitingly competitive. Andre Ward, an Olympic gold medallist, was somewhat of an unknown quantity back then; whilst clearly a fundamentally sound boxer, his relative inexperience coupled with a fairly thin resume (at that time), left a few question marks hanging over him.
The ongoing saga (or soap opera, depending on who you speak to) of the “will they, won’t they” couple; boxing’s top two 147lbers who have kept the fans and public guessing for way too long now, leaving many completely indifferent to whether the fight will actually happen or not; Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao have led us all on a merry dance, and now are allegedly close to confirming a showdown sometime in the first half of 2015.
With the relevance of this fight significantly reduced since its first incarnation was discussed way back in 2009 (hard to believe it’s gone on that long now), most people I speak to now are totally uninterested and pretty much say the same thing: “I’ll believe it when the bell rings”.
In what could be the liveliest heavyweight scrap of recent times, reigning WBC champ Bermane Stiverne will face undefeated KO artist Deonte Wilder, on January 17th at the legendary MGM Grand, Las Vegas. This could be the fight to bring heavyweight glory back to its rightful home, and finally reignite the spark that has been absent from the big boys’ division for far too long.
Will Wilder’s undeniable power be enough to overcome Stiverne’s solid chin and vicious countering abilities? Or will the young lion be ‘exposed’ following his widely considered ‘soft’ opposition? With a genuine ‘anything can happen’ element to this potential classic, there’s a lot to be excited about. Jim Lampley’s famous “theatre of the unexpected” tag will be more than appropriate here.
Stiverne has proven himself a fierce adversary with a string of strong performances in recent years, icing his cake with a stoppage win over the usually iron-chinned Cris Arreola in their rematch in May of last year.
Few pugilists over the years have divided opinion as much as the UK’s Amir Khan. Throughout his largely impressive career, he has been dogged with derision and doubt, as fans and pundits alike have continued to question his level of opposition, the resilience of his suspect chin, and his overall pedigree as a fighter. Throw into the mix a ‘speak-before-thinking’ mentality, and you have the recipe for a boxer everyone loves to hate.
I wrote an article on ESB some years ago, attempting to give a fair and balanced look at the controversy and opinionated views surrounding Amir, who was then based in Freddie Roach’s Wildcard Gym. Since then, Khan lost his 140lb titles to Lamont Peterson in a somewhat controversial decision, got timed and sparked by Danny Garcia within 4 rounds of a careless outing, made hard work of Carlos Molina and Julio Diaz, before looking a lot more impressive against Luis Collazo and Devon Alexander more recently.