As fight fans most likely heard, former WBC heavyweight champ Deontay Wilder has suggested he might, might, be ready to call it a (boxing) career and retire. Speaking with Kevin Hart, Wilder mentioned the other things he is interested in (scuba diving, launching a unisex fragrance) and how he has “accomplished my goals in this sport.” Wilder may or may not retire quite soon, but this much is a dead-cert: we will all miss Wilder when he is gone.
Say what you want about Wilder – be it an attack on him for his “lack of skills, his “weak resume,” his heavy losses to Tyson Fury, who is his defining opponent – but Wilder absolutely gave us some thrills. Thrills of the highest order. Thanks to his freakish punching power, with Wilder scoring all those quick knockouts, we never knew about his ability to take a shot, to dig down deep when things got hot. We know now. Wilder – as he showed in this year’s FOTY, the back and forth, knockdown-layered slugfest epic with Fury from October – has got a fierce fighting heart. Fury literally had to hit him with everything he had in order to get the win (that and show heart himself in getting up from two hefty knockdowns in that sizzling fourth-round).
If 36 year old Wilder leaves us now, he will leave behind not only some impressive highlight reel KO’s, but also some questions:
Could Wilder have beaten any heavyweight not named Tyson Fury?
Does Wilder deserve to rank as one of the greatest punchers ever?
Did Wilder do enough to be ranked as a heavyweight great?
If he doesn’t fight again, we will never know how the third fight with Fury, and the savage punishment he took during it, affected him. Maybe Wilder knows, or feels, that if he cannot be the best in the world, he cannot carry on; perhaps there is no desire to hold second place in the division as far as Wilder is concerned. We would like to see Wilder return and go back to scoring scorching KO’s, but if he thinks he’s done all he can do and needs to do, then more power to Wilder.
For certain, though his critics moan about the quality of opponents he faced during his reign as WBC champ (Fury aside), Wilder added a whole lot to the heavyweight division through the years 2015 to 2021. Imagine if we had not had Wilder during this time? If Wilder has punched his last head, he will take some replacing as far as the next ultra-exciting, world championship calibre American heavyweight goes. If Wilder does go, he’ll leave one big gap, one big hole.
We need passionate fighters like Wilder, we need vicious punchers like Wilder. If he exits now, there will be a sense of, he could have achieved more, about Wilder. If he fights no more, will Wilder be best remembered as a man who lost the two biggest fights of his career? Or will he be best remembered for his crippling power and for those crazy, 42-2-1(41) numbers? Wilder will certainly be remembered as a fighter who holds the rare distinction of having knocked down every single man he ever shared a ring with.
If Wilder has fought his last, he sure went out with a bang. That and a truly great effort in a truly great fight.