Deontay Wilder: Heavyweight Champion of the World

Deontay Wilder has beaten Bermane Stiverne. Beaten him emphatically over twelve, mostly one sided rounds. While one might give a round or two to the man who calls himself B-Ware, at no point in the contest did it look like the Bronze Bomber was in any real danger. It was an evening reminiscent of the second clash between Tyson Fury and Dereck Chisora, with Deontay assuming the part played by the loquacious Traveller, contently jabbing his shorter foe into inactivity. Unlike Fury vs Chisora two, which mercifully was ended in the middle rounds, this one went the distance, a testament to the solid chin of Stiverne. Stiverne was passive in defeat, lamenting his lost title. In truth, loosing didn’t cost him the world heavyweight championship any more than winning would have secured it. The world heavyweight title was never his to win or lose. The actual heavyweight champion of the world was not in the arena that night, he was presumably watching the fight on TV just like the rest of us. I am not saying that it was a bad match up, what I am saying is that if this was the fight that brought the Heavyweight title back to America, then America was better off without it.

Clearly we are desperate for an American heavyweight Champion. When I say “we” I mean the hypothetical “we” which doesn’t actually include me, or in all likelihood you. It’s more of a “they”. “They” in this case are a bunch of promoters, managers, TV execs, and the like who are so mired in the past that they actually think that having an American heavyweight champion will cause a boxing renaissance. The next Mike Tyson is out there somewhere and when he starts knocking out his foes, the general public will turn in their football jerseys and boxing will take it rightful place as America’s favorite sport. A golden age is right around the corner and all it takes is one great KO artist to turn back the clock and turn on the money faucet. They truly are out of touch with reality. Apparently, before the fight, Don King was actually calling for the winner to face the aforementioned Iron Mike. The same Iron Mike Tyson who, in his final fight nearly a decade ago, was reduced to a sobbing lump on the canvas by the unheralded Kevin McBride. Perhaps Don King was confusing Mike Tyson with Tyson Fury. Thankfully, Mr. King had the lucidity not to call for a match with Mohamed Ali, who himself turned 73 that night, and to whom I would like to wish a belated happy birthday. So as I sat there in the aftermath, with Deontay Wilder holding the watered down WBC heavyweight belt, and Sam Watson screaming unintelligibly into the cameras, I found myself pondering the events that led us here.

This is the title vacated by Vitali Klitschko. The same title that was vacated by Lennox Lewis, the last heavyweight champion to actually interest the American public (although truth be told, not so much). Long story short, this title has been vacated a lot. It hasn’t been legitimately won in a while. Vitali earned the strap it by beating perennial tough guy Corrie Sanders, whom a year earlier had blitzed Vitali’s younger brother Wladimir in two rounds to claim the lightly regarded WBO title. So at least the fight between Vitali Klitschko and Corrie Sanders had some semblance of legitimacy. When Vitali left to save Ukraine from the Russians, the WBC mandated that a rematch between Chris Arreola and Bermane Stiverne would be for the vacant belt. To set up that title shot, Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola beat Seth “Mayhem” Mitchell. Mitchell, a late comer to the sport by way of football injury, did not have a single win that justified him fighting in a title eliminator. Beating Chazz Witherspoon and splitting a pair of fights with Jonathan Banks is not the stuff of contenders. Thus to win the WBC heavyweight title, Stiverne had to face Arreola, whom he had previously pummeled over twelve rounds, and in the rematch knocked him out in six. So instead of The Nightmare being the first heavyweight champion of Mexican descent, B-Ware became the first heavyweight champion of Haitian Descent. In beating Stiverne, Wilder becomes the first American heavyweight champion since Shannon Briggs. That is a lot of firsts, none of which actually mean anything, and it is indicative of the problem.

Apparently the promoters and networks feel it is no longer enough just to have a good matchup between two top rated contenders, nearly every televised fight has to be for a championship belt. Even that is not enough anymore, the champion has to hold some kind of unique status, such as the being first Haitian, Mexican, or American (in a while), to win a title. The truth is that people have pretty good B.S. detectors. The public in general can usually tell when they are being conned. Not to say that there was anything wrong with the fight itself. As a fan I found it a compelling match up, which, while lacking in that sudden one punch knockout most observers expected, still had enough sustained suspense to hold my interest. It’s just that when you start trying to sell a fight as more than it actually is, you turn people off. Judging by the lack of general sports media interest in this bout, and the number of tickets that had to be given away, few if any were buying into the notion that this actually was for the heavyweight championship of the world. The lie turned what was an otherwise solid match up into a farce. So now we have a new paper champion who is going to bring excitement back to the American heavyweight scene, and save the sport of boxing. It’s too bad, because Deontay Wilder really is an interesting contender who just might have what it takes to give the real heavyweight champion a run for his money. Now, that probably won’t happen, a fight with Klitschko is dangerous, and would threaten the golden, or in this case bronze, goose. Team Haymon can make solid money by queuing up a bunch of lower tier fighters whom Wilder can KO in the first few rounds. Besides, he doesn’t have to face Wladimir, why should he? After all, Deontay Wilder already is the heavyweight champion of the world.